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Common Core Special Issue: December 2012
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CCSS: What's Happening for ELLs?
by John Segota, TESOL

When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were published in 2010, the developers acknowledged that the needs of English language learners (ELLs) should taken into account with implementation. However, beyond providing some general information and pedagogy for ELLs, the developers initially left the question of English language proficiency standards and resources up to the states. Since then, several major national initiatives have begun to address the needs of ELLs as they relate to the CCSS and the role of English language proficiency (ELP). This article provides a brief synopsis of some of these initiatives.

English Language Proficiency Standards and the Common Core
When the CCSS were initially published, the question of ELP standards was left up to the states, and no common set of ELP standards was provided. However, the states soon made clear the need for resources and guidance. In September 2012, the Council of Chief State School Officers released an English Language Proficiency Development Framework to assist states in revising their ELP standards to correspond to the CCSS and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Written by leading experts on English language learning and the lead writers of the CCSS, the goal of the Framework is to delineate the language practices that all ELLs must acquire in order to successfully master the CCSS. Aimed at state education leaders, the Framework outlines the language demands of the CCSS and NGSS, and provides a protocol for determining the degree of alignment present between the Framework and a state’s current ELP standards (or those under development). While the Framework does not offer a specific set of ELP standards, nor give pedagogical recommendations, it does highlight how language instruction throughout the four domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) can be utilized while adhering to the CCSS and NGSS.

Many states have already begun revising their ELP standards so that they correspond to the CCSS, for example, New York and California’s English language proficiency standards. There are also now 28 states in the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium (WIDA), which has released a new edition of “amplified” English language development standards that illustrate the academic language that teachers need to use while implementing the CCSS.

Understanding Language Project
To help develop resources aimed at supporting English learners to meet the CCSS is a research effort spearheaded by Kenji Hakuta, of Stanford University, and Maria Santos, former director of programs for ELLs for the New York City school system. Backed by private grant funds, Understanding Language “aims to heighten educator awareness of the critical role that language plays in the new Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.” Other key partners include Council of Great City Schools, the New York City Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Council of La Raza.

This project includes a team of ELL experts and educators (including former TESOL International Association president Lydia Stack) to provide a resource for teachers of ELLs to negotiate and navigate the CCSS in their own classrooms. One of the main goals for the initiative is to highlight the application of language and literacy in all areas of school subjects, not just English and language arts classrooms. The project has released a series of commissioned papers written by leading language experts that analyze the changes, challenges, and opportunities that the CCSS will provide for teachers of ELLs. In addition, the project has held a series of webinars for educators and is planning materials to assist teachers in working with their ELLs.

English Language Proficiency Assessments
Recognizing the need for English language proficiency (ELP) standards to correspond to the CCSS, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to two state-led consortia to develop the next generation of ELP assessments. According to the provisions of the grants, these new assessments must measure students’ proficiency against some commonly held English language proficiency standards that correspond to a set of college- and career-ready standards in English language arts and mathematics. In addition to producing results that are valid, reliable, and fair for its intended purpose, the new assessment system had to meet additional criteria, including

  • Be based on a common definition of English learner adopted by all Consortium states;
  • Include diagnostic (e.g., screener or placement) and summative assessments;
  • Assess English language proficiency across the four language domains of reading, writing, speaking, and listening for each grade level from kindergarten through grade 12;
  • Produce results that indicate whether individual students have attained a level and complexity of English proficiency that is necessary to participate fully in academic instruction in English;
  • Be accessible to all English learners with the exception of those who are eligible for alternate assessments based on alternate academic standards; and
  • Use technology to the maximum extent appropriate to develop, administer, and score assessments.

The first such grant was awarded in 2011 to a consortium led by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, in collaboration with the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Consortium. The new system is called Assessment Services Supporting ELs through Technology Systems (ASSETS). Assisting with the development of the assessment are several organizations, including WestEd, the Center for Applied Linguistics, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), along with 29 states.

According to the consortium, the ASSETS assessment is in fact a complete system that will include a summative language assessment, an on-demand diagnostic screener, classroom interim assessments, and formative assessment tools for use in instruction. The system will be leveraged on the work of the WIDA consortium and will include professional development materials for teachers. It is scheduled to be operational by the 2015–2016 academic year.

The second grant was awarded in September 2012 to a consortium of 13 states led by Oregon. Working in collaboration with CCSSO and Stanford University, the consortium is developing the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21). Similar to the ASSETS consortium, the goal is to develop an assessment system to gauge English language proficiency based on ELP standards that correspond to the CCSS.

According to preliminary information available at the time of this writing, the work of the ELPA21 consortium will focus on developing a screener/diagnostic form and two summative assessments to be used by states for their ELLs. In addition, the consortium will begin developing interim benchmark assessments, supporting professional development, and recommendations on formative assessment practices. However, work on these elements will not be completed under the resources of the grant. The new assessment will be operational by the 2015–2016 academic year.


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Table of Contents
TC Homepage
A Glance at the CCSS
CCSS: What's Happening for ELLs?
Standards That Impact ELLs
CCSS & TESOL Standards
TESOL & the NG Science Standards
Association News
Job Link
English Instructor, Laureate Vocational Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Rabigh

Assistant Director, University of Colorado Denver, ESL Academy, Denver, Colorado, USA

Assistant Director, American Language Institute, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA

Director of Studies, Australian Centre for Education, Cambodia

ESL Specialist, American Language Institute, Toledo, Ohio, USA

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