Publications & Resources

Issues in Assessing English Language Learners’ Opportunity to Learn Mathematics

Jun 2004

Joan L. Herman and Jamal Abedi

The Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) underscore both the mandate and the challenge of assuring that English Language Learners (ELL) achieve the same high standards of performance that are expected of their native English speaking peers. The intent indeed is laudable: states, districts, schools, and teachers must be accountable for the learning of their ELLs as are the students themselves. ELLs can no longer be invisible in the educational system, their learning needs must be met, and they too must make steady progress the goal of all students being judged proficient based on statewide testing by the year 2014. Already, however, NCLB results suggest a different reality: ELL subgroups are being left behind and schools and districts serving significant proportions of ELLs are less likely to meet their AYP goals and more likely to be subject to corrective action. Fairness demands that ELLs have equitable opportunity to learn (OTL) that upon which they are assessed, especially if those assessments carry significant future consequences. Moreover, if NCLB goals are to be met and achievement gaps reduced, schools must move beyond the performance only orientation of AYP to understand why results are as they are and how to improve them. OTL data can help to provide guidance in these areas and to acknowledge the reality that ELLs’ learning is unlikely to improve unless and until students have more effective opportunities to attain expected performance standards. We view this study as an interesting beginning. It was conceived as a pilot, the results of which add fuel to the concern for and underscore some of the complexities of adequately measuring OTL, and we look forward to the full study involving a larger and more representative sample of teachers and classrooms and a more robust outcome measure.

Herman, J. L., & Abedi, J. (2004). Issues in assessing English language learners’ opportunity to learn mathematics (CSE Report 633). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).