Assessing English Language Learners: A Case Study of Practices Used by Secondary Mathematics Teachers
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With the implementation in 2003 of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind, students from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds, including English language learners (ELLs), are required to perform well on state assessments. Since the numbers of ELLs in schools are growing and since schools are held accountable for all students’ scores, the identification of effective instruction and assessments for ELLs has become increasingly more important for educators. This qualitative, case study investigated the assessment practices of five mathematics teachers in three high schools to determine the assessment measures that they selected for ELLs and the factors that influenced their decisions. Emerging from the data were four themes: (a) an intensified focus on state assessments, (b) changes in ESL instruction at the campuses, (c) ineffective state assessments for ELLs and (d) problematic identification of ELLs. Although research suggests that effective teaching practices will help ELLs to learn, these teachers felt pressure to help their ELLs to succeed on the state assessments and thus, adjusted or abandoned what they knew to be best practice. The study showed that classroom teachers are selecting classroom assessments which help students to do well on state assessments but which may not accurately measure ELL academic progress.