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New York Expands Testing Accommodations to Former ELLs

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States' policies for providing testing accommodations to English-language learners are becoming more nuanced, something that experts in the field recommend.

GothamSchools reports that the New York Board of Regents has approved a new policy, effective this school year, that permits former English-language learners to receive testing accommodations on the state's regular academic tests for up to two years after they are considered to be proficient in the language. The New York State United Teachers union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, reported this news a month ago, but we bloggers are just picking up on it now. The union bulletin summarizes the testing accommodations allowable for ELLs in New York.

At least two states, Maryland (see Section 2 of the state's policy) and Massachusetts, permit accommodations for English-language learners who have been reclassified as proficient in the language. (Find a map of state policies on testing accommodations for ELLs here.)

A guide and two research studies on testing accommodations for ELLs, which were commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and released by George Washington University's Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, give detailed recommendations for providing accommodations for ELLs. But the guide and studies don't address directly whether former ELLs should receive accommodations that are given to ELLs in a state. Barbara Acosta, a senior research scientist at the center, said the best practices study on testing accommodations for ELLs recommends that two accommodations be offered to advanced ELLs, and they may also work well for former ELLs: extended time to take the test, and the use of a bilingual dictionary or glossary. But she doesn't think it would be beneficial for former ELLs to receive oral translation of tests, which is an accommodation available to ELLs in New York. (She said readers should refer to page 15 in the best practices study for information on testing accommodations for advanced ELLs.)

Lastly, Ms. Acosta recommends that New York state officials collect data on former ELLs who receive testing accommodations and those who don't so that officials can report which accommodations are most effective for this group of students. She noted that research on the effectiveness of testing accommodations for ELLs or former ELLs is scant.

1 Comment

I'm in NY and while these test accommodations could help students more than "taking them back into the program" without test modifications, it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Most kids who have exited ESOL really need the test modifications not to just take state tests but so that they can keep in touch with an ESOL teacher. We are required to "monitor" for two years, but kids often aren't receptive, they wanted out and don't want us always hanging around. They want to do it themselves. By the second year out of the program, kids are usually having more trouble and are more willing to ask for help, teachers are too. It's still in the early stages but I'm hoping that kids feel free enough to visit and get help from the ESOL teacher. Because we often don't get NYSESLAT scores until August, the kids and their families usually get nothing more than an letter in the mail and a new schedule without ESOL on it to inform them that they've "exited". The real value of the test modifications may be keeping the connections going, not because test modifications themselves are that helpful.

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