Today in Texas, districts are required to offer bilingual education programs in the elementary grades if 20 or more students with the same language are enrolled in the same grade. English as a second language programs are offered for LEP students in the secondary grades, and at the elementary level when there are too few students with the same language enrolled at the same grade level to offer a bilingual program.
In July 1997 the SBOE adopted new Texas essential knowledges and skills (TEKS) for Spanish Language Arts, which are to be used in bilingual Spanish instruction, and for ESL (19 TAC Chapter 128), replacing essential elements of the state mandated curriculum that had been in place since 1986. The TEKS are more detailed and more rigorous than the essential elements they are replacing, and establish learning standards or expectations for students rather than material to be presented (TEA, 1997g).
Districts that are unable to provide required bilingual education programs because there are not sufficient numbers of teachers at the school fluent in the native languages of the students must apply to the commissioner for an exception to the program. In this situation, certified personnel are assigned to the lowest grade levels first, beginning with prekindergarten. Districts that do not have a sufficient number of certified teachers to provide required ESL programs must apply to the commissioner for a waiver of certification requirements for the teachers who will provide ESL services to LEP students.
Currently, a LEP student in Grades 3-8 may be (1) exempted from the TAAS and administered an alternative assessment, (2) administered the Spanish version of the TAAS (available for Grades 3-6), or (3) administered the English TAAS. No combination of options one and two may be used for more than three administrations of the TAAS. After that time, the student must be administered the English version of the test. State Board of Education rules allow one postponement of the exit-level test for recent immigrants (students who have entered the country within 12 months of the date the test is administered).
The local language proficiency assessment committee (LPAC) has primary responsibility for determining the eligibility of LEP students to participate in the statewide assessment program and for identifying the appropriate alternative assessment for students exempted from the TAAS. Alternative assessments must be selected from a list of commercial instruments approved by TEA. The Texas Education Agency receives aggregate information concerning the number of students in each grade who are administered each alternative assessment and the number demonstrating improvement in reading, writing, and mathematics. This information is not published because there is not a consistent basis on which to compare results of the different tests.
Test results for LEP students who are enrolled in the district by the end of October and take the English TAAS are included in the state accountability rating system. Results for LEP students are included in the base TAAS indicator used to determine district accreditation status and campus performance ratings. The TAAS performance indicator--the percentage of students passing each test (reading, writing, and mathematics) summed across grades--is evaluated for individual student groups (African American, Hispanic, White, and economically disadvantaged), as well as for all students tested. The English TAAS results are not disaggregated based on native language or level of English proficiency.
Spanish versions of the TAAS reading, mathematics, and writing tests have been developed for Grades 3-6. Beginning in 1996-97, Spanish TAAS results are reported on the Academic Excellence Indicators System (AEIS) reports. Decisions regarding use of the Spanish TAAS in the state accountability rating system have not been finalized. The commissioner has proposed that Spanish TAAS results be included in the accountability rating system and is currently seeking input from educators regarding when to make this change. He has also initiated development of a standardized reading proficiency test in English (RPTE) that would be administered to all LEP students who do not take the English TAAS to measure their progress toward achieving English proficiency.
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