SEA Guide and Studies

As part of the LEP Partnership, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) partnered with George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education (GW-CEEE) to work with the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the issue of accommodating English language learners (ELLs) in state assessments. For and in collaboration with the state education agencies (SEAs), GW-CEEE developed a guide to support SEAs when refining state assessment policies for accommodating ELLs.  As a foundation for the Guide, GW-CEEE conducted the two studies described below. The Guide on October 16, 2008 at the LEP Partnership meeting held in Washington, DC. [PDF of powerpoint presentation | Slides: 65]


All reports have been moved to the main GW-CEEE Web site: http://ceee.gwu.edu/node/149.

  • The guide for the refinement of state assessment policies for accommodating English language learners (Rivera, Acosta, & Shafer Willner, 2008) is designed for policymakers refining state assessment policies.  The Guide presents processes, tools, and strategies SEAs can use to refine state assessment policies for accommodating ELLs. [Posted: October 27, 2008 | Pages: 110]
  • The descriptive study of state assessment policies for accommodating English language learners (Shafer Willner, Rivera, and Acosta, 2008) was guided by four research questions:

    • To what extent are state assessment policies responsive to ELLs’ unique linguistic needs?
    • To what extent are state policies guiding decision making and monitoring practices?
    • What are the most frequently allowed ELL-responsive accommodations and to what extent are these accommodations research based? 
    • In what ways have state assessment policies for accommodating ELLs changed since the inception of NCLB?

Findings from the study indicate that state policies for ELLs often do not distinguish accommodations for ELLs from those for students with disabilities. Moreover, when selecting or designing accommodations, few state policies have considered English language proficiency (ELP) level or other background variables, nor have most states developed strategies for monitoring the implementation of accommodations so that data can be collected and analyzed to improve future policy and practice. [Posted: October 17, 2008 | Format: Pages: 67]

Best practices in state assessment policies for accommodating English language learners: A Delphi study (Acosta, Rivera, & Shafer Willner, 2008) built on the findings of the Descriptive Study (see above). The research team worked with an expert panel to select and prioritize which ELL-responsive accommodations and also developed an ELP rubric based on an examination of currently used ELP tests. Using the rubric, the expert panel mapped the selected ELL-responsive accommodations to three levels of ELP - beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Literacy in English and the native language was also considered in mapping the accommodations. [Posted: October 17, 2008 | Format: Pages: 37]


Content assessments in mathematics, science, and reading/language arts play a vital role in the identification, classification, placement, and ongoing monitoring of students. In the case of students who are English language learners, their inclusion and accommodation or lack thereof can prevent them from gaining access to a high quality education. In a new report,Examination of Peer Review and Title I Monitoring Feedback Regarding the Inclusion and Accommodation of English Language Learners in State Content Assessments. Lynn Shafer Willner, Charlene Rivera, and Barbara D. Acosta, researchers at GW-CEEE, identify two significant findings which emerged from this study and offer recommendations for improving the coherence, quality, and effectiveness of both State education agency and ED practice.

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