Rethinking English Learner Data: Illinois' Plans Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

Janie Tankard Carnock
Date of Publication: 
January, 2018
Source Organization: 

This report provides an analysis of Illinois' innovative approach to producing and analyzing data on English language learners (ELLs). The federal Office of Education approved Illinois' plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including its approach to managing data, in August of 2017. Unlike other states, which combine current and former ELLs into one group, Illinois will keep the two groups separate and distinct and collect data on "former ELs" through grade 12. By way of contrast, other states with large ELL populations, such as California, New York, and Texas, amalgamate the two populations, taking advantage of ESSA regulations, which allow former ELLs to be combined with current ELLs for a period of four years after exit from the program. This approach can "mask" the performance of current ELLs, while failure to track former ELLs beyond four years can hide student academic achievement in later years.  The report goes on to commend Illinois state officials for recognizing that a "one-size-fits-all" approach has serious limitations. Although the state has adopted a rigorous, 5-year time frame for ELLs to achieve English language proficiency, Illinois plans to use a "growth to proficiency" model that uses a series of interim annual targets for each student to achieve based on initial entry level performance data. The report concludes with some recommendations as to how data about ELL academic attainment can be reported and visualized, so as to provide both summative and granular data. (Diversity Dynamics)

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Carnock, J. T. (2018). Rethinking English Learner Data: Illinois’ Plans Under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Washington, D.C.: New America. Retrieved from