Psychometric Issues in the Assessment of English Language Learners
- LAST REVIEWED: 13 August 2018
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0147
- LAST REVIEWED: 13 August 2018
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0147
English-language learners (ELLs) are a growing population among the primary and secondary school-age population in the English-speaking world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, North America, and parts of Asia where English is still the primary language of instruction. With an increasing focus on the achievement gap among ELLs and their peers, psychometric issues are important when focusing on the needs of this particularly vulnerable population. ELLs have less evidence of proficiency on standardized tests, have lower secondary-education graduation rates than their peers, and often require more remediation when in post-secondary education (e.g., colleges and universities). Linguistic factors are of paramount importance within studies regarding ELLs and their academic outcomes and achievements because these factors may interfere with students’ actual knowledge of content areas such as mathematics, science, and history. The reliability and validity of assessments used to assess both the English-language development of ELLs, but their knowledge of content, also come into question. Efforts in devising and providing assessment accommodations for ELLs have also been inconclusive. Understanding the current state of knowledge regarding the psychometric issues for ELLs is critical in understanding and addressing the needs of these students.
Assessment outcomes play an extremely important role in the academic career of all students, particularly for ELLs, when used for accountability and end-of-year assessments (Menken 2010). Of concern to many educational stakeholders are the reliability and validity of standardized tests in regard to ELLs and other at-risk student populations such as students with disabilities (SWDs) or limited English proficient (LEP) students (Chu and Flores 2011). These concerns are validated when numerous empirical studies have taken issue with accurate measures of students’ knowledge and skills absent of linguistic demands often associated with being an ELL student (Abedi 2002a; Abedi 2002b; Abedi 2004; Sullivan 2011; Solano-Flores 2006; Young, et al. 2008 [both cited under Factors Affecting Assessments for English-Language Learners]). Moreover, Abedi and Faltis 2015 argues that care must be taken in interpreting scores on high-stakes assessments that are far too often taken only one point in time and have serious consequences on students’ academic trajectories (Artiles and Klingner 2006, Abedi 2006, LaCelle-Peterson and Rivera 1994 [both cited under Factors Affecting Assessments for English-Language Learners], Solórzano 2008). Consensus has been reached in questioning the accuracy and fairness of standardized tests on ELLs. In addition, there have been efforts to explore other mechanisms that may contribute to construct-irrelevant factors (Abedi 2006, Avenia-Tapper and Llosa 2015), such as misclassification of ELLs as SWDs or as ELLs with learning disabilities (Abedi 2006, Artiles and Klingner 2006, Chu and Flores 2011, Sullivan 2011) and instructional programs and teachers of ELLs (Abedi and Faltis 2015). Regardless of the focus the research took, ELLs are underperforming on certain measurements due to the high linguistic demand that is required to take these measures.
Abedi, J. 2002a. Assessment and accommodations of English language learners: Issues, concerns, and recommendations. Journal of School Improvement 3.1: 83–89.
This article presents a meta-analysis of the literature on ELL test accommodation. The validity and effectiveness of current practices are reviewed. These include extended test-taking time, modifying the exam, and allowing ELLs to use glossaries or dictionaries.
Abedi, J. 2002b. Standardized achievement tests and English language learners: Psychometrics issues. Educational Assessment 8.3: 231–257.
This article indicates that achievement test scores may be influenced by students’ language backgrounds. Results of this research show that students who are ELL generally do not perform as well in content areas such as math as non-ELL students. Although ELL students did not perform as well overall on these subjects, the difference was less varied in math than in other subjects.
Abedi, J. 2004. The No Child Left Behind Act and English language learners: Assessment and accountability issues. Educational Researcher 33.1: 4–14.
The No Child Left Behind Act has many issues due to gaps within the act that do not account for students with limited English proficiency. One of these problems concerns assessment tools, which may not be a valid tool to measure LEP student performance. The assessment tools may be too linguistically complex, which fosters failure on the tests and curricula.
Abedi, J., and C. Faltis. 2015. Introduction. In Special issue: Teacher assessment and the assessments of students with diverse learning needs. Review of Research in Education 39:vii–xiv.
The benefits of assessments are universally acknowledged in academia; however, many assessments that are factors for important decisions regarding teacher or student outcomes may be administered only one time and may not be revisited to account for impact of construct-irrelevant factors. If these assessments have any issues with validity or reliability, outcomes can be detrimental.
Artiles, A. J., and J. K. Klingner. 2006. Introduction. In Special issue: Forging a knowledge base on English language learners with special needs: Theoretical, population, and technical issues. Teachers College Record 108.11: 2187–2194.
Emergence of statistics that show ELL students are overrepresented in districts that had diverse populations calls for the importance of gaining more knowledge of ELL students with special needs. Further rationale is discussed in this article.
Avenia-Tapper, B., and L. Llosa. 2015. Construct relevant or irrelevant? The role of linguistic complexity in the assessment of English language learners’ science knowledge. Educational Assessment 20.2: 95–111.
This study discusses the construct validity of assessments used to test science knowledge of ELLs. According to the authors, there should be an overlap between linguistic features of test items and the language in which the content is learned, a practice that does not seem to be an important consideration in the construction of current assessments.
Chu, S.-Y., and S. Flores. 2011. Assessment of English language learners with learning disabilities. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas 84.6: 244–248.
This article discusses the problems of assessing ELL students who have learning disabilities. The amounts of measurement error common in these existing assessments threaten the validity and reliability of these screening instruments. The authors also present other issues that can help educators correctly assess if ELL students have learning disabilities or are just performing poorly on achievement tests because they are still learning English.
Menken, K. 2010. NCLB and English language learners: Challenges and consequences. In Special issue: Integrating English language learners in content classes. Theory into Practice 49.2: 121–128.
This article calls into question the practice of high-stakes testing of ELL students using English-based exams, which can have a negative impact on test scores (since ELL students are still learning English). Part of the reason that ELL students perform so poorly on statewide exams could be due to the fact that those assessments frequently contain words that ELL students do not understand.
Solórzano, R. W. 2008. High stakes testing: Issues, implications, and remedies for English language learners. Review of Educational Research 78.2: 260–329.
The author states that assessment testing based on reforms such as the No Child Left Behind Act is dubbed high-stakes testing because of the outcomes that may come from the results. Because many of these assessments are standardized in English, implications for ELL students may be harmful and misleading at best.
Sullivan, A. L. 2011. Disproportionality in special education identification and placement of English language learners. Exceptional Children 77.3: 317–334.
ELL students are being misclassified as SWDs and placed in classes or programs that may not be a good fit for promoting their education. In this study, ELL students are reported as not being presented with the same educational opportunities as their non-ELL counterparts.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Academic Achievement
- Academic Audit for Universities
- Academic Freedom and Tenure in the United States
- Action Research in Education
- Adjuncts in Higher Education in the United States
- Administrator Preparation
- Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Courses
- Advocacy and Activism in Early Childhood
- African American Racial Identity and Learning
- Alaska Native Education
- Alternative Certification Programs for Educators
- Alternative Schools
- American Indian Education
- Art Education
- Artificial Intelligence and Learning
- Assessing School Leader Effectiveness
- Assessment, Behavioral
- Assessment, Educational
- Assessment in Early Childhood Education
- Assistive Technology
- Augmented Reality in Education
- Beginning-Teacher Induction
- Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
- Blended Learning
- Case Study in Education Research
- Changing Professional and Academic Identities
- Character Education
- Children’s and Young Adult Literature
- Children's Beliefs about Intelligence
- Children's Rights in Early Childhood Education
- Citizenship Education
- Civic and Social Engagement of Higher Education
- Classroom Learning Environments: Assessing and Investigati...
- Classroom Management
- Coherent Instructional Systems at the School and School Sy...
- College Admissions in the United States
- College Athletics in the United States
- Community Relations
- Comparative Education
- Computer-Based Testing
- Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Evaluating Improvement Net...
- Continuous Improvement and "High Leverage" Educational Pro...
- Counseling in Schools
- Critical Perspectives on Educational Innovation and Improv...
- Critical Race Theory
- Crossborder and Transnational Higher Education
- Cross-National Research on Continuous Improvement
- Cross-Sector Research on Continuous Learning and Improveme...
- Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Education
- Culturally Responsive Leadership
- Culturally Responsive Pedagogies
- Culturally Responsive Teacher Education in the United Stat...
- Curriculum Design
- Data Collection in Educational Research
- Data-driven Decision Making in the United States
- Deaf Education
- Desegregation and Integration
- Design Thinking and the Learning Sciences: Theoretical, Pr...
- Development, Moral
- Dialogic Pedagogy
- Digital Age Teacher, The
- Digital Citizenship
- Digital Divides
- Distance Learning
- Distributed Leadership
- Doctoral Education and Training
- Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in Denmark
- Early Childhood Education and Development in Mexico
- Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Early Childhood Education in Australia
- Early Childhood Education in China
- Early Childhood Education in Europe
- Early Childhood Education in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Early Childhood Education in Sweden
- Early Childhood Education Pedagogy
- Early Childhood Education Policy
- Early Childhood Education, The Arts in
- Early Childhood Mathematics
- Early Childhood Science
- Early Childhood Teacher Education
- Early Childhood Teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Early Years Professionalism and Professionalization Polici...
- Economics of Education
- Education For Children with Autism
- Education for Sustainable Development
- Education Leadership, Empirical Perspectives in
- Education of Native Hawaiian Students
- Education Reform and School Change
- Educational Statistics for Longitudinal Research
- Educator Partnerships with Parents and Families with a Foc...
- Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
- Epistemic Beliefs
- Equity and Improvement: Engaging Communities in Educationa...
- Equity, Ethnicity, Diversity, and Excellence in Education
- Ethical Research with Young Children
- Ethics and Education
- Ethics of Teaching
- Ethnic Studies
- Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention
- Family and Community Partnerships in Education
- Family Day Care
- Federal Government Programs and Issues
- Finance, Education
- Financial Aid
- Formative Assessment
- Future-Focused Education
- Gender and Achievement
- Gender and Alternative Education
- Gifted Education
- Global Mindedness and Global Citizenship Education
- Global University Rankings
- Governance, Education
- Grounded Theory
- Growth of Effective Mental Health Services in Schools in t...
- Higher Education and Globalization
- Higher Education and the Developing World
- Higher Education Faculty Characteristics and Trends in the...
- Higher Education Finance
- Higher Education Governance
- Higher Education Graduate Outcomes and Destinations
- Higher Education in Africa
- Higher Education in China
- Higher Education in Latin America
- Higher Education in the United States, Historical Evolutio...
- Higher Education, International Issues in
- Higher Education Management
- Higher Education Policy
- Higher Education Research
- Higher Education Student Assessment
- High-stakes Testing
- History of Early Childhood Education in the United States
- History of Education in the United States
- History of Technology Integration in Education
- Inclusion in Early Childhood: Difference, Disability, and ...
- Inclusive Education
- Indigenous Education in a Global Context
- Indigenous Learning Environments
- Indigenous Students in Higher Education in the United Stat...
- Infant and Toddler Pedagogy
- Inservice Teacher Education
- Integrating Art across the Curriculum
- Intensive Interventions for Children and Adolescents with ...
- International Perspectives on Academic Freedom
- Intersectionality and Education
- Knowledge Development in Early Childhood
- Leadership Development, Coaching and Feedback for
- Leadership in Early Childhood Education
- Leadership Training with an Emphasis on the United States
- Learning Analytics in Higher Education
- Learning Difficulties
- Learning, Lifelong
- Learning, Multimedia
- Learning Strategies
- Legal Matters and Education Law
- LGBT Youth in Schools
- Linguistic Diversity
- Linguistically Inclusive Pedagogy
- Literacy Development and Language Acquisition
- Literature Reviews
- Mathematics Instruction and Interventions for Students wit...
- Mathematics Teacher Education
- Measurement for Improvement in Education
- Measurement in Education in the United States
- Meta-Analysis and Research Synthesis in Education
- Methodological Approaches for Impact Evaluation in Educati...
- Methodologies for Conducting Education Research
- Mindfulness, Learning, and Education
- Mixed Methods Research
- Multiliteracies in Early Childhood Education
- Multiple Documents Literacy: Theory, Research, and Applica...
- Multivariate Research Methodology
- Museums, Education, and Curriculum
- Music Education
- Narrative Research in Education
- Native American Studies
- Numeracy Education
- One-to-One Technology in the K-12 Classroom
- Online Education
- Open Education
- Organizing for Continuous Improvement in Education
- Organizing Schools for the Inclusion of Students with Disa...
- Outdoor Play and Learning
- Outdoor Play and Learning in Early Childhood Education
- Pedagogical Leadership
- Pedagogy of Teacher Education, A
- Performance Objectives and Measurement
- Performance-based Research Assessment in Higher Education
- Performance-based Research Funding
- Phenomenology in Educational Research
- Philosophy of Education
- Physical Education
- Podcasts in Education
- Policy Context of United States Educational Innovation and...
- Politics of Education
- Portable Technology Use in Special Education Programs and ...
- Pre-Service Teacher Education
- Problem Solving
- Productivity and Higher Education
- Professional Development
- Professional Learning Communities
- Program Evaluation
- Programs and Services for Students with Emotional or Behav...
- Psychology Learning and Teaching
- Psychometric Issues in the Assessment of English Language ...
- Qualitative Data Analysis Techniques
- Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Research Samp...
- Qualitative Research Design
- Quantitative Research Designs in Educational Research
- Race and Affirmative Action in Higher Education
- Reading Education
- Refugee and New Immigrant Learners
- Relational and Developmental Trauma and Schools
- Reliability in Educational Assessments
- Religion in Elementary and Secondary Education in the Unit...
- Researcher Development and Skills Training within the Cont...
- Research-Practice Partnerships in Education within the Uni...
- Response to Intervention
- Restorative Practices
- Scale and Sustainability of Education Innovation and Impro...
- Scaling Up Research-based Educational Practices
- School Accreditation
- School Choice
- School Culture
- School District Budgeting and Financial Management in the ...
- School Improvement through Inclusive Education
- School Reform
- Schools, Private and Independent
- School-Wide Positive Behavior Support
- Science Education
- Secondary to Postsecondary Transition Issues
- Self-Regulated Learning
- Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices
- Severe Disabilities
- Single Salary Schedule
- Single-sex Education
- Single-Subject Research Design
- Social Context of Education
- Social Justice
- Social Network Analysis
- Social Pedagogy
- Social Science and Education Research
- Social Studies Education
- Sociology of Education
- Standards-Based Education
- Statistical Assumptions
- Student Access, Equity, and Diversity in Higher Education
- Student Assignment Policy
- Student Engagement in Tertiary Education
- Student Learning, Development, Engagement, and Motivation ...
- Student Participation
- Student Voice in Teacher Development
- Sustainability Education in Early Childhood Education
- Sustainability in Early Childhood Education
- Sustainability in Higher Education
- Teacher Beliefs and Epistemologies
- Teacher Collaboration in School Improvement
- Teacher Evaluation and Teacher Effectiveness
- Teacher Preparation
- Teacher Training and Development
- Teacher Unions and Associations
- Teacher-Student Relationships
- Teaching Critical Thinking
- Technologies, Teaching, and Learning in Higher Education
- Technology Education in Early Childhood
- Technology, Educational
- Technology-based Assessment
- The Bologna Process
- The Regulation of Standards in Higher Education
- Theories of Educational Leadership
- Three Conceptions of Literacy: Media, Narrative, and Gamin...
- Tracking and Detracking
- Traditions of Quality Improvement in Education
- Transformative Learning
- Transitions in Early Childhood Education
- Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities in the Unite...
- Understanding the Psycho-Social Dimensions of Schools and ...
- University Faculty Roles and Responsibilities in the Unite...
- Using Ethnography in Educational Research
- Value of Higher Education for Students and Other Stakehold...
- Virtual Learning Environments
- Vocational and Technical Education
- Wellness and Well-Being in Education
- Women's and Gender Studies
- Young Children and Spirituality
- Young Children's Learning Dispositions
- Young Children's Working Theories