What’s Fair and Accountable for Assessing ELLs?

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English language learners (ELLs)take the same high-stakes standardized tests as their English-fluent peers. Assessing ELLs under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is contentious.

On the one hand, schools should be accountable for all students’ learning. On the other, for ELLs these tests often tell more about students’ language ability than their content knowledge. Even the most motivated nonnative speaker takes three years to learn English well enough to test in it. Districts with large numbers of ELLs are under enormous pressure to expedite fluency, or else face stiff penalties for missing AYP.

Are current NCLB guidelines for assessing ELLs unrealistic? How might they be improved while maintaining accountability for ELLs?