Summary of Public Comments and Agency Responses Related to Proposed Repeal of 19 TAC Chapter 101, Assessment, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules Concerning the Participation of Limited English Proficient Students in State Assessments, and Proposed New 19 TAC Chapter 101, Assessment, Subchapter AA, Commissioner's Rules Concerning the Participation of English Language Learners in State Assessments
Comments in Favor of Proposed Rules
Comment: An educator from Pflugerville Independent School District (ISD) indicated that the district supports the repeal of current English language learner (ELL) assessment rules. The educator also expressed support for the linguistically accommodated testing provisions for the content areas of mathematics, science, and social studies and indicated that the provisions will result in improved instructional opportunities for ELLs.
Agency Response: The agency agrees.
Comment: An educator from Sharyland ISD commented that many ELLs who have been historically neglected will benefit from the more inclusive provisions and that making linguistic accommodations available to a larger number of ELLs is an important and beneficial change.
Agency Response: The agency agrees.
Comment: The Texas School Alliance (TSA) and an educator from Brownsville ISD expressed support for the special English I and II provisions for high school recent immigrants. The educator from Brownsville ISD acknowledged the difficulties that recent immigrants will have passing an English I test written for native English speakers. The TSA commented that the flexibility afforded will support student participation and access to the curriculum without placing excessive testing pressure on students.
Agency Response: The agency agrees.
Comment: An educator from San Benito ISD made a general comment in favor of allowing linguistic accommodations for ELLs.
Agency Response: The agency agrees.
Comment: A team of elementary educators from an unspecified district expressed agreement with the limited English proficiency postponement rules for exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).
Agency Response: The agency agrees with the continuation of this rule for exit-level TAKS.
Comment: A retired educator from Ector County ISD expressed support for Spanish-version tests for students in bilingual education programs.
Agency Response: The agency agrees with providing native language assessments, to the extent state statute and funding permits, for ELLs in bilingual education programs who are most appropriately assessed in their primary language.
Comment: A team of fifth grade teachers from an unspecified school district expressed support for the rules that require an admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee to work in conjunction with the language proficiency assessment committee (LPAC) to make state assessment decisions.
Agency Response: The agency agrees that key members of both committees should confer on state assessment decisions to ensure that the special education and second language acquisition needs of the students are carefully considered.
Concerns about Elimination of Exemptions and Impact on Students and School District Accountability
Comment: An educator from Allen ISD asked for an exemption for new immigrant students entering in the second semester of the school year. An educator from Port Isabel ISD requested either an exemption for newly arrived immigrants enrolled less than two months or that their scores be included for participation and not performance in accountability measures.
Agency Response: The latter suggestion by the educator from Port Isabel ISD is more in line with the agency's plan to assess all students and determine appropriate ways to use the test scores for accountability purposes. Decisions about the use of test scores in accountability measures will be made during the design of the new 2013 state accountability system.
Comment: An educator from Austin ISD, Northside ISD, La Joya ISD, Port Isabel ISD, and Raymondville ISD requested that the proposed rules be revised to allow at least a first-year exemption in order to provide accelerated instruction and interventions. Two educators from Irving ISD and an educator from Port Neches-Groves ISD requested that testing not be required for at least two years. Two educators from Brownsville ISD and an educator from Los Fresnos CISD, Sharyland ISD, Deer Park ISD, and Irving ISD advocated reinstating the TAKS three-year exemption policy for reasons such as supporting students' self-esteem and desire to do well on state assessments (Brownsville), allowing sufficient time for instruction in English if native language testing is not available (Los Fresnos), and having the necessary time to address instructional gaps and limited prior schooling (Sharyland, Deer Park, Brownsville, and Irving). An educator from Arlington ISD requested a reading and writing exception or postponement during an ELL's first three years in the U.S. An educator from Deer Park ISD commented that linguistically accommodated mathematics, science, and social studies tests should not be required in the first three years for immigrant ELLs who arrive unschooled or illiterate in their first language, as these students have special needs related to English acquisition and academic skills. An educator from Port Neches-Groves ISD indicated that it does not make sense to expect immigrant ELLs in U.S. schools for less than three years to pass a reading assessment in English. An educator from San Benito made a general comment indicating that the state should consider exempting recent immigrants in order not to penalize them with tests they cannot pass.
Agency Response: The agency acknowledges that it takes varying amounts of time to prepare ELLs for success on state assessments and that this population of students has unique and diverse needs. The agency has decided that testing all students, even students who cannot reasonably be expected to pass, will provide useful information and will be appropriate as long as the use of the test scores is fair and appropriate. The agency plans to assess all ELLs so that the state, school districts, and campuses are informed about the performance of all students on the assessments. The agency plans to use the test scores in ways that take the unique second language acquisition needs of ELLs into account.
Comment: The TSA requested that local flexibility be allowed for campus LPACs to recommend State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exemptions for recent immigrants who are at the non-English speaking level as determined by tests from state-approved oral language proficiency assessments. The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA) requested that exemptions be allowed for ELLs new to the U.S. who have not yet reached the advanced proficiency level on the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) in order for the state assessments to provide a true measure of their capabilities. The Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) requested that first-year immigrant ELLs who score below a certain proficiency level on TELPAS be permitted not to take the STAAR reading and writing tests, as has been allowed for TAKS.
Agency Response: The agency acknowledges the varying views about the amount of English language proficiency students should have to reasonably engage in state assessments in English. The agency does not agree that students must have a certain level of English language proficiency before taking an assessment as long as appropriate uses are made of the test scores. Knowing how ELLs perform on STAAR, even ELLs who are new to the U.S. and appear to know very little English, provides baseline data from which to set progress targets and monitor growth.
Comment: An educator from Los Fresnos CISD expressed concern about the elimination of exemptions for secondary newcomer ELLs and one-size-fits-all expectations. An educator from Port Isabel ISD expressed concern that some high school ELLs enter U.S. schools with excellent schooling while others enter with little or no prior schooling. Though the educator commented in favor of including the students in accountability measures in some way, the Port Isabel ISD educator expressed concern that requiring all high school recent immigrants to take end-of-course (EOC) examinations in a foreign language and without regard for the time it takes to acquire academic English will not provide an appropriate measure of the Texas educational system or knowledge of the students.
Agency Response: The agency acknowledges the unique second language acquisition challenges of secondary newcomer ELLs. The agency does not plan to establish one-size-fits-all expectations and will take these factors into careful account in decisions about the uses of test scores for STAAR.
Comment: An educator from Port Isabel ISD, Sharyland ISD, Nocona ISD, and Brownsville ISD commented that ELLs who enter the U.S. with little or no English will perform poorly on state assessments written in English and that including their scores in school accountability data will present an unfair picture of the quality of education provided. The educators stated that even with optimal instruction, it takes time for new immigrant ELLs to learn what is needed to pass standardized tests in English, and including their performance too soon in accountability measures penalizes districts for factors that are beyond their control.
Agency Response: In the new 2013 state accountability system, which is in the design phases, the agency plans to take the second language acquisition needs of ELLs into account and will give careful consideration to the time needed for new immigrant ELLs to acquire enough English to fully demonstrate academic knowledge and skills.
Comment: An educator from Irving ISD stated that eliminating exemptions does not give new English learners enough time to be competent on any state test and that not providing some type of leniency in state testing or differentiated expectations is not reasonable and sets the students up for failure. An educator from Los Fresnos CISD commented that if exemptions are eliminated, differentiated tests and accountability measures are needed to address the unique needs and challenges of immigrant ELLs and the time it takes to learn English and progress normally in academic subject areas. Similarly, two educators from Los Fresnos CISD commented that it is not equitable to treat the test results of recent immigrant ELLs and native English speakers in a one-size-fits-all manner.
Agency Response: STAAR has been designed to take the assessment needs of ELLs into account. Spanish-version assessments in Grades 3-5 will continue to be provided, and the agency has expanded ELL assessment provisions for English versions of STAAR to allow linguistic accommodations for all subjects and all ELLs. In addition, the new 2013 accountability system will be designed to take the unique second language acquisition developmental needs of ELLs into account.
Comment: An educator from Brownsville ISD proposed not factoring in the scores of new or recent immigrant students in accountability measures until they reach a certain English language proficiency level on TELPAS. The TSA expressed a preference for using TELPAS reading test scores to represent the performance of first-year eligible students in measures of progress.
Agency Response: In the design of the new 2013 state accountability system, these ideas will be carefully considered.
Comment: An educator from Nocona ISD commented that until a growth measure is developed to fairly and accurately measure the effectiveness of the instructional system of immigrant ELLs, the scores of those unable to work on grade level in English should not be included in accountability measures.
Agency Response: In the design of the new 2013 state accountability measures, the agency will consider the use of ELL progress indicators to appropriately evaluate district and campus effectiveness.
Comment: An educator from Mission CISD commented that it takes several years to learn a new language and that expecting students to do so in less than a year is not reasonable or realistic and will have a negative impact in the classrooms in his area. An educator from Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD expressed a similar concern, adding that the new rules will cause a significant drop in the school's ratings. An educator from Los Fresnos CISD commented that state accountability measures should be reconceived if high stakes STAAR assessments are given to newcomers who lack basic English.
Agency Response: The new 2013 accountability system for STAAR, which is in the design phases, is expected to take into account the second language acquisition needs of ELLs.
Comment: A number of respondents alluded to research on the amount of time it takes to learn a new language in order to explain that sufficient time should be allowed before holding recent immigrants to the same testing requirements as other students. A school board member and six educators from Rio Hondo ISD referenced research on the need for five years to demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing a new language. Four educators from Port Neches-Groves ISD, two from Irving ISD, and one from Deer Park ISD referenced research on the need for at least two years to acquire basic communication skills and five to seven years or longer to acquire academic language proficiency. The educator from Deer Park ISD highlighted the challenges faced by ELLs who enter the U.S. with limited prior schooling, and an educator from Port Isabel ISD cited research on the need for four to seven years, with a longer timeframe for older ELLs who arrive in the U.S. with no educational background. An educator from Waller ISD provided the general comment that it takes longer than a school year for a new language and academic content to be mastered and for prior learning gaps to be closed.
Agency Response: The agency agrees that becoming academically proficient in English takes a number of years and varies in accordance with the diverse educational backgrounds of ELLs and instructional practices. In designing the new 2013 accountability system, analyses of the unique second language acquisition needs of ELLs will be research-based and will take these variables into account.
Comment: Two educators from Northside ISD commented that recently arrived students who enter the U.S. from refugee camps with significantly interrupted or limited prior schooling have very particular challenges, that guidelines should be developed for determining when testing is more harmful than helpful, and that the accountability system should not unfairly judge these students' schools.
Agency Response: Sections 101.1005 and 101.1007 address the unique needs of unschooled ELL refugees and asylees by extending the period in which these students may take the more substantially accommodated STAAR L versions by up to two years. In the design of the new 2013 state accountability system, the unique second language acquisition needs of all ELLs will be carefully considered. The test administration manuals will provide guidance about how to proceed if testing a student is deemed to not be in the best interest of the student.
Comment: An educator from Northside ISD, United ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Lewisville ISD, and Brownsville ISD as well as two educators from Port Isabel ISD questioned the accuracy and meaning of test results of students required to test in English without a reasonable opportunity to learn the language. These educators indicated that, as a result of the language barrier, such students will often be more capable than the test results indicate. The educator from United ISD commented that linguistic accommodations are not always sufficient to remove the language barrier and that tests should be able to measure gains, be unbiased, and not set students up to fail.
Agency Response: Nationally recognized ELL assessment researchers agree that students learning a new language have difficulty showing their true knowledge and skills and acquiring new skills in that language until they reach advanced stages of English language proficiency and that linguistic accommodations decrease but do not fully remove all language barriers. Leading ELL policy advisers recommend that states assess all ELLs, with assessment methods that provide linguistic access, and that states include the students in appropriate ELL progress measures that set targets for challenging, achievable annual growth based on second language acquisition developmental needs. This is the approach the agency plans to pursue for the STAAR program.
Comment: An educator from Allen ISD, Comal ISD, Northside ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Port Neches-Groves ISD, and Sharyland ISD expressed concern that requiring new immigrant students to take a standardized test too soon after arrival in the U.S. will cause excessive anxiety or be emotionally detrimental to unschooled immigrants or those who speak little or no English and are trying to adjust to their new environment.
Agency Response: The agency acknowledges the challenges that newly arrived immigrant ELLs who are unschooled or speak little or no English face in both instructional and testing situations. The agency also acknowledges the difficulty districts have had making decisions about whether newly arrived ELLs qualify for exemptions. While there will be no exemption provisions, the test administration manuals will provide instructions for campus testing personnel to follow in handling isolated special situations. Since federal regulations have required newly arrived English learners to participate in state assessments in most grades and subjects for a number of years, testing coordinators should be familiar with guidelines for making these types of judgments. In meetings with educators, the agency has received advice that recently arrived ELLs as a whole benefit from taking state assessments, being exposed to the learning expectations in the assessments, and being included in the assessment data used by schools to monitor student needs. During instruction and standardized testing, calm and positive attitudes of teachers can greatly relieve the anxiety that new English learners experience.
Comment: The TEPSA commented that if all ELLs will be taking STAAR, consideration must be given when determining the accountability ratings of campuses that have many first- through third-year ELLs.
Agency Response: In the design of the new 2013 state accountability system, the unique second language needs of these students will be carefully considered.
Comment: The TCTA commented that developing rules for the testing requirements of ELLs in advance of established plans for the accountability consequences is contrary to the way the agency has traditionally handled transitions to new testing and accountability systems.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. Advance notice of new assessment and accountability policies is not possible when transitioning to a new assessment program, i.e., TAAS to TAKS and to a new accountability system based on a new assessment program.
Comment: The TSA requested that the agency provide school districts with adequate input into and comment on ELL accountability decisions for STAAR.
Agency Response: The agency agrees and will seek broad advice and comment from school districts.
Concerns about Method of Assessing Reading and Writing
Comment: The TCTA and an educator from Irving ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Lyford CISD, and Port Isabel ISD recommended that all linguistic accommodations afforded students during linguistically accommodated testing (LAT) for TAKS be allowed for STAAR reading and writing tests. A school board member and six educators from Rio Hondo ISD as well as an educator from Irving ISD indicated that not providing reading and writing accommodations would be inequitable because of the number of years ELLs need to be able to fully demonstrate reading and writing skills.
Agency Response: The LAT provisions for TAKS, which had to be implemented on a short timeline in response to federal requirements, reflected the best available information at the time and decisions that were aligned to the uses of linguistically accommodated tests under the TAKS program. For STAAR, decisions have been made to allow fewer, less substantial linguistic accommodations for reading and writing tests as a result of advice from technical, legal, and psychometric experts about the degree to which substantial linguistic accommodations modify what the tests are designed to assess. Test administration procedures for STAAR reading and writing tests will, however, permit ELLs to be provided limited linguistic accommodations that help address the English language barrier they experience. These include extra testing time and a variety of types of dictionaries in accordance with their needs.
Comment: An educator from Pflugerville ISD expressed a concern about the method of assessing reading and writing, emphasizing the disadvantage that the lack of linguistic accommodations would create for ELLs required to pass STAAR reading tests in Student Success Initiative (SSI) grades and EOC English reading and writing tests for graduation. The educator expressed particular concern about the fact that high school students would have to retake EOC reading and writing tests several times because they, by definition, lack the requisite English proficiency.
Agency Response: Allowances related to English I and II EOC testing requirements under §101.1007 will be made for ELLs who have been in U.S. schools three years or less (five years or less if a qualifying unschooled asylee or refugee) and who have not yet demonstrated English language proficiency in reading on TELPAS. One of the allowances is that the students will not be required to retake the assessment each time it is administered if they pass the course. Rules for SSI testing requirements for ELLs have not yet been established. The agency will give careful consideration to the concern expressed in considering SSI requirements for recent immigrant ELLs.
Comment: An educator from Los Fresnos CISD, Lyford CISD, and Comal ISD indicated that linguistic accommodations aligned to those used in the classroom, which are differentiated based on students' proficiency level needs, should be allowed during STAAR reading tests.
Agency Response: Accommodations used during instruction are not always permitted during standardized test administrations (e.g., reading aloud a reading selection). The linguistic accommodation requirements in the state's English language proficiency standards, which call for providing linguistic accommodations during instruction based on students' English language proficiency levels, are appropriate for helping students progress in learning English and understanding academic content taught. Certain linguistic accommodations, though they may be appropriate for language arts instruction, will not be permitted during language arts standardized testing if they alter the grade-level reading expectations assessed or leave doubt about the student's practical and independent ability to read and comprehend English. It should be noted that for the STAAR program the agency is investigating ways that TELPAS and STAAR reading and writing results might be used together to determine whether ELLs are making appropriate progress in these areas.
Comment: An educator from Sharyland ISD requested that different tests designed to measure the true reading development of ELLs be created if linguistically accommodated testing provisions are not possible.
Agency Response: Developing separate tests to measure reading development of ELLs would result in tests that significantly alter the vocabulary and sentence structures that grade-level reading tests are designed to measure (the test construct). To create a different test that appropriately spans the wide range of English comprehension of ELLs would duplicate much of what is measured on TELPAS.
Comment: The TSA referenced research about the appropriateness of providing ELLs assistance with academic language in explaining the need to allow sufficient linguistic accommodations on tests of reading and writing.
Agency Response: The agency agrees that it is appropriate to provide linguistic accommodations to help ELLs understand academic language not directly related to the skills the tests are measuring. Being able to read and use vocabulary and sentences that increase in complexity from grade to grade is integral to assessing a student's grade-level reading and writing abilities. For this reason, linguistic accommodation policies for STAAR reading and writing assessments are limited.
Comment: An educator from Port Isabel ISD stated that recent immigrants should not be assessed on grade level for reading.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees that recent immigrant students should not be assessed on grade level in their new language. Assessing the students will provide a measure of their English grade-level reading ability, which is informative to the students, their parents, and the educators whose responsibility it is to help the students progress. The decision to include rather than exclude recent immigrant ELLs from assessment and accountability measures has the added benefit of helping to prevent the unintended consequences of failing to attend promptly and appropriately to the student's educational needs.
Comment: The TEPSA expressed concern that attempts to measure the reading achievement of first-year immigrant ELLs will be unreliable measures of their true learning and understanding unless linguistically accommodated versions are used.
Agency Response: Linguistic accommodation research and input from teachers of recent immigrant students indicate that the true reading abilities of ELLs in earlier stages of English acquisition cannot be measured accurately by a stand-alone reading achievement assessment in English, even with substantial linguistic accommodations. However, other measures, such as TELPAS, can be used effectively in combination with STAAR reading results to monitor progress toward short- and long-term goals for acquiring strong grade-level reading skills in English.
Comment: The TEPSA and two educators from Comal ISD expressed concern about low student self-esteem and poor motivation that may result from not providing linguistically accommodated versions of STAAR reading and writing tests.
Agency Response: The agency plans to establish STAAR reporting and accountability measures for ELLs that will include clear and rigorous but achievable annual progress targets based on second language acquisition expectations and state-established timelines. Negative emotional effects should be greatly reduced for new immigrants when they understand that the initial tests they take will help educators set realistic and achievable future goals and that their progress on TELPAS will support their ability to learn and demonstrate skills assessed on STAAR.
Comment: The TSA expressed a particular concern about the lack of sufficient linguistic accommodations on reading tests as compared to TAKS and the impact this will have on second- and third-year immigrant ELLs in the federal accountability system for 2012.
Agency Response: Options for 2012 federal accountability are limited given that the calendar for standard-setting for the new STAAR Grades 3-8 assessments will require a transition year for adequate yearly progress (AYP). Alternatives to using bridging results from TAKS to STAAR for 2012 AYP determinations were outlined in the House Bill 3 Transition Plan and U.S. Department of Education (USDE) staff have indicated that using bridging results for Grades 3-8 has the greatest likelihood of receiving USDE approval.
Impact of No Spanish Versions of Secondary STAAR
Comment: An educator from Comal ISD, Port Isabel ISD, Monte Alto ISD, and Brownsville ISD as well as six educators from Los Fresnos CISD expressed concern that the rules do not provide for Spanish versions of STAAR for secondary ELLs. An educator from Comal ISD and Monte Alto ISD as well as two of the educators from Los Fresnos ISD referenced the high influx of students from Mexico in Grade 9 and the insufficient time high school teachers have to meet the high school academic achievement needs of students who understand so little English. Two of the educators suggested that Spanish-version assessments be allowed during the student's first year in the U.S., while one stated that they should be allowed for up to three years. Two of the educators indicated that there will be a negative impact on high school campuses and districts from an accountability perspective if Spanish-version tests are not provided.
Agency Response: Texas state law provides for Spanish versions of state assessments in Grades 3-5 only.
Impact of EOC Testing Requirements on Graduation of ELLs
Comment: An educator from Killeen ISD expressed concern about the English I and II provisions that make allowances for recent immigrant ELLs related to the use of the test scores in the cumulative graduation score and 15% course grade requirements. The educator indicated that these policies are too general and requested that local districts be permitted to make these allowances in ways that suit the specialized instructional needs of ELLs and students in special education programs.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees that these provisions are too general. With regard to ELLs, they address a specific group of recent immigrant ELLs who have unique needs and circumstances. Rules pertaining to students receiving special education services, except for those who are also ELLs, were not addressed in this proposal.
Comment: An educator from Mercedes ISD suggested that the scores referenced in §101.1007(b)(3) should count for 5% as opposed to 15%.
Agency Response: The provisions in this section waive the 15% requirement altogether.
Comment: An educator from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD expressed concern that EOC testing requirements are not appropriate in the early years in which an adolescent ELL is learning English because the students will likely fail the EOCs even if they pass the courses. The compounding effect of taking new courses and EOCs while retaking previously failed EOCs will have a negative motivational effect.
Agency Response: The agency agrees that students who know very little English and enter the U.S. late in their educational careers face difficulties and that the new EOC requirements present additional challenges. The special provisions under §101.1007 will reduce the amount of retesting in English I and II for eligible students. Additional instructional supports and interventions may be necessary to address the needs of these students.
Comment: An educator from Port Isabel ISD recommended not requiring secondary ELLs to participate in EOC tests in English.
Agency Response: Texas law does not provide for native language assessments other than Spanish versions of STAAR in Grades 3-5, and the agency disagrees that testing requirements for graduation should be waived for ELLs.
Comment: An educator from Raymondville ISD expressed concern that the ELL participation rules for STAAR coupled with the requirement for counting EOCs as 15% of the students' course grades will prevent ELLs from succeeding in high school, getting scholarships, and having other opportunities for success.
Agency Response: The agency's plan to develop ELL progress measures that set challenging but achievable annual progress targets should help educators and ELLs better meet the ultimate goals of English proficiency and strong content knowledge.
Comment: An educator from Arlington ISD and a team of fifth grade teachers from an unspecified district commented that the exit-level postponement policy for TAKS or some such policy should be retained for recent immigrant ELLs who take STAAR.
Agency Response: The agency agrees with keeping the exit-level postponement policy for TAKS. The pros and cons of postponement policies were discussed with educator groups in the planning for STAAR, but the advice of educators was that postponing EOC testing requirements would be disadvantageous because the students would be required to take tests over the content of courses in which they were no longer enrolled.
Comment: An educator from Irving ISD expressed concern that there are special provisions for eligible recent immigrant ELLs enrolled in English I and II courses but not English III.
Agency Response: The agency believes that all Texas students must meet English III course and test requirements to be eligible to receive a Texas high school diploma. ELLs who take English III will have met English I and II course requirements, which will ensure that students have acquired the requisite language arts skills and substantial English language proficiency on which to build to meet English III testing requirements. It should be noted that ELLs taking English I, II, and III will be allowed to use a variety of types of dictionaries and will be permitted extra testing time as a linguistic accommodation if needed.
Comment: A team of fifth grade teachers from an unspecified district commented that the original provisions for unschooled asylees and refugees should be reinstated.
Agency Response: These students will continue to qualify for the original provisions of receiving linguistic accommodations for two years longer than allowed for other ELLs. The rules do not address other original provisions for how test scores of ELLs will be used in the state accountability system. The state accountability system is in the design phases and will not be implemented until the 2012-2013 school year.
Comment: An educator from Brownsville ISD commented that ELLs will need access to native language assessments if exemptions are eliminated.
Agency Response: Texas state law provides for native language versions of state assessments only in Spanish and only in Grades 3-5.
Comment: An educator from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD questioned the logic behind eliminating exemption provisions for STAAR but retaining exemption provisions for Grade 10 TAKS.
Agency Response: TAKS program rules will remain consistent in order to retain the standards of performance required of students during the TAKS program.
Comment: An educator from Mercedes ISD commented that the special provisions for unschooled asylees and refugees in §101.1005 and §101.1007 should be provided for any unschooled ELL.
Agency Response: Texas law allows these provisions to be extended for two years for unschooled asylees and refugees only.
Comment: An educator from Mercedes ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Raymondville ISD, and two educators from Lyford CISD expressed concern that linguistic accommodations are not allowed during the testing of an ELL whose parent or guardian has declined bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) program services required by the Texas Education Code, Chapter 29. The educators pointed out that these students, like other ELLs, need linguistic accommodations. Two of the educators pointed out that teachers provide linguistic accommodations during the instruction of these students and should, therefore, be allowed to provide linguistic accommodations during testing.
Agency Response: The commissioner rules under this subchapter have historically allowed special assessment provisions only for ELLs who are served in state-provided bilingual and ESL programs. The agency disagrees with making an exception for linguistic accommodation provisions and will continue this policy under STAAR.
Comment: An educator from Waller ISD and Sharyland ISD commented that linguistically accommodated versions of STAAR should also be available for Spanish-speaking ELLs taking STAAR in Spanish, because many of the students do not have grade-level academic Spanish when they arrive in the U.S., which makes it difficult for them to learn the curriculum and demonstrate academic success on state assessments.
Agency Response: Linguistic accommodations are specifically intended to decrease the language barrier that students learning English as a new language experience when they are taught and tested in English. The Spanish versions of STAAR afford the optimal accommodation of assessment in the student's native language. To help native Spanish-speaking students understand the Spanish used on STAAR in Spanish would be allowed only if native English-speaking students were allowed to be helped to understand the English used on STAAR in English.
Comment: An educator from Conroe ISD asked what special provisions will be allowed for unschooled asylees and refugees and other unschooled immigrants, including those who are in bilingual programs and being instructed in Spanish.
Agency Response: The special provisions for unschooled asylees and refugees include having up to five years to take STAAR L, as described in §101.1005, and receive English I and II allowances, as described in §101.1007. The five-year period is authorized under Texas law only for unschooled asylees and refugees. Other schooled and unschooled immigrants are eligible for these provisions for up to three years. In addition, Spanish-speaking schooled and unschooled immigrants in Grades 3-5 are eligible to take STAAR in Spanish.
Comment: An educator from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD requested clarification of the meaning of "little" in the phrase "little or no formal schooling outside the U.S." in §101.1005(d) in order to understand whether shorter school days in other countries may be considered.
Agency Response: "Little or no formal schooling outside the U.S." is used to help educators understand what "unschooled" means in identifying "unschooled asylees and refugees." Lengths of school days and school years in formal schooling practices of other countries may vary from U.S. practices. ELLs who are asylees or refugees may meet this criterion if they participated in little of the formal schooling provided outside the U.S., not on the basis of how comparable the formal schooling practices were.
Comment: An educator from Mercedes ISD indicated that a Spanish version of STAAR Modified should be developed for ELLs receiving special education services who qualify for STAAR Modified and speak Spanish as their dominant language to support their ability to pass the test.
Agency Response: Texas state law does not provide for Spanish versions of STAAR Modified.
Comment: An educator from Los Fresnos CISD and Lyford CISD requested clarification of how long a student may qualify for a STAAR assessment in Spanish.
Agency Response: STAAR assessments in Spanish are available for students in Grades 3-5. Students enrolled in these grades for whom a Spanish version is the most appropriate measure of their academic skills may be administered this assessment.
Comment: A team of fifth grade teachers from an unspecified school district recommended that each classroom teacher be included in LPAC decisions regarding the transition of ELLs, because too often the decisions are left to individuals who do not instruct the students.
Agency Response: This recommendation is outside the scope of the rule proposal. Rules pertaining to the composition of the LPAC are found in 19 TAC Chapter 89, Adaptations for Special Populations, Subchapter BB, Commissioner's Rules Concerning State Plan for Educating Limited English Proficient Students, not Chapter 101.
Comment: The TSA commented that it would be helpful for §101.1005(b)(2)(B) to specify the level on TELPAS that corresponds to demonstrating English language proficiency in reading.
Agency Response: The name of the TELPAS proficiency level is not specified in rule in order to limit technical rule changes that would be required if assessment program components change. The level of performance on TELPAS that corresponds to demonstrating English language proficiency in reading is the "advanced high" level. This information is communicated in agency procedural documents.
Comment: An educator from Arlington ISD suggested that the Spanish-version STAAR participation criteria in §101.1005(b)(2)(A) stipulate that Spanish is the language of the student's instruction.
Agency Response: The agency has determined that this type of guidance is best provided in administrative publications for LPACs. While the language of instruction should be a key consideration, there are times when a Spanish version of STAAR may be the most appropriate assessment for a student who is not currently receiving instruction in Spanish.
Comment: The TEPSA and an educator from Irving ISD, Sharyland ISD, Allen ISD, and Waller ISD indicated that a wider array of linguistic accommodations should be provided to ELLs. More meaningful access to the assessments, better alignment with the needs of first-year immigrants, time to learn English, and consistency with TAKS accommodations were stated as reasons in the various comments. A specific desire for oral translation to be reinstated was expressed in some comments, while in others more general appeals for additional accommodations were made. No comments specified accommodations other than those that were available for the TAKS program.
Agency Response: Particular accommodations to be allowed during testing are specified in the state's test administration publications and are not part of the proposal; however, the agency offers the following clarification. Linguistic accommodations are fairly new to state assessment programs. During the years of the TAKS program, educators gained experience with them and more research on their effectiveness became available. In making decisions about accommodations to allow for STAAR, each linguistic accommodation considered was reviewed from a variety of standpoints (responsiveness to ELL needs, test administration logistics, equity across language groups, standardization, construct fidelity, etc.) and with considerable advice from Texas educators.
Comment: An educator from Mercedes ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Raymondville ISD, and Port Isabel ISD as well as two educators from Lyford CISD requested that special consideration be given in defining a "school year" in order to address partial years of school enrollment given the high mobility rate of ELLs.
Agency Response: The definition of school year of enrollment is specified in test administration publications and is not included in the proposal; however, the agency offers the following clarification. Number of school years of enrollment in the U.S. is an ELL-specific data collection that occurs in conjunction with TELPAS. In determining eligibility for the provisions of §101.1005(b)(2) and §101.1007, guidance will be provided to LPACs in administrative procedural documents established by the agency.
Comment: An educator from Los Fresnos CISD and Lyford CISD expressed concern about the 12-month time period during which an exit-level TAKS postponement is allowed. The educators also requested that linguistic accommodations for reading tests be allowed for students who qualify for a postponement, and that the state allow locally developed materials and assessment instruments to accommodate the needs of these recent immigrant ELLs.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees. Changing such requirements would change the exit-level standards of performance required during the TAKS program.
Comment: An educator from Los Fresnos CISD and Lyford CISD recommended that the agency allow innovative course credit for graduation, extended summer time allowances to meet graduation credit recovery, and more guidance to help ELLs meet graduation requirements.
Agency Response: These recommendations are outside the scope of the rule proposal.
Comment: An educator from San Benito ISD commented that parents should be well informed and that the state should consider changing 90 consecutive days in a single school year. The educator also asked how to count lunch and restroom breaks in the four-hour time limit for taking STAAR and what is meant by saying that test results will be given to districts in a timely manner.
Agency Response: These comments are outside the scope of the rule proposal.
Comment: An educator from United ISD commented that tests administered in Spanish are not valid measures of learning because the students tested are not proficient in reading Spanish. The educator also expressed views about grade retention practices, mainstreaming policies, and languages spoken by school staff.
Agency Response: The agency disagrees that students assessed in Spanish are generally nonproficient readers of Spanish. The 2011 statewide Spanish reading test pass rates ranged from 76% to 86%. The other comments are outside the scope of the rule proposal.
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