Press Release

AFT Supports Proposed Recommendations To Improve NAEP for English Language Learners

For Release: 

Monday, November 9, 2009


Cynthia Leonor Garza

WASHINGTON—The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card, should use a more reliable and fair way to test English language learners (ELLs) so that educators get accurate data to inform their instruction and help them close the achievement gap.

On behalf of the American Federation of Teachers, Christine Rowland, a New York City teacher, testified today before the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the NAEP tests. The board has recommended creating a uniform set of rules for testing students who are English language learners.

Rowland, who supports the board’s recommendations, said assessment and accountability for English language learners are necessary to ensure they receive the right kind of help in school. “Yet current testing practices that assess ELLs’ content knowledge in English are often not fair, valid, reliable or appropriate, and make it difficult to distinguish between lack of linguistic abilities in English and learning disabilities,” she said.

“Improvements on how NAEP is administered to ELLs will have a marked impact on tracking progress and identifying gaps in instruction,” Rowland said. “The call to encourage a uniform participation rate among ELLs is valuable; it could well lead to more ELL-focused reforms around the country.”

The ELL population has experienced astronomical growth, with the population more than doubling since 1990 to 5 million-plus students today. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that by 2025 there will be 18 million ELL students in the United States.

“We must address the growing challenges—from inadequate instructional resources to exorbitant dropout rates—faced by this population of students and the educators who teach them every day,” Rowland said. “What’s most disturbing is that the achievement gap between ELLs and other groups has not dramatically narrowed in decades.”

Rowland’s full testimony is attached. The panel recommendations can be found at

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.