Report: Practical Guidelines for the Enducation of English Language Learners: Research-based recommendations for the use of accommodations in large-scale assessments


STUDENTS: English Language Learners


Francis, D.J., Rivera, M., Lesaux, N., Kieffer, M., & Rivera, H. ; U.S. Department of Education




Center on Instruction


The fundamental principles underlying the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of
2001focus on high standards of learning and instruction with the goal of
increasing academic achievement—reading and math in particular—within all
identified subgroups in the K-12 population. One of these subgroups is the
growing population of English Language Learners (ELLs). NCLB has increased
awareness of the academic needs and achievement of ELLs as schools,
districts, and states are held accountable for teaching English and content
knowledge to this special and heterogeneous group of learners. However, ELLs
present a unique set of challenges to educators because of the central role
played by academic language proficiency in the acquisition and assessment
of content-area knowledge. Educators have raised multiple questions about
effective practices and programs to support the academic achievement of
all ELLs, including questions about classroom instruction and targeted
interventions in reading and math, the special needs of adolescent newcomers,
and the inclusion of ELLs in large-scale assessments. This document focuses
explicitly on this last issue and in particular on research-based recommendations
on the use of accommodations to increase the valid participation of ELLs in
large-scale assessments. This document is organized into three sections. The first section provides an
overview with important background information on the inclusion of ELLs in
large-scale assessments and the role of language in content-area assessments.
This background information lays the groundwork for understanding and
selecting the types of accommodations that are likely to benefit ELLs. In the
second section, we provide background information on accommodations,
including the complementary concepts of effectivenessand validity, as they
relate to proposed accommodations. We also review relevant research on state
policies regarding accommodations for ELLs. In the final section, we provide
descriptions of the most common accommodations that have been studied in
the empirical research and conduct a quantitative synthesis (i.e., meta-analysis)
of this research in order to determine those accommodations that are currently
known to be most effective. Also, in this final section, we offer recommendations
and conclusions for the use of accommodations in order to increase the valid
participation of ELLs in state assessments. Several bodies of research were consulted in developing this report. To
provide sufficient background and context for the recommendations, relevant
knowledge from developmental research on aspects of cognition, language, and
reading known to play an important role in all students’ success in assessments
of academic achievement were consulted. However, the primary source of
information was the research literature on accommodations for ELLs in large-
scale assessments, including studies of the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP) and, to a lesser extent state accountability
assessments, because of their reduced prevalence. This literature provided
evidence from randomized controlled studies using accommodations with ELLs
and non-ELLs, quasi-experimental studies, and post-hocanalyses of data from a
variety of studies that examined the effects of single or multiple accommodation
strategies. We also drew heavily on previous reviews of the literature by Sireci,
Li, and Scarpati (2003) and by Abedi, Hofstetter, and Lord (2004). In addition,
we examined recent research by Rivera and Collum (2006) and reports of the
National Research Council reviewing the underlying foundations of assessment
accommodations, and state policies and practices with respect to the
assessment of ELLs. The third section of the report provides a meta-analysis
of the empirical research on accommodations. We provide a more detailed
description of the search methods and statistical analysis techniques used to
complete the meta-analysisin that section of the report.


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