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With testing moratorium, LAUSD crafts its own for ELL shift

Chase Niesner | March 4, 2014

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Standardized TestingWith a year-long state moratorium on standardized testing, LAUSD is crafting its own assessment to determine if English learning students are ready for an English-only curriculum.

The new tests will look a lot like the tests they replace, said Hilda Maldonado, director of the LAUSD Multilingual and Multicultural department. The district had initially sought to purchase the old CST tests independently but found the nearly half-million dollar price tag too expensive for the 40,000 tests needed for ELL students this year.

The new assessment will be administered by schools from March 17 to May 23, according to Maldonado, adding that students in grades 3-9 will have the option of “banking” their CST scores from the previous year if they scored a basic or above. The CST tests have been replaced by the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced tests, which are slated to be officially administered next school year.

Maria Ruiz, a mother of two ELL students in Boyle Heights, said she’s concerned that the new Common Core-aligned assessments will be far more challenging for ELL students, resulting in fewer reclassifications.

“The first time students take the [Smarter Balanced tests] will likely result in students’ scoring lower,” Maldonado said. “Whether or not we’ll consider these scores next year or we’ll use a completely different reclassification process as we’ve done this year is still to be decided.”

A recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California recommends a single state standard for reclassification, rather than each school district developing its own, the current policy. The report also noted more rigorous reclassification guidelines often resulted in slightly better academic outcomes for recently reclassified students.

Ruiz said she hopes any changes to the reclassification assessment will be supported by new funds for ELL students. “I’ve asked for tutors and even Saturday classes at my sons’ schools to help them along, but I’ve been told there’s no money for these things,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz also said the district must do a better job informing parents of ELL students how they can help with the process. According to Ruiz, only three parents of ELL students attended the most recent meeting of her local school site council, which represents a school with hundreds of ELL students.

“Many parents don’t even know their children are ELL, even though they’re instrumental in guiding them through the process” Ruiz added.

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