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to the 1998 survey by the Council of Chief State School Officers, 29 states allow exemptions from all testing requirements for English-language learners, while another 11 states allow exemptions from some assessments for such students (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1998). In addition, all but 7 states allow some form of accommodation for English-language learners; however, students who are administered accommodated assessments are often excluded from school reports.
Excluding English-language learners from assessments raises the same issues that excluding students with disabilities brings to the fore: excluded students “do not count,” the exclusions throw into question the meaning and validity of test score reports, and students, parents, and teachers miss out on the information tests provide. Yet including such students also poses substantial challenges, and doing so inappropriately can produce misleading results. For example, an English-language mathematics test for students not proficient in the language will yield misleading inferences about such students' knowledge and skills in mathematics.
As with students with disabilities, the population of students for whom English is not the primary language is diverse. According to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Bilingual Education and Language Minority Affairs, there are 3.2 million limited-English-proficient students nationwide in 1998, nearly twice as many as there were a decade before. Nearly three-fourths of the English-language learners speak Spanish, but the population includes students from many other language groups, including Vietnamese (3.9 percent), Hmong (1.8 percent), Cantonese (1.7 percent), and Cambodian (1.6 percent).
In addition to the diversity in native languages, English-language learners also vary in their academic skills. Some students may have come to the United States after years of extensive schooling in their native country, and they may be quite proficient in content areas. Others may have had only sketchy schooling before arriving in this country.
Moreover, those who are learning English do so at different rates, and they may be at different points in their proficiency in the language. For the most part, receptive language—reading and listening—develops before productive language—writing and speaking. As a result, a test given to students who have developed receptive language may underestimate these students' abilities, since they can understand more than they can express.
To help educators determine the level of students' English-language proficiency, the Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages, the Center for Applied Linguistics, and the National Association for Bilingual Education have developed a set of standards (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 1997). These standards complement the subject-area standards devel-