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English-Language Learners and California's NCLB Testing Waiver

As Michele McNeil just reported over at Politics K-12, California has gotten the green light from the U.S. Department of Education officials to scrap its state testing program in the coming weeks and give Smarter Balanced field tests instead.

The precise details in the agreement between California and the feds aren't all out in the open just yet, but we do know that the Smarter Balanced field tests aren't really designed to produce the student-outcome data that can be used for holding schools accountable for performance.

That means that the state with the largest number of English-language learners—some 1.4 million students (although not all of those are in the tested grades)—is not likely to have usable test data to help judge how schools did this year on behalf of their ELLs in the major academic content areas.

And as Michele notes, by skipping this year, California breaks its student-performance trend line and will essentially be starting over with accountability when students take the full-fledged Smarter Balanced tests in spring of 2015.

The state will still have data generated this year by ELLs' performance on the CELDT, the exam it uses to measure progress on learning the language. California is currently designing a new English-language proficiency test to be aligned with new language-proficiency standards it adopted in 2012. That test will be called the ELPAC, for English Language Proficiency Assessments for California.

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