The intended ultimate effect of the mandated assessment of English language learner (ELL) students is their successful academic achievement in U.S. public schools. Information yielded by assessments is used to inform state and federal agencies about the efficacy of states' efforts to support this achievement and, at the individual student level, is used to inform educators how best to respond to the instructional needs (both linguistic and academic) of their students. Absent any official language planning policy in the United States, currently assessment decisions affecting ELL students operate as de facto language policies in the way that they predominantly privilege English proficiency over the maintenance of minority languages for content learning (Menken, 2008). Specifically, "The language policies currently being created in U.S. schools as a byproduct of testing policy occur in an ad hoc way, without careful language planning" (p. 5). We might go so far as to argue that additionally there is no coordinated testing policy; rather, there exists a collection of somewhat disconnected mandated federal and widely varying state-level regulations along with optional initiatives and recommendations offered to school districts for them to implement. Assessment of ELL students therefore involves many components, with different aspects having different purposes directed from different loci of control (federal, state, local) and based on different sources of funding (National Research Council [NRC], 2011). Consequently, we are reluctant to call the suite of ELL assessments a full-fledged system until greater scrutiny of it has been conducted and a defensible argument made in its favor.
State and Local Policy