Guidebook to Including Students with Disabilities and English Learners in Assessments
Lesson 1. Know the student populations in your state and their characteristics
Student populations and their characteristics have implications for assessment design, decision-making processes, and monitoring. At a minimum, know the percentages of students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities in your state. Ideally—given recent requirements for alternate assessments of reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and other subject areas, and of English language proficiency (ELP)—also know the percentages of English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The “deeper” you can dive into your state’s data, the better equipped you will be to ensure that your state’s assessment is inclusive of all students in your state.
Additional information about students in your state that will be helpful in understanding their characteristics include:
- Percentages in tested grades (students with disabilities, English learners, English learners with disabilities, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities)
- Primary home languages of English learners and English learners with disabilities (also those with the most significant cognitive disabilities and those with visual or hearing impairments) in tested grades
- Primary disability categories of students with disabilities and English learners with disabilities (and if possible those with the most significant cognitive disabilities)
- Percentages of students with disabilities and English learners with disabilities participating in the state general subject area and ELP assessments and the state alternate subject area and ELP assessments
- Percentages of students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities receiving accommodations
- Percentage of students overall (including those without disabilities and who are not English learners) who received accessibility supports available to all students with adult documentation of student needs
There are a number of resources that address student characteristics, sometimes with information for each state (see Lesson 1 Resources). It is preferable to have the most up-to-date information when thinking about students in your state and to have them clearly defined in the state’s data systems. Gathering information from assessment data files, but also checking in with other divisions in your state (such as special education and English learner education) can help to identify the most recent information and potential gaps in data available for knowing as much as possible about the students in your state.
For students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities, surveys from research projects are available for use in gathering additional information not typically in databases. See Lesson 1 Resources for the Learner Characteristics Inventory, the Individual Characteristics Questionnaire, the First Contact Survey, and the Alt-ELPA21 Student Profile. All of these provide examples of the kinds of information that might be helpful to have for your students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, including those who are English learners.
Lesson 1 Resources
CSAI (Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation). http://www.csai-online.org/
Kearns, J., Kleinert, H., Kleinert, J., & Towles-Reeves, E. (2006) Learner Characteristics Inventory. State and National Demographic Information for English Learners (ELs) and ELs with Disabilities (2016). http://www.naacpartners.org/publications/LCI.aspx
NCEO & ELPA21. (2018). Alt-ELPA21 Student Profile. Appendix A in ELPA21 White Paper: Developing an Alternate ELPA21 for English Learners with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities. https://nceo.umn.edu/docs/OnlinePubs/AltELPAWhitePaper2018.pdf
Shyyan, V. V., Christensen, L. L., Mitchell, J. D., & Ceylan, I. E. (2018). ALTELLA individual characteristics questionnaire. Madison, WI: Alternate English Language Learning Assessment (ALTELLA). https://altella.wceruw.org/resources.html .
U.S. Department of Education. Our Nation’s English Learners: What are Their Characteristics? https://www2.ed.gov/datastory/el-characteristics/index.html#four
West Virginia Department of Education. First Contact Survey FAQs. https://wvde.state.wv.us/osp/First_Contact_Survey_FAQs.docx