A tricky issue facing both groups of states designing common tests for English/language arts and mathematics is whether to make native-language assessments available for students who are still learning English.
Neither the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) nor the Smarter Balanced consortia has publicly announced what it will do about native-language translations of the new tests. Both groups have member states with vastly different approaches to testing English-language learners. Arizona, for example, is an "English-only" member state in PARCC, while a fellow member, New York, requires that assessments be made available in multiple languages for students still learning English.
But now, a national civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, has weighed in and asked PARCC to develop Spanish-language assessments in both English/language arts and math.
In a recent letter to PARCC's executive board, Margaret Moran, the national president of LULAC, cites the growing number of English-language learners whose native language is Spanish.
She also highlights PARCC member state New Mexico, which gives eligible students native-language assessments, and says without a Spanish-language version of the PARCC-developed tests, the state would be violating its own assessment policy, and "narrow the range of tools used to adequately monitor and assess the content knowledge of ELLs in that state."
PARCC officials have told me that native-language versions of the tests are going to be a tough issue to work out among the states. They deliberately left that matter out of the recent debate and approval of accommodations and accessibility policies for ELLs and students with disabilities.
We've already seen how costs and other political/philosophical disagreements have been causing challenges to the cohesiveness of the consortia. This issue could add to that strain.