The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislated in 2015, serves as the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), replacing NCLB (2001). ESSA recognizes that English Learners (ELs) are one of the fastest growing populations in U.S. schools, comprising nearly 10% of the school population nationwide. ESSA stresses that ELs are a valuable asset, by bringing linguistic and cultural diversity to U.S. schools. In spite of these many assets, ELs face significant opportunity and academic achievement gaps compared to their non-EL peers. “With effective, research-based supports and access to excellent educators, ELs can achieve English language proficiency and perform academically at the same high levels as their non-EL peers” (ESSA Title III Guidance, September 26, 2016, p. 3).
While maintaining the state-mandated content area assessments and grade ranges authorized in NCLB, ESSA provides states with more flexibility in regard to accountability and testing provisions. To support the participation of all students in statewide testing, ESSA stresses the importance of testing accommodations and supports for ELs. Further, ESSA includes stipulations for states to administer content assessments in languages other than English (e.g. Spanish) and requires states to make efforts to develop state content assessments in languages that represent their student population. As with federally required state content assessments, any assessment developed in a language other than English must meet the federal technical quality and peer review requirements (ESSA, 2015). Further, ESSA stipulates that an English Language Proficiency measure (e.g., ACCESS or ELP1) must also be aligned to a state’s academic content standards to measure student growth and be part of the state’s accountability.
Unfortunately, very few states have utilized ESSA’s flexibility to develop content area tests in languages other than English for measuring student knowledge and outcomes. Thus, making it all the more important for all educators to ask, “How can we obtain accurate information about the content-area knowledge of ELs while they are still in the process of learning English?” and “How do we know we are being effective in the teaching, learning, and assessing of ELs?”
For more information and additional resources, please visit https://www.tesol.org/docs/default-source/ppt/tesol-essa-resource-kit-finalad9e8542f2fd6d058c49ff00004ecf9b.pdf.