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Psychometric Issues in the ELL Assessment and Special Education Eligibility


by Jamal Abedi 2006

Assessments in English that are constructed for native English speakers may not provide valid inferences about the achievement of English language learners (ELLs). The linguistic complexity of the test items that are not related to the content of the assessment may increase the measurement error, thus reducing the reliability of the assessment. Language factors that are not relevant to the content being assessed may also be a source of construct-irrelevant variance and negatively impact the validity of the assessment. More important, the results of these tests used as the criteria for identification and classification of ELL students, particularly those at the lower end of the English proficiency spectrum, may be misleading. Caution must be exercised when the results of these tests are used for special education eligibility, particularly in placing ELL students with lower English language proficiency in the learning/reading disability category. This article discusses psychometric issues in the assessment of English language learners and examines the validity of classifying ELL students, with a focus on the possibility of misclassifying ELL students as students with learning disabilities.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 11, 2006, p. 2282-2303
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12805, Date Accessed: 10/23/2017 12:30:57 AM

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About the Author
  • Jamal Abedi
    University of California, Davis
    E-mail Author
    JAMAL ABEDI is a professor at the Graduate School of Education of the University of California, Davis, and a research partner at the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST). His interests include studies in the area of psychometrics focusing on the validity of assessment and accommodation for English language learners (ELL), and research on the opportunity to learn for ELLs.
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