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The morphing assessment terrain for English learners in US schools

Mary Hutchinson (Pennsylvania State University, Center Valley, Pennsylvania, USA)
Xenia Hadjioannou (Pennsylvania State University, Center Valley, Pennsylvania, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the public policy reshaping the assessment terrain for English learners (ELs) across the USA and to consider the implications and impact of these practices on sustaining and supporting a diverse student population in today’s schools.


The authors review the literature and publicly available policy documents to trace key policy trends over the past 15 years that have shaped the current educational landscape and assessment practices for ELs in the USA.


In the USA, the 2015 Common Core State Standards (CCSSs) assessments generated worrisome results for ELs, as significant numbers had failing scores in English language arts and math. These results are juxtaposed to public policies that impact the educational experience of ELs, including No Child Left Behind and the CCSS, and which, despite their stated intentions to ameliorate the achievement gap, are found to be assimilationist in nature. Indeed, a review of the initiatives of developing common EL standards and English language proficiency tests and the recommendations for EL accommodations in state tests suggests several areas of concern. The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act focuses on this vulnerable population, but there are concerns that the continued focus on accountability and testing will do little to facilitate academic progress for these students.

Practical implications

The paper recommends a need to reevaluate the support and testing process for ELs to stem widespread failure and ascertain the sustenance of democratic and diversified schools.


The study provides an overview of key policy trends, outlines and critiques recent changes in the assessment of ELs and draws implications for practice.



Hutchinson, M. and Hadjioannou, X. (2017), "The morphing assessment terrain for English learners in US schools", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 110-126.



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