This blog on Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, college readiness, dropouts, bilingual education, immigration, school finance, race, class, and gender issues with additional focus at the national level.
NJ - For a long time, I have wanted to offer my perspective on the
needs of the nearly six million English learners (ELs) in our public
schools. My interest is both professional and personal – I was an
English learner myself. My parents came from Puerto Rico in search of
opportunity, and I was born in New York City, growing up with Spanish as
my first language.
parents did not finish high school, but they understood the importance
of education and made sure that my sisters and I completed high school
and went on to college while retaining the Spanish language. Today, all
four of us have advanced degrees.Being able to navigate easily between mainstream society and the Latino world has been a plus for all of us.
concerns about ELs assumed new importance in 2011 when I was asked to
lead an Educational Testing Service initiative on EL needs. I realized
that while ETS had decades of experience in international English
proficiency assessments, our domestic experience was limited. So we set
out to listen to experts across the country.
unsettling conclusion: Large numbers of students lack sufficient
opportunities to learn, to master English and other subjects, to get
postsecondary degrees and go on to productive careers. It
amounts to disregard of our moral and civic obligations. Assuring more
productive lives for ELs, in my view, is both a moral and an economic
need us, and the nation needs them. Given their growing numbers,
serving them well can improve educational attainment and help assure
productivity and competitiveness in coming decades.
these imperatives, in 2012, ETS created a new research center for
English Language Learning and Assessment (ELLA) in its Research &
Development division. I am pleased that it has elevated the profile of
EL research in general and is investing more in serving ELs in the
with 15 scientists, this unique center has attracted talent – and
interest – from around the world. Meanwhile, ETS has added a substantial
number of assessment design and development specialists and
psychometric experts to support research and development in this growing
Our research emphasis is in three major areas:
1) Assessing English-language proficiency by
reviewing current practices, identifying the skills needed to meet the
Common Core State Standards and developing improved assessments of
2) Improving assessments of content knowledge for ELs by investigating the validity and fairness of content assessments for ELs —
for example, developing guidelines to make test questions in math and
science tests appropriate for ELs in terms of linguistic complexity and
3) For teachers of ELs, identifying the required content and pedagogical knowledge and developing technology-enhanced professional development materials
am delighted that ETS is now working with a coalition of 11 states,
known as ELPA 21 (English-Language Proficiency for the 21st Century) to
design and develop a pool of test items to support the development of a
screener and a summative EL proficiency assessment for ELs in grades
11 states, led by Oregon, offer ETS an opportunity to help improve
English-language assessments for nearly 600,000 ELs. We are designing
new item types, including a range of innovative item types, many of them
technology-enhanced, to make assessments more engaging for students and
to provide more meaningful information to teachers about student
abilities. The effective use of digitally delivered assessments is the
subject of ongoing research.
ELs is a challenge; and we do not profess to have all the answers. But
we do profess to be searching for the answers and are fully committed to
helping bring about improvements. Our mission to advance quality and
equity in education compels us to do so.