How long is long enough?: fourth grade English language learners' scores on a state's test and lengths of stay
The point at which English language learners can participate meaningfully in new mandated state assessments remains a topic of debate. Researchers identify several areas of concern. A wealth of studies from the last 25 years indicate ELLs need from 4 to 10 years to achieve in English at the academic level of native English-speaking peers (Collier, 1992; Collier & Thomas, 2004; Cummins, 1981; De Avila, 1997; Hakuta, Butler & Witt, 2000; Ramirez, Yuen & Ramey, 1991; Thomas & Collier, 1997, 2002). The validity of testing students' content knowledge in English while they are still acquiring English has been questioned (August & Hakuta, 1997; Hakuta, 2001; Holmes & Duron, 2000; LaCelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994; Olson & Goldstein, 1997; Rivera & Stansfield, 1998). Also, the appropriateness of an assessment that was developed for native English speakers is argued (Abedi & Dietel; Council of Chief State School Officers, 2000; LaCelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994).In this descriptive study, testing data for fourth grade ELLs from five neighboring Northwest school districts were gathered over 3 testing years. The data were disaggregated by number of years in district. It was possible to compare test results for students in their districts for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years. Also, test data were disaggregated for students formerly in a district ELL program but redesignated as fluent English proficient. Results showed slow, uneven progress for ELLs at consecutive years in district. In Listening and Reading, more progress occurred than in Mathematics and Writing. Yet most ELLs still could not meet standard after 5 years. However, redesignated students had more success; they achieved at levels closer to English only peers.A further qualitative component examined administrators' reactions to the study data. Superintendents, elementary education directors and bilingual program directors from the five districts were interviewed after receiving a report summarizing the findings. After reviewing the report, all administrators but one had alternative suggestions for more equitable inclusion of ELLs in the state assessment system.
- Education - Seattle