ADVANCING RESEARCH, IMPROVING EDUCATION
Overview of the ELL Linguistic Accommodations Research Summit
The purpose of the research summit, Making Consistent Decisions about Accommodations for English Language Learners, was to learn from the research of experts in the field of English language learners (ELLs), review findings from a series of 14 focus groups held in various locations across Texas, and stimulate dialogue among researchers and practitioners regarding the assistance needed by educators in selecting and implementing linguistic accommodations for ELLs.
The planners of the summit set three goals:
- Build the capacity of local education agencies (LEAs) to understand and implement guidance from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on how decisions are made regarding the assignment of students to particular assessments.
- Ensure that accommodations provided for students on assessments are also provided in the instruction that those students receive.
- Use the results of all forms of the Texas assessments to provide information regarding which accommodations appear to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their level of achievement.
TEA developed assessments for students with disabilities and limited English proficient (LEP) students. These assessments include the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS), as well as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). The TAKS-Alternate (TAKS-Alt) is an assessment designed for severely cognitively disabled students. The TAKS-Modified (TAKS-M) is an assessment based on grade-level curriculum but modified in content and format to make it more accessible to students with disabilities. Finally, the TAKS (accommodated) is the TAKS with accommodations allowed for specific students, including qualified LEP students.
Precise guidelines are needed to ensure that uniform decisions are made concerning linguistic accommodations, and TEA has developed and provided manuals to LEAs for that purpose. These materials explain the accommodations that are allowed and provide guidance regarding which students are eligible for those accommodations. In addition, a document developed specifically for language proficiency assessment committees (LPACs) was provided to LEAs to assist them in determining student needs and selecting instructional interventions, monitoring student progress, making assessment decisions, and maintaining necessary documentation. Thus, Texas LEAs have received a number of documents to use in making decisions regarding assessment and instructional accommodations for ELLs.
A needs assessment conducted by TEA revealed three areas related to linguistic accommodations that required attention. First, it showed a need to build the capacity of LEAs to interpret and implement TEA guidelines on how decisions are made regarding the assignment of students to particular assessments and appropriate accommodations. Consistent implementation of guidelines is needed to ensure that criteria are applied uniformly when deciding how LEP students are included in the state assessment system and the federally mandated accountability process. Educators at the local level need good models for involving content-area teachers, bilingual specialists, and assessment staff in making consistent decisions based on current research and guidance. As noted in a review of states’ policies related to ELL assessments, “the variability in procedures of selecting and implementing accommodations across and within states implies that the issue of comparability lies both in the accommodated test results and in the process of applying various accommodations” (Wolf, et al., 2008, p. 33).
A second area of need was determined by peer review teams assembled by the U.S. Department of Education: the state needed assistance in ensuring that accommodations provided for students on assessments are also provided in the instruction that those students receive.
Finally, the needs assessment indicated that the state needed assistance in using the results of all forms of the Texas assessments to provide information regarding which accommodations best ensure that all students are able to demonstrate their level of achievement. Although the evidence regarding specific accommodations and the effectiveness of those accommodations on large scale assessments is somewhat limited (Francis, et al., 2006), one may assume that without some form of accommodation, ELLs may not have an equal opportunity to learn or to demonstrate what they know.
Involving educators at all levels in identifying the ways decisions are made, as well as the barriers to making quality and consistent decisions, can assist leaders in providing professional development to improve those decisions.
In early 2009, the Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) at SEDL conducted 14 focus group sessions with educators from across the state. Participants included teachers, campus administrators, district-level staff, department chairs, content coordinators, testing coordinators, and bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) directors. The goal of the discussions was to gather information about the linguistic accommodations districts and schools provide to ELLs to meet those students’ linguistic and academic needs during both instruction and test administration. The information gathered from the focus groups helped to determine the content of the ensuing summit.
The TXCC partnered with TEA and the Center on Instruction (COI) to offer the ELL Linguistic Accommodations Research Summit. Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Participants at the research summit included researchers and expert practitioners, TEA staff, staff of the TXCC and staff of the Center on Instruction’s ELL strand. The group of participants—26 individuals—was kept at a small number to enable full engagement by all and to stimulate rich dialogue.
The agenda for the ELL Linguistic Accommodations Research Summit was framed by the essential questions listed below. These questions were formed with a broad scope as a strategy to generate the expression of ideas across a wide spectrum.
- What do research and best practice tell us about selecting and implementing linguistic accommodations in instruction and on assessments for ELLs?
- What is the state of current practice in the selection and use of linguistic accommodations in instruction and on assessments for ELLs?
- Where should we begin in helping educators select and provide appropriate linguistic accommodations for ELLs in instruction and on assessments?
- What questions require further study with regard to linguistic accommodations for ELLs in instruction and on assessments?
Seven expert practitioners and researchers were invited to serve as panelists, each making a presentation related to his/her area of expertise. On day one, the first and second panels presented their perspectives on question #1: What do research and best practice tell us about selecting and implementing linguistic accommodations in instruction and on assessments for ELLs? Dr. David Francis served as the discussant for the panel presentations.
Question #2 (What is the state of current practice in the selection and use of linguistic accommodations in instruction and on assessments for ELLs?) was addressed first by TEA staff who provided a curriculum and assessment update about ELLs. Then, TXCC staff presented findings from the 14 focus groups facilitated around the state earlier in the year.
Summit participants then separated into small groups that included at least one researcher or expert practitioner, one TEA staff member, and one TXCC and COI staff member. Each of these groups reviewed the analysis of the focus group data and began to prepare a presentation conveying their ideas about the state of current practice in selecting and implementing linguistic accommodations. In their discussions and presentation planning, the groups reflected on information concerning the Texas requirements and the research presented earlier in the day.
On the second day, researchers on the third panel addressed the questions from day one as they presented their work in the area of linguistic accommodations for ELLs. The small groups met again to add ideas to their presentations based on the new information. Each small group then made their presentation to the larger group. Following these presentations, TXCC staff facilitated a whole-group dialogue regarding question #3: Where should we begin in helping educators select and provide appropriate linguistic accommodations for ELLs in instruction and on assessments?
Following lunch participants reassembled and discussed the final question: What questions require further study with regard to linguistic accommodations for ELLs in instruction and on assessments? The group then focused on identifying the highest priorities for providing assistance to educators in selecting and implementing appropriate linguistic accommodations. The identified priorities guided the development of an online course addressing this issue.
Francis, D. J., Rivera, M., Lesaux, N., Kieffer, M., & Rivera, H. (2006). Practical guidelines for the education of English language learners: Research-based recommendations for the use of accommodations in large-scale assessments. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction (Under cooperative agreement grant S283B050034 for U.S. Department of Education). Available online at http://www.centeroninstruction.org/files/ELL3-Assessments.pdf
Wolf, M. K., Kao, J., Griffin, N., Herman, J. L., Bachman, P. L., Chang, S. M., & Farnsworth, T. (2008, January). Issues in assessing English language learners: English language proficiency measure and accommodation uses—Practice review (CRESST Report 732, Part 2 of 3). Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. Retrieved July 9, 2008, from http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/summary.asp?report=732
This document is part of the online proceedings of the research summit, Making Consistent Decisions about Accommodations for English Language Learners. The summit was hosted by the Texas Comprehensive Center at SEDL, in partnership with the Texas Education Agency and the Center on Instruction, through funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The event was held at SEDL Headquarters in Austin, Texas, on March 16–17, 2009.
The Texas Comprehensive Center is housed at SEDL. Copyright ©2016 SEDL
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