For immediate release
February 20, 2004
State Board Approves New English Language Standards
(SPRINGFIELD) Illinois has new English Language Proficiency
(ELP) Standards designed to provide consistency in how students
who are new to the U.S. as well as the English language are
The Illinois State Board of Education Wednesday approved
English Language Proficiency Standards, which may be a model
for the rest of the nation.
This is the first time that Illinois has adopted statewide
standards for the English language learner. Limited English
language students currently number 5.5 million nationwide
and represent the fastest growing population in U.S. and Illinois.
The standards go beyond what is required under the No Child
Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) requirements, and will help
drive the creation of a new test that will be used to assess
the ESL population. The cost to assess this population of
students will be shifted to the state level, and frees up
school districts from developing their own teaching standards.
The standards improve and consolidate what has been
done independently by local districts, said State Superintendent
of Education Robert Schiller. This frees up their resources,
so now they can focus on whats really important
the instruction of these students.
The adoption came a day before the United State Department
of Education announced greater flexibility for states assessing
this student population as required under NCLB. On Thursday
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced guidelines
that give states more time to work with new incoming students
while allowing a longer time frame to count students who have
started moving out of LEP programs. Illinois previously addressed
the issue raised by Paige in its accountability plan last
We understand the difficulty that our districts have
in assessing this growing and fluid population, said
Schiller. He added that because of the constant immigration
of LEP students and the exit of more proficient students,
Illinois districts have been challenged in properly accounting
for this population and making AYP. We welcome this
news because it recognizes the assessment limitations of special
ISBE last joined the Wisconsin based Wisconsin, Delaware
and Arkansas consortium (WIDA), from which the standards were
born. WIDA consists of nine states Arkansas, Delaware,
District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode
Island, Vermont and Wisconsin, all of which are currently
in the process of adopting these common ELP standards.
We are confident that these standards are the best
in the country. said Tim Boals, WIDA Project director
with the Wisconsin Department of Instruction.
Schiller added: In addition to recommended modifications,
we received overwhelmingly positive feedback. At the national
level, the standards, have received praise from the Department
of the Education as surpassing what is being done elsewhere.
What is exciting about this for Illinois and the other
consortium members is that we are pooling resources and talent
to develop standards and assessments that meet NCLB requirements
and more, said Schiller. This gives us a way to
have a uniform method of measuring growth in English.
As a member of the consortium, Illinois will benefit from
work with test developers at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign and the Washington-based Center for Applied
Linguistics. The standards are also getting the attention
of the national organization of Teachers of English to Speakers
of Other Languages (TESOL), for possible adoption as their
own, according to WIDA.
The new standards will also drive development of a new test
to measure English Language proficiency. The current Illinois
Measure of Annual Growth in English (IMAGE) test will continue
to be enhanced as a measure of subject matter achievement
for LEP students.
The ELP standards were developed under extensive review.
Drafts of the standards were disseminated to more than 700
Illinois educators, including Chicago and downstate schools,
and to experts in the field for input as well as to members
of the consortium. It incorporates the best practices in language
and minority education.
The new ELP standards will allow teachers statewide who are
teaching the LEP students to refer to common material that
needs to be covered at each grade level. The standards also
provide direction on teaching language skills relevant to
the specific subject matter. Under NCLB, English language
proficiency standards will eventually have to be linked to
the academic language used in the various subject areas. These
are the first ELP standards that make those links for reading,
math, writing, science and social science.
The next step will be dissemination of the standards to districts
and schools. Plans also call for piloting a language proficiency
test this spring with field testing in the fall. Testing could
be fully operational by the spring of 2005.