Features & Benefits
The ELPA21 consortium supports the development of an assessment system for English language learners (ELLs) that reflects the research and progress made in the study of development of English language proficiency. The days of assessing students’ proficiency in English separately from their content knowledge and skills are gone.
ELPA21’s assessment system measures growth in English language proficiency based on the newly developed English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards. It provides valuable information that informs instruction and facilitates academic proficiency in English to help make sure all ELLs leave high school prepared for college and career success.
ELPA21’s approach to assessment is rooted in core beliefs:
- ELLs are a diverse group with varied backgrounds and capabilities.
- All ELLs are capable of making progress toward English language proficiency.
- ELLs need to acquire discipline-specific language practices that enable them to produce, interpret, and effectively collaborate on content-related grade-appropriate tasks.
With a growing population of ELLs in our schools and state implementation of new, more rigorous English language arts, mathematics, and science standards, the ELPA21 consortium states are in a unique position to fully integrate and support standards, assessments, and technology to improve systems of support and learning for ELLs. To this end, the ELPA21 assessment system, which includes a screener and summative assessments, will support ELLs by determining initial placement; identifying the need for reassessment for continued placement; providing information that can help guide instruction, growth, and student reclassification and exit; and providing accountability for the system and states.
The system will support individual ELLs and their schools and districts by:
- using the screener to identify ELLs
- monitoring ELLs’ yearly progress in the attainment of English language proficiency for academic purposes
- measuring districts’ success in meeting Title III accountability benchmarks*
- reclassifying student status from ELL to Fluent English Proficient
* Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act requires states to be accountable for ELLs’ progress in learning English (AMAO 1) and ELLs’ progress in attaining the proficiency benchmark in English (AMAO 2). Progress toward meeting these objectives is measured using the state’s English language proficiency assessment. A third benchmark requires demonstration of ELLs’ ability to meet the adequate yearly progress target for the state’s Title I assessment. The Elementary and Secondary Education (or No Child Left Behind) Act flexibility plans approved by the U.S. Department of Education on a state-by-state basis have kept the Title III accountability requirements intact.
Accessibility and Accommodations
ELPA21 is designed to accommodate all ELLs — including those who have disabilities — recognizing that the validity of assessment results depends on every student’s having appropriate access to the assessment. The ELPA21 Field Test Accessibility and Accommodations Manual guides the ELPA21 member states in the selection and administration of appropriate universal features, designated features, and accommodations for individual students.
Standard setting is the legally defensible process of identifying how students’ results on an assessment should be described in terms of their level of performance. For ELPA21, standard setting is about determining the degree to which a student should be considered proficient in English, based on their performance on the test. ELPA21 states use varying methods of determining students’ English language proficiency, and may rely on both ELPA21 summative assessment results as well as other measures. In general, ELPA21 states consider students to be proficient in English when they are able to use the English language to sufficiently and independently produce, interpret, collaborate on, and succeed in grade-level content‐related academic tasks.
ELPA21 assessment uses five (5) performance levels to describe skills in each of four (4) domains of listening, reading, speaking, and writing:
- Beginning: A student at this level displays few grade-level English language skills and will benefit from ELL program support.
- Early Intermediate: A student at this level presents evidence of developing grade-level English language skills and will benefit from ELL program support.
- Intermediate: A student at this level applies some grade-level English language skills and will benefit from ELL program support.
- Early Advanced: A student at this level demonstrates English language skills required for engagement with grade-level academic content instruction at a level comparable to non-ELLs.
- Advanced: A student at this level exhibits superior English language skills, as measured by ELPA21.
ELPA21 uses three categories to summarize skills across the four domains and to make a proficiency determination. These categories are called Proficient, Progressing, and Emerging. Final category descriptions will be available after the completion of ELPA21 Standard Setting.
Students and families will receive an Individual Student Report after taking the ELPA21 assessment, which will include an overall Proficiency Determination and scores in each of the four domains of language learning. Each report will include a guide for interpreting the student’s scores and explanations of the constructs measured by the test. While all states’ Individual Student Reports will have similar components, they may differ in structure and composition by state.
States will provide reports that summarize their students’ performance to school administrators and educators. These reports describe aggregate results at the school, district, and state levels and may include average scores on each of the four domains, the percentage of students (overall and by subgroup) in each performance level, the percentage of students (overall and by subgroup) in each Proficiency Determination, and average growth from the previous annual summative assessment. The reports may also contain student indicators such as ELL status, ethnicity, gender, and Title I status.
ELPA21 tests scores should not and cannot be compared with scores from any state’s previous ELP exams. The implementation of the ELP Standards generally results in the development of new curriculum and instructional strategies, making results across the tests not comparable.