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ELL Accommodations Study Gets Top Rating From Federal Reviewers

A 2010 study that concluded that simplifying language on standardized-test items in math made it easier for English-language learners to demonstrate their understanding of math concepts has earned the highest stamp of approval from the federal What Works Clearinghouse.

The clearinghouse today issued its top rating to the study entitled "Accommodations for English-Language Learner Students: The Effect of Linguistic Modification of Math Test Item Sets," a randomized, controlled trial in which 7th and 8th grade students were randomly selected to complete 25 math questions written with original wording or with language that had been simplified. The study found that there was a positive effect on math scores for ELLs who completed the test items with the simplified language—an estimated 6-percentage-point gain over similar students who did not complete the items with the language accommodation.

The study earned the clearinghouse's "meets evidence standards without reservations," a rating that the decade-old research review arm of the U.S. Department of Education has issued relatively rarely. The study was selected for review because it was funded by the Education Department through its Institute of Education Sciences.

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