State Implementation of NCLB Policies and Interpretation of the NAEP Performance of English Language Learners

The number of students classified as ELL in the 50 states and the District of Columbia has grown significantly over the past decade. This report outlines a number of critical issues that should be addressed in order to allow states to explore and understand relationships between the performance of ELL students on NAEP and on state assessments in this policy context. The results of this study can be useful to a variety of education stakeholders who are interested in improving the utility of NAEP for examining the performance of ELL students.

The measurement context is also complex. NAEP and state assessments in reading and mathematics are not developed for exactly the same purposes, and they do not have exactly the same measurement properties. As will be discussed in this report, attention to a formal statistical study of the relationships between ELL scores on NAEP and state assessments will help to inform the validity rationale underlying attempts to compare results across these assessments. In order to enhance the discussion and make concrete the issues under investigation, this report briefly reviews both provisions for ELL participation in NAEP and NCLB provisions for ELL assessment. In addition, the results of an exploration of NCLB policies and practices in four states (California, New York, Texas and Washington) are examined. Exploration of issues for the four target states helps illustrate key validity challenges faced by states as they consider investigation of relationships between NAEP scores and state assessment scores for ELLs under NCLB for their individual state.

Finally, consideration is given to next steps that the NAEP program might take to improve states’ use of NAEP scores as part of their analysis of progress in attaining NCLB goals.