English Learner Testing during the Pandemic: An Early Readout and Look Ahead
From uneven digital access and growing academic gaps to reports of students missing or disengaged since March 2020, it is evident that English Learners (ELs) have endured some of the pandemic’s gravest impacts on students across the United States. But because the pandemic has affected state assessment systems as well as instruction, it is challenging to measure with precision the impacts on ELs and other students.
After receiving permission from the federal government to offer state annual tests more flexibly in school year 2019–20, states faced the challenge in 2020–21 of deciding how to administer these tests in a year when many students were not attending classes in person and instruction was of variable quality. Low test participation rates, state modifications to how and when they administered assessments, and changes to the tests themselves have challenged how stakeholders interpret 2020–21 assessment results. Yet, even with their shortcomings—and particularly during the pandemic—assessments are one of the few transparent measures parents and stakeholders seeking to advance educational equity have to evaluate student growth and identify new or growing learning gaps that demand attention.
This report presents an overview of ELs’ schooling experience in 2020–21 and how states approached administering their annual assessments. It then explores what data from these tests can and cannot tell us about ELs’ learning during this unprecedented period, and lays out strategies for supporting ELs in educational recovery plans.
2 Schooling Conditions during the 2020–21 Academic Year
Indicators of Educational Setbacks Emerge
3 Statewide Summative Testing during the COVID-19 Pandemic
A. Key Considerations for Administering Assessments in 2020–21
B. State Approaches to Summative Academic and ELP Assessments and Accountability in 2020–21
4 A Preliminary Review of What State Assessment Data Say about English Learners during COVID-19
A. Participation in State Academic Summative Assessments
B. Performance on English Language Arts and Math Tests
C. Participation in and Performance on ELP Tests 20
D. Data Transparency and Accessibility
5 Looking Ahead