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Louisville District Seeks State Waiver for English-Learner Accountability

The Jefferson County school system in Louisville, Ky., is seeking flexibility in how it assesses its English-language learners, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

Language-learners in Kentucky are currently granted one year of English-language instruction before their scores start counting toward schools' and districts' accountability scores.

Under the waiver, those students would take the tests but their scores would not count toward their school's overall performance until the students were proficient in English. Research indicates that it takes five years or more for students with no English-languageĀ skills to gain fluency.

The Kentucky Board of Education is expected to consider the waiver in June, the Courier-Journal reports.

The Jefferson County schools have about 4,600 English-language learners, which is roughly 5 percent of the district's total enrollment. Language-learners comprise about 7 percent of the district's elementary enrollment and roughly 3 percent in the school system's middle and high schools.

English-language learners are the district's fastest-growing population—the number of ELLS enrolled in the school system doubled in the past 12 years.

In December, the U.S. Department of Education granted Florida's request to give its ELL students two years in a U.S. school before counting their test scores in school grades. The change contradicted federal rules that demand all children be counted equally in accountability measures.

The Education Department's stance in Florida reignited debate over how schools are judged for serving English-learners, including giving them an extra year of instructional time before testing them for accountability purposes on content in a language they are still learning. Colorado and Connecticut have indicated that they want to follow Florida's lead in seeking a two-year reprieve on accountability for English-learners as well.

If the Kentucky state board approves the Jefferson County waiver, it could set new precedent for language-learner testing.

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