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English Language Learning and Assessment in U.S. K–12 Education

Our research scientists and assessment specialists are working with educators, policymakers and other experts across the United States to find ways to advance education for English learners in grades K–12. Our research in this field mainly covers these three areas:

  • Assessing the language proficiency of English learners — Our research in this area includes a review of current practices in assessing English proficiency; identifying the essential language skills that English learners need in order to meet the Common Core State Standards; and developing an academic reading comprehension assessment for formative purposes.
  • Assessing English learners' content knowledge — In this area, our research focuses on examining content-area assessments (such as mathematics or science) to identify sources of test item difficulty for English learners. Examples of such sources may include cultural references or unnecessary linguistic complexity.
  • Teaching English learners — We are conducting research on two aspects of instruction related to English learners: the content and pedagogical knowledge required to teach English learners, and technology-enhanced professional development materials to support teachers of English learners.

In addition to research we undertake on our own initiative, we are leading the IES-funded English Learner Formative Assessment project.

Featured Publications

Below are some recent or significant publications that our research professionals have authored related to this topic:


  • Using Trialogues to Measure English Language Skills
    Y. So, D. Zapata-Rivera, Y. Cho, C. Luce, & L. Battistini (2015)
    Journal of Educational Technology & Society, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 21–32

    Researchers explored the use of technology-assisted tasks known as "trialogues" to measure the language proficiency of students learning English as a second or foreign language. View citation record


  • Conceptualizing Accessibility for English Language Proficiency Assessments
    D. Guzman-Orth, C. Laitusis, M. Thurlow, & L. Christensen (2014)
    Publisher: ETS
    This paper is the second in a series of white papers that conceptualize considerations for next generation English language proficiency (ELP) assessments for K-12 students in the United States. It presents accessibility considerations for both English learners and English learners with disabilities who will be taking these ELP assessments as part of the federal accountability system. The heterogeneity of the EL population; current practices, challenges, and opportunities for assessing ELP for ELs with disabilities; and suggested paths to explore for future test development are discussed. View citation record

  • English Language Proficiency Assessments as an Exit Criterion for English Learners
    In A. Kunnan (Ed.) The Companion to Language Assessment (pp. 303–317)
    M. K. Wolf & T. Farnsworth (2014)
    Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell, New York

    The chapter focuses on the assessment of English language proficiency (ELP) of English-language learners, and discusses issues in ELP assessment constructs, developing and using ELP assessments for an exit decision, and validation considerations. View citation record




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Our Work in English Language Learning

Our Work in English Language Learning Video

Learn more in this brief interview with Xiaoming Xi, Senior Research Director at ETS (Flash, 3:06).

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