Practical Guidelines for the Education of English Language Learners: Research-Based Recommendations for the Use of Accommodations in Large-Scale Assessments

Kieffer, M.J., Rivera, M., and Francis, D.J.
25 Apr, 2013

As the English language learner (ELL) population increases in American schools, it is becoming increasingly important to consider how ELLs can be accounted for fairly within the context of large-scale assessments. In this report, the authors present a meta-analysis of research on testing accommodations for ELLs on large-scale assessments. The authors considered 20 studies that, in aggregate, analyzed nine testing accommodations. When the study populations of the 20 studies were pooled together, more than 9,400 ELLs were represented in a total student population of  more than 33,000. The research was conducted using primariily researcher-created tests of science and mathematics with items from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The results of the meta-analysis show three testing accommodations have modest but statistically significant effects on ELL performance on large-scale assessments: simplified English on assessment items can reduce the ELL/non-ELL performance gap by 9 percent to 19 percent; use of English dictionaries and glossaries can reduce 11 percent to 21 percent of the performance gap; and allowing ELLs additional testing time can reduce 15 percent to 31 percent of the performance gap. The authors recommend using such testing accommodations when assessing ELLs but emphasize that accommodations are only a small part of a much larger strategy of reducing the achievement gap and integrating ELLs into classroom instruction and assessment.