K–12 English Language Learning and Assessment

English learners (ELs) are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. K–12 public school population. Numbering more than 5.5 million and representing 11 percent of all K–12 students, ELs must develop proficiency in English and knowledge of academic content to succeed in school, in the workforce and in society.

Most ELs speak Spanish, but collectively ELs speak more than 400 home languages. ELs have varying degrees of English-language proficiency, prior formal schooling, academic background, knowledge and literacy — in both their native language and in English. Yet too few of these students' teachers are adequately prepared to meet the unique challenges of having ELs in their classrooms, despite the requirements of federal, state and local laws, regulations, policies and court decisions.

The academic achievement of ELs is a pressing national concern, and if we fail to educate this growing population, our nation's prosperity, our global competitiveness and our very democracy will be at risk.

Our Commitment to EL Research

ETS has been conducting research on the effectiveness, fairness and validity of assessments for more than 60 years. We have been on the forefront of English language learning and assessment for worldwide English learners (ELs) for more than 40 years and for ELs in the United States for more than a decade.

Our recent research focuses on the needs of K–12 educators in U.S. schools and encompasses three major areas:

  1. Assessing English-language proficiency (ELP) — reviewing current practices, identifying the essential language skills needed to meet the Common Core State Standards, and developing an academic reading comprehension assessment.
  2. Assessing content knowledge — identifying item difficulty for ELs (e.g., cultural references and unnecessary complexity) and implications for testing accommodations, lowering language barriers, and modifying test items.
  3. Teaching of ELs — identifying content and pedagogical knowledge required and developing technology-enhanced professional development materials.

Our Commitment to EL Academic Success

ETS is committed to working with educators, administrators and policymakers to confront these challenges and ensure quality and equity of education for our nation's ELs. The extensive research we have done and continue to do will allow us to adapt current assessments and design new assessments to better serve ELs in U.S. schools and ensure their academic success.


ETS has many recent and newly launched research projects that specifically focus on creating sound assessments to improve the teaching and learning of ELs in grades K–12.

Find out more about our English Language Learning and Assessment Research.

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Technology-enhanced Assessments

Technology-enhanced AssessmentsETS works closely with states and the consortia to bring technological innovations to K–12 assessment.


NAEP and ETSETS has assisted the NAEP program in introducing numerous psychometric and assessment design innovations over the years.

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