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Supporting English Language Learners

State education reform efforts triggered by the broad adoption of the Common Core State Standards (and parallel efforts to raise standards to meet college- and career-ready goals) have combined with the growth of the English Language Learner (ELL) population across many states to create a high-leverage policy environment in which states could transform their support services to this traditionally under-served population of students. Key contributing factors include (1) the heavily linguistic character of the practice demands of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which require attention of all educators to the role of language in academic content learning, (2) the explicit linking of the content standards with the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELP) as required in Federal laws and regulations, and (3) the opportunity to create new assessment systems that are aligned to the new standards and the collaboration between stakeholders that has ensued.

CCSSO has played major facilitating roles in this environment. CCSSO has been engaged with the Understanding Language Initiative at Stanford University in bringing national attention to the language demands of the new standards, translating this insight into a series of collaborative projects bringing together a variety of agencies. In addition, CCSSO has convened states and stakeholders of both the content and the English Language Proficiency assessments to gather and coordinate efforts to address their commitment (required through their contracts) to adopt a "common definition" of English Language Learner. CCSSO has a demonstrated track record to spotlight and coordinate activities deemed worthy of cross-state collaboration.

CCSSO has demonstrated leadership on targeting resources and support for ELLs through the following efforts:

English Language Proficiency Development (ELPD) Framework: CCSSO, in collaboration with Susan Pimentel (a lead writer of the CCSS in English language arts/literacy) and a writing team, developed the ELPD Framework in 2012. The purpose of the framework is to communicate to ELL stakeholders in states-from chief state school officers and district chief academic officers to state/district ELL and content area specialists to curriculum developers and teacher leaders-the language practices that all ELLs must acquire in order to successfully master the CCSS and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It is intended to be used in ensuring that ELP standards correspond to the CCSS and NGSS.

English Language Proficiency (ELP) StandardsBuilding on the ELPD framework, CCSSO has utilized the services of WestEd and the Understanding Language team at Stanford University to develop a new set of ELP Standards which were completed in September 2013. The ELP Standards correspond to the CCSS and the Next Generation Science Standards, highlighting and amplifying the critical language, knowledge about language, and skills using language in the CCSS necessary for ELLs to become successful in schools. The ELP Standards are designed to facilitate the development of English language proficiency essential to students as they increase competence in the disciplinary (i.e., subject-specific) practices associated with English language arts, mathematics, and science.

English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21)CCSSO is the management partner for a federal grant that was established for the development of a new assessment to measure English language proficiency - ELPA21. The ELPA21 assessment will measure student proficiency in the new ELP Standards developed by CCSSO and will report on the four language domains (i.e., reading, writing, speaking, and listening). Through this grant, the ELPA21 consortium will develop two assessments to be used at each of six grade bands: (1) a screener test to provide information for incoming English learner identification and placement, and (2) an annual summative assessment for monitoring of student progress, accountability, and program exit.  ·

English Language Learner Assessment Advisory Task Force. CCSSO established an ELL Assessment Advisory Task Force in the fall of 2012. This task force is comprised of leaders from the various assessment consortia and national ELL experts. The task force has assisted the assessment consortia with development and publication of several resources, including:

Effort on Moving toward a Common Definition of English Learners: In an effort to continue engaging states and national partners in improving ELL definition policy, CCSSO built upon existing work done by the ELL Assessment Advisory Task Force. In April 2014, CCSSO was awarded a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for its proposal, Developing a Common Definition of English Learners to Support Assessment Consortia. The goal of this project is to define the key issues involved and provide actionable guidance that consortium member states can use to move toward establishing a common EL definition in ways that are theoretically-sound, evidence-based, empirically-informed, and pragmatic to the many policy, technical, and legal issues.

ELL State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS)CCSSO's ELL SCASS constitutes the only national, sustained forum among state education agencies, researchers, and policy experts on issues of standards and assessment for English language learners. The ELL SCASS explores issues of policy implementation, particularly focusing on the connection of the standards and assessment system to state policies that affect instruction, curriculum, professional supports and leadership for ELLs. State members of the SCASS, in collaboration with co-advisors Kenji Hakuta and Martha Castellón from the Understanding Language Initiative of Stanford University, determine specific issues of focus. Current areas include implementation of the new standards (including the Common Core State Standards and the corresponding English Language Proficiency Standards), early childhood education, teacher quality, students with disabilities, and emerging topics in federal policy including the waiver provisions for ESEA - all with a specific focus on the ELL population.