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Will Commercial Publishers Keep Their Market Share With ELL Tests?

A commercial publisher, CTB/McGraw-Hill, announced this week that it now has a digital version as well as a paper-and-pencil version of its English-language-proficiency test. The test, LAS Links, was used with English-language learners by five states this school year for accountability purposes under the No Child Left Behind Act.

CTB/McGraw-Hill is also at work developing a new English-language-proficiency test for the states' common-core academic standards, which it will be field testing this coming school year, Enrique F. Pilleux, a national ELL specialist for CTB/McGraw-Hill, told me in a phone interview this week.

Some of the benefits of using an online version of LAS Links are that educators can view test scores in reading and listening immediately after students take the test, while with the pencil-and-paper version, educators had to wait for a while to receive the scores, Pilleux explained. The writing and speaking sections of the test will be scored by teachers with the digital version, as they are with the pencil-and-paper version.

What's unclear is whether commercial companies such as CTB/McGraw-Hill will be able to hold on to the same market share they have now with products for ELLs, as state officials make plans to implement assessments for the common-core standards. Even before the common-core standards were created, quite a few states had ended their contracts with commercial test publishers and adopted the English-language-proficiency test of the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium, which is a nonprofit organization.

Hawaii and Missouri, for example, switched from using LAS Links to WIDA's English-language-proficiency test.

This past school year, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, and Nevada used the LAS Links test. Two of those states—Connecticut and Indiana—have just renewed their contracts with CTB/McGraw-Hill for more than one year, Pilleux said.

Nevada, however, has renewed its contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill for only one more school year. That state has joined a consortium led by Wisconsin that has applied for federal funding to create a new English-proficiency test for the common-core standards in collaboration with WIDA, indicating that it will soon stop using LAS Links as well. Colorado has been talking with other test providers, Pilleux said.

Maryland has decided to stop using LAS Links and will implement WIDA's test next school year.

But Pilleux said that other products designed for English-language learners are widely used by states. He said that the company's benchmark tests for ELLs, three short tests that provide a snapshot of how ELLs are progressing in learning English throughout the school year, are used in 48 states. Teachers can use data from those tests to adjust their instruction for ELLs during the school year, he said.

The company also has a contract with Puerto Rico for use of both the English and Spanish versions of LAS Links, Pilleux said.

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