English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21)
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Assessing English Learners (ELs)
Title I and Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as the Every Student Succeeds Act) requires states and schools to be accountable for addressing the needs of English learners. One important aspect of this accountability involves assessments of English language proficiency used to track students’ progress in learning the English language. ELPA21 data can help inform program evaluation and improvement. Iowa Administrative Code chapter 281-60.3 further defines school district responsibilities to assess and serve English learners. Students exit the EL status based on achieving proficiency on the English language proficiency assessment. The guidance below outlines district responsibilities in the identification and assessment of English learners in the state of Iowa.
The ELPA21 state collaborative housed at the National Center on Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) housed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) a group of states committed to supporting educators, member states and the public in the adoption of English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards and college- and career-ready standards. The ELPA21 collaborative has developed an assessment system based on the ELP Standards that informs instruction so all ELs leave high school prepared for college and career success.
The ELPA21 assessment system includes a set of English language proficiency standards, a placement screener, a summative measure of English language proficiency and professional learning modules supporting the implementation of Iowa’s ELP standards. Information about the consortium can be found at https://elpa21.org/.
ELPA21 Standards and Assessment
The ELPA21 is the standardized instrument used to measure English language proficiency and annual progress toward English proficiency in the state of Iowa. This assessment is tightly aligned to Iowa's ELP standards and corresponds to the Iowa Core Literacy Standards. It has been developed in six grade bands: K, 1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
The ELPA21 is an online assessment measuring English proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Because it is an online assessment, the test coordinators and test administrators (teachers) are released of the burden of on-site scoring. The online capabilities increase test security and validity of test results for Iowa’s ELs. The consortium uses the Cambium Assessment Incorporated (CAI) testing platform and expertise in administering the largely online ELP assessments. Most of the test is scored online, while those test items requiring human scoring (speaking and some writing) are scored with a centralized scoring process.
Mandatory training is provided each school year beginning in late fall for tech coordinators, district/school test coordinators, and test administrators.
Underdevelopment is an alternate English language proficiency assessment appropriate for English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The test is scheduled to be operational 2022-2023 and would be appropriate for ELs who currently take the DLM content assessment. Students who take alternate assessments will take this assessment in place of the general ELPA21. The test is aligned to ELP Standards for English Learners with Significant Cognitive Disabilities, therefore, this set of standards should be the basis for instruction for these students.
ELPA21 Dynamic Screener
The ELPA21 Dynamic Screener is the instrument required to be used in the EL identification process. Students are administered the Dynamic Screener if it is indicated that a language other than English is predominantly spoken in the home (281 IAC 60.3). Students not scoring proficient on the screener are to be identified for English development services.
ELPA21 Summative Tests
The ELPA21 summative assessment is administered annually in Iowa schools in an eight-week window which runs February through March.
Each test form includes a wide-variety of test items:
- Selected-response items require students to select one or more responses from a list of options and may include both multiple-choice and true-or-false formats.
- Technology-enhanced items, comprising at least 20 percent of the assessment items, require students to respond to questions by interacting with the test item. For example, a student might place words in the appropriate order, select text in a paragraph, or match objects to words.
- Constructed-response items require students to provide text or record speech or respond to a task, and include both short and long constructed-response items.
The item type used for a particular skill and context is determined by matching the evidence needed to the most appropriate method for acquiring that evidence. In addition, some of the items use digital media (sound, animation, video, or interactive widgets) as the setting for the test question.
ELPA21 believes that all ELs should have access to assessments that accurately measure the skills they need to progress toward English language proficiency. Equitable access to the ELPA21 assessment ensures valid data and useful information that help parents, educators, and school administrators meet the needs of each student.
ELPA21 Test Accessibility and Accommodations - Describes the accessibility features and accommodations that ELPA21 offers to students on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans. IEP teams and educators informing 504 plans make decisions about these accommodations. For ELs with disabilities, these teams should include an expert in the area of second-language acquisition.
Resources for Parents and Teachers of ELs
- Learn about the ELP Standards and the assessments at elpa21.org.
- ELPA21 Resource Center
- Resources for Students and Families.
- Sign up to receive the ELPA21 Insider Newsletter.
- Find answers to questions on the ELPA21 FAQ webpage.
- English Learner Resources
- Schools' Civil Rights Obligations to English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents
- English Learners webpage