language learners who have taken native-language tests or tests with accommodations.
The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) is administered to every student in Texas in grades 3–8 and grade 10. The tests are used for both student and school accountability. For students, the 10th grade tests in reading, mathematics, and writing are designed as exit-level tests, which students must pass in order to graduate. For schools and districts, the tests are the centerpiece of a complex information and accountability system; schools are rated as “exemplary,” “recognized,” “acceptable,” or “low-performing” on the basis of scores on the TAAS, attendance rates, and dropout rates.
The state also administers a Spanish-language version of the TAAS in grades 3–6.
To determine which version of the test students take, language-proficiency assessment committees at each school, consisting of a site administrator, a bilingual educator, an English-as-a-second-language educator, and a parent of a child currently enrolled, make judgments according to six criteria. These are: literacy in English and/or Spanish; oral-language proficiency in English and/or Spanish; academic program participation, language of instruction, and planned language of assessments; number of years continuously enrolled in the school; previous testing history; and level of academic achievement. On the basis of these criteria, the committee determines whether a student is tested on the English-language TAAS, tested on the Spanish-language TAAS, or is exempted and provided an alternate assessment. Those entering U.S. schools in the 3rd grade or later are required to take the English TAAS after three years.
The results for students who take the Spanish TAAS or for those who are exempted are not included in the totals used for accountability purposes; however, the Spanish-language results are reported for each school. In 1997, 2.4 percent of the students in grades 3–8 were exempted because of limited English proficiency; another 1.48 percent of students took the Spanish TAAS.
In Philadelphia, the district administers the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Form (SAT-9) as part of an accountability system; the results are used, along with attendance rates, to determine whether schools are making adequate progress in bringing students toward district standards. The district also administers the Spanish-language version of the SAT-9, known as Aprenda, in reading and mathematics.
To determine how students should be tested, the district measures the students' English-language proficiency. The district has used the Language Assessment Scales (LAS), a standard measure that gauges proficiency on a four-point scale; more recently, district educators have developed their own descriptors of language proficiency. The district is currently conducting research to compare the locally developed descriptors with the LAS.
Students at the lowest level of proficiency—those who are not literate in their native language—are generally exempted from the