Limited
English Proficient Students' Participation and Performance on Statewide Assessments:
Minnesota Basic Standards Reading and Math, 19961998
Minnesota Report 19
Published by the National Center on
Educational Outcomes
Prepared by Kristin Liu and Martha
Thurlow
September 1999
Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced
and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:
Liu, K., & Thurlow, M. (1999). Limited English
proficient students' participation and performance on statewide assessments: Minnesota
Basic Standards Reading and Math, 19961998 (Minnesota Report No. 19). Minneapolis,
MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved [today's
date], from the World Wide Web: http://cehd.umn.edu/NCEO/OnlinePubs/MnReport19.html
Overview
Since 1996, 8th grade students in Minnesota have
been required to take minimum competency tests in reading and math that must be passed in
order to receive a high school diploma. The Basic Standards Tests in Reading, Math, and
the recently added writing section, are one part of Minnesota’s standardsbased
system of accountability. This report provides an analysis of the participation and
performance of students with limited English proficiency (LEP) in the 1996, 1997, and 1998
Basic Standards Tests of Reading and Math.
In the past, LEP students often were excluded from
largescale assessments (Abedi, Lord, & Hofstetter, 1998; National Academy of
Education, 1993). As a result, there is only a limited amount of data on LEP
students’ participation and performance in these types of assessments. The data that
do exist come primarily from recent analyses for the U.S. data collection program, the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (see National Center for Education
Statistics [NCES], 1997a and 1997b), and a few states, but not necessarily those with the
largest LEP student populations. A review of state education reports collected and
analyzed by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Langenfeld,
Nelson, Teelucksingh, & Seyfarth, 1998) indicated that only six states reported on the
participation of LEP students in state assessments, and seven different states reported on
the performance of LEP students (see Liu & Thurlow, 1999). None of these states were
the same ones. Further, the states presented their data in a variety of noncomparable
ways.
If the goal of the current educational reform
movement is for all students to reach the standards set by the state in which they live
(Abedi et al., 1998), more data need to be made available about how LEP students are
progressing towards those goals. Rivera and Vincent (1996) highlight the need for accurate
data on the achievement of LEP students:
Through the year 2000, the estimated growth rate for
LEP students is more than twice that of children in the general population (CCSSO, 1990).
These factors make it critical to accurately monitor the academic progress of LEP students
through statewide assessment programs (p.1).
The purpose of this report is to begin this type of
systematic and thorough examination of the academic progress of LEP students. Minnesota
initiated its statewide assessment in 1996, with the goal of including as many LEP
students as possible. In this report, three years of data from Minnesota’s statewide
assessment are examined.
Minnesota’s Basic Standards
Tests
Minnesota’s Basic Standards Tests (BSTs) in
Reading and Math were administered statewide for the first time in 1996 to eighth graders
(the class of 2000) to determine eligibility for graduation. In that year, participation
was optional for districts. In 1997, participation in some form of standardized testing to
determine eligibility for graduation was required, but districts could choose to use the
BSTs, commercially developed standardized achievement tests that could be equated to the
BSTs, or districtdeveloped tests that could be equated to the BSTs. In 1998, the
legislature required participation in the BSTs for all districts for determining
eligibility for graduation and for school accountability purposes. In addition to reading
and math, a writing test was required of tenth graders in 1999. Students in the class of
2002 (ninth graders in 199899) are required to complete additional classroombased
standards in order to receive a high school diploma. Sample reading and math items can be
found at the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning Web site,
http://cfl.state.mn.us/Grad.
There has been debate among researchers and
educators over the appropriateness of disaggregating assessment data so that the
participation and achievement of these students could be examined apart from the data on
their nativeEnglish speaking peers. Some experts think that disaggregating LEP
students’ data reinforces the belief that the students are different and separate
from their peers. Members of the Minnesota Assessment Project have chosen to disaggregate
Basic Standards Test data for these students in the belief that the data will encourage
educators and policymakers to examine appropriate assessment practices that are inclusive
of LEP students, and in turn, to examine the services provided for these students and the
instructional practices used for them. Since few other states publish data on the
participation and performance of LEP students in statewide assessments, the purpose of
this report is to add to the information that currently exists.
Method
The Minnesota Department of Children, Families and
Learning (CFL) collected the data compiled for this report through the Minnesota Automated
Reporting Student System (MARSS). Minnesota Assessment Project researchers ran descriptive
statistical analyses using the SPSS Information Analysis System.
Fields in the MARSS database allow for an
examination of only those students who are both limited English proficient and who receive
ESL or bilingual services. This is a subset of all those students who are classified as
LEP because some students may not receive services even though they are eligible for them
(most often because parents choose not to have students access the services that are
available). In this report when the term "LEP" is used, it should be understood
to mean those students who are LEP and who receive ESL or bilingual services. The
enrollment numbers are based on Fall counts and other reports based on other counts may
produce slightly different results.
Participation and Performance
The class of 2000 (the majority of whom were 8th
graders in 1996) is the first group of Minnesota students required to pass BSTs in reading
and math in order to graduate from high school. A minimum of 70% of the items in each test
must be answered correctly in order for students in this cohort to pass. This percentage,
often referred to as a "cut score," was raised to 75% for 8th graders in the
class of 2001 (the majority of whom were 8th graders in 1997). The cut scores remained at
75% for the class of 2002 (the majority of whom were 8th graders in 1998). Even though
participation in the 1996 administration of the BSTs was voluntary for school districts,
about 80% of 8th grade students overall took the test in that year. Table 1 presents
participation data for both the total group of 8th grade students taking the test
(including LEP and Special Education students) from 199698 and participation for just the
LEP 8th graders in each year.
Table 1. 199698 8th Grade BST Participation
for All Students and for LEP Students Receiving ESL/Bilingual Education

All 8th Graders in 1996 
LEP 8th Graders in 1996 
All 8th Graders in 1997 
LEP 8th Graders in 1997 
All 8th Graders in 1998 
LEP 8th Graders in 1998 
Total Number of Students During
Fall 
65,647 
997 
65,934 
753 
66,526 
1,784 
Number Tested in Reading 
51,780 
657 
50,386 
852 
64,401 
1,574 
Percent Tested in Reading 
79% 
66% 
76% 
<100%* 
97% 
88% 
Number Tested in Math 
53,606 
693 
51,929 
876 
64,396 
1,580 
Percent Tested in Math 
82% 
70% 
79% 
<100%* 
97% 
89% 
* Enrollment increased significantly
between October 1st when students are counted for enrollment, and BST administration the
following spring.
Participation of students receiving ESL or Bilingual
services the first year of test administration was lower, with 66% taking reading and 70%
taking math. However, participation rates for LEP students did rise significantly over
time. The data also show that for both "all students" and LEP students,
participation in the reading and math tests was similar. In both groups only 1%4% more
students took the math test than took the reading test.
In general, approximately 10% more of the "all
students" group participated in the BST testing each year than of the LEP student
group. The testing guidelines developed by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families
and Learning allowed LEP students who had been in the country less than three years in
1997 to be temporarily exempted from testing (see Appendix A for complete exemption
guidelines). In 1998, the guidelines were changed to a one year temporary exemption when
the test also began to be used for accountability purposes. Given these testing
guidelines, it would be logical to expect that a greater percentage of LEP students were
excluded from testing in 1997 than in 1998. In fact, the opposite situation is reflected
in the tables. In 1997, LEP student participation in both math and reading was more than
100% and in 1998 participation rates were about 10% lower. This could be due to any one,
or a combination, of the following factors: (1) large metropolitan districts with the
largest concentration of LEP students in the state continued to participate in the BSTs
while districts with a small concentration of LEP students chose to give other tests, (2)
immigration to and migration within the United States in the fall of 1997 resulted in an
influx of LEP students after the fall count of students was made and prior to the
administration of the BSTs the following spring, and (3) there was an error in data
collection and the percentages reflected are not correct. In 1997 all students who had
been in the country three years or more were required to participate in the BSTs if their
resident district chose to administer the BSTs.
It is important not to make comparisons across
testing years with these data, since the overall number of LEP students was much lower in
1996 and 1997 than in 1998 (see Table 1). The increase of students may affect
participation and passing rates with a larger number of students actually being tested.
The number of students identified as LEP in Fall 1997 was more than double the number
identified in the previous year (1,784 vs. 753). Anecdotal information from a large
district with a large population of LEP students suggests that some districts might now be
identifying more students as limited English proficient than in the past because of the
high number of nonEnglish language background (NELB) students having difficulty with the
Basic Standards Tests.
General Performance
Reading
While participation rates for LEP students are high,
the performance of these students is low. Figure 1 shows mean percentages of reading items
correct for LEP students and for "all students."
Each year, the mean percentage of reading items
correct was consistently about 25% higher for the "all student" group than for
the LEP students. Table 2 shows the mean percentage of items correct on the reading test
in more detail.
Figure 1. Mean Percentage of Reading Items
Correct on the 199698 BSTs*
* LEP students here includes only those
receiving ESL/Bilingual services.
Table 2. 199698 Mean BST Reading
Performance

All 8th Graders in 1996 
LEP 8th Graders in 1996 
All 8th Graders in 1997 
LEP 8th Graders in 1997 
All 8th Graders in 1998 
LEP 8th Graders in 1998 
Number Tested 
51,780 
657 
50,386 
852 
64,401 
1,574 
Mean Percent Correct 
72% 
46% 
75% 
48% 
78% 
54% 
For LEP students taking reading, the mean percentage
of items correct ranged from 46% in 1996 to 54% in 1998 with a 2%6% increase each year.
In comparison, the mean percentage of items correct in reading for the "all
student" group ranged from 72% in 1996 to 78% in 1998 and showed a 3% increase each
year. The difference between the reading means of the two groups ranged from 24% to 27%
higher for the "all student" group than for the LEP students.
Table 3 shows the passing rates of the total 8th
grade student group and the 8th grade LEP students for 199698 in reading.
Table 3. 199698 Percentages Passing/Not
Passing BST Reading

All 8th Graders in 1996 
LEP 8th Graders in 1996 
All 8th Graders in 1997 
LEP 8th Graders in 1997 
All 8th Graders in 1998 
LEP 8th Graders in 1998 
Number Tested 
51,780 
657 
50,386 
852 
64,401 
1,574 
Number Passing 
33,121 
66 
29,760 
72 
43,811 
252 
Percent Passing 
64% 
10% 
59% 
8% 
68% 
16% 
Number Not Passing 
18,659 
591 
20,626 
780 
20,590 
1,322 
Percent Not Passing 
36% 
90% 
41% 
92% 
32% 
84% 
During the years 199698, between 8% and 16% of LEP
students passed reading. In comparison, 59% to 68% of all 8th graders passed reading; a
difference of roughly 50% between the two groups. Because students with limited English
proficiency, by definition, are in the process of acquiring the academic English that is
needed to be successful on grade level standardized tests given in English, the low
percentages of LEP students passing the BSTs are not unexpected. The percentage of LEP
students passing the test was lower in 1997 than in 1996, but the total number of LEP
students in 8th grade and the total number of LEP students passing had increased by nearly
200 from the previous year. Between 1997 and 1998 the number of 8th grade LEP students
identified nearly doubled and the number of LEP students passing reading as 8th graders
more than doubled, so again, the percentages of students passing are not comparable across
years.
While it is encouraging that a growing number of LEP
students are passing the tests when their English is still limited, the table shows that
between 85% and 90% of LEP students did not pass the BST reading test. In comparison,
3241% of all 8th graders did not pass the reading test.
Math
Figure 2 shows mean percentage of math items correct
for LEP students and for "all students."
Each year, the mean percentage of math items correct
was about 22% higher for the "all student" group than for the LEP students. The
difference between the "all student" means and the LEP student means in math was
similar to the differences between the two groups in reading. Table 4 shows the mean
percentage of math items correct in more detail.
Figure 2. Mean Percentage of Math Items
*LEP students here includes only those
receiving ESL/Bilingual services.
Table 4. 199698 Mean BST Math Performance

All 8th Graders in 1996 
LEP 8th Graders in 1996 
All 8th Graders in 1997 
LEP 8th Graders in 1997 
All 8th Graders in 1998 
LEP 8th Graders in 1998 
Number Tested 
53,606 
693 
51,929 
876 
64,396 
1,580 
Mean Percent Correct 
79% 
57% 
80% 
58% 
79% 
56% 
In math, the mean percentage of items correct for
the LEP students ranged from 56% to 58% with a 1% to 2% change in means each year. In
comparison, the mean percentage of items correct in math for the "all student"
group ranged from 79% in 1996 and 1998 to 80% in 1997. The "all students" group
also showed a 1% change in the math mean each year. The difference between the math means
of the two groups was between 22% and 23% higher for the "all student" group.
Table 5 shows the percent of the total 8th grade
student group and the 8th grade LEP students from 199698 who passed the BST math test.
Table 5. 199698 BST Math Passing Rates

All 8th Graders in 1996 
LEP 8th Graders in 1996 
All 8th Graders in 1997 
LEP 8th Graders in 1997 
All 8th Graders in 1998 
LEP 8th Graders in 1998 
Number Tested 
53,606 
693 
51,929 
876 
64,396 
1,580 
Number Passing 
41,462 
172 
36,092 
184 
45,489 
362 
Percent Passing 
77% 
25% 
69% 
21% 
71% 
23% 
Number Not Passing 
12,144 
521 
15,837 
692 
18,907 
1,218 
Percent Not Passing 
22% 
75% 
31% 
79% 
29% 
77% 
From 1996 to 1998, between 21% to 25% of LEP
students passed the math portion of the BSTs. In comparison, 69% to 77% of all 8th graders
passed math; again, a difference of roughly 50% between the two groups. Attention should
be paid to the fact that the total number of 8th grade LEP students identified in a given
year and the number of LEP students passing the math test is increasing, even though the
percentages shown do not reflect that increase. Roughly 75% to 80% of 8th grade LEP
students in a given year did not pass the BST math test.
Performance with Accommodations
A list of accommodations and modifications that are
allowed for LEP students taking the Basic Standards Tests is found in Table 6.
Table 6. Accommodations and Modifications
Allowed for LEP Students
Accommodation 
Test 
 Audiocassettes in English
 Script of the audiocassette for testing personnel to read aloud
 Clarification or translation of directions
 Extended Time
 Individual or small group administration
 Writing directly in test booklet
 Short segment test books
 Oral interpreations
 Written translations

Math
Math
Math, Reading
Math, Reading
Math, Reading
Math, Reading
Math, Reading
Math
Math

Table 7 shows the use of accommodations by LEP
students in 1997, the only year of the three years (199698) for which BST accommodations
information is currently available. The data indicate that equal numbers of LEP students
used accommodations on the math and reading test.
Table 7. Use of Accommodations by LEP
Students Taking the 1997 BSTs

1997 Reading Test 
1997 Math Test 

Students using Accommodation 
Students Not using
Accommodation 
Students Using Accommodation 
Students Not Using
Accommodation 
Number 
100 
752 
102 
774 
Percent 
12% 
88% 
12% 
88% 
Mean Percent of Items Correct 
45% 
48%* 
58% 
58%* 
Percent Passing BSTs 
2% 
8%* 
83% 
21%* 
* These percentages actually reflect the
percent of all LEP students taking the test.
The mean percentage of items correct for
LEP students using accommodations on reading was 45%, compared to 48% for all 8th grade
LEP students tested. In math the mean percentage of items correct was 58% for both the
accommodated and the total group of LEP students tested. Eightythree percent of LEP
students who used accommodations on the math test passed, compared to 2% of LEP students
who used accommodations on the reading test. These data again speak to the relative
difficulty of the reading test for LEP students.
Discussion
The data presented in this report are some of the
first data presented nationally on the performance of LEP students on a statewide
assessment. Because the numbers of students classified as LEP changed over time,
percentages are often based on quite different group sizes. Furthermore, in some instances
(such as the collection of data on the use of accommodations), we know that the data are
likely to underestimate actual use. It is important that information provided by the
analyses presented here be used for system accountability and to improve the instruction
of LEP students, not to blame these students nor their programs for low performance
levels. It is extremely important to continue to examine the participation and performance
of LEP students over time and to look for improvements resulting from specific types of
instructional programs. Particularly important will be studies that look at improvements
in the performance of individual students as they learn English and subject matter
content.
With these cautions in mind, the following points
can be made:
The participation of LEP students in Basic
Standards Testing is high; the number of LEP students participating in the test more than
doubled from 657 in 1996 reading and 693 in 1996 math to 1,574 in 1998 reading and 1,580
in 1998 math.
Patterns in the data are similar for both LEP and
"all students" in many instances, but the number of LEP students passing and the
performance levels of LEP students are significantly lower. Lower overall performance
levels are not unexpected for students who are still learning academic English.
If 75% or more of 8th grade LEP students do not
pass either the reading or the math BSTs on their first attempt, there is clearly a need
for longitudinal reports that include data on students who are not first time test takers.
More than three years of testing data would be needed to determine trends in the data.
Reading is consistently a more difficult test for
LEP students than math, but at the same time, fewer accommodations and modifications are
allowed for the reading test than for the math test. Roughly 10% of LEP students used
accommodations in reading or in math in 1997 and more of the accommodated students passed
math than reading. However, anecdotal information suggests that because BST testing was
new for many schools in 1997 and because it was time consuming to record accommodations
data for each student, the number of students reported using accommodations for reading
and math may not be accurate. The higher passing rate for accommodated students taking
math may be due to characteristics of the students receiving accommodations on each test
and to the types of accommodations offered. It is to be expected that the LEP students who
used accommodations on the reading test were those with lower English reading abilities
and therefore would have a lower mean percentage of items correct. One difference that may
contribute to the larger percent of accommodated students passing math is that the math
test can be translated into the students’ dominant language while the reading test
can not.
Further investigation is needed to determine which
accommodations are offered to individual students in a given testing year and the impact
of those specific accommodations on LEP students’ performance. In order to do this
kind of investigation, more detailed and accurate data on accommodations use need to be
kept at the individual student level. In response to this concern the Department of
Children, Families and Learning designed an accommodations form for the 1999 Basic
Standards Tests that BST testing personnel in school districts will complete, which will
be submitted for analysis with a student’s answer sheet. Continued collection of
data, and refinements in the data collected, will help the field to better understand the
performance of LEP students and eventually be able to examine the effects of various
accommodations and instructional programs on their performance.
References
Abedi, J., Lord, C., & Hofstetter, C. (1998) Impact
of selected background variables on students’ NAEP math performance. CSE Technical
Report 478. Los Angeles, CA: University of California at Los Angeles, National Center for
Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.
Liu, K. & Thurlow, M. (In press). State education
reports: What do they tell us about students with limited English proficiency?
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
National Academy of Education. (1993). The trial state
assessment: Prospects and realities. The third report of the National Academy of Education
Panel on the Evaluation of the NAEP Trial State Assessment: 1992 trial state assessment.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University, The National Academy of Education.
National Center for Education Statistics. (1997a). NAEP
1996 Mathematics: Report card for the nation and the states. Findings from the National
Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office
of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics.
National Center for Education Statistics. (1997b). NAEP
1996 science: Report card for the nation and the states. Findings from the National
Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office
of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics.
Rivera, C. & Vincent, C. (1996). High school
graduation testing: Policies and practices in the assessment of limited English proficient
students. Paper presented at the Council of Chief State School Officers, Phoenix, AZ.
Arlington, VA: Center for Equity and Excellence in Education.
Ysseldyke, J. E., Thurlow, M. L., Langenfeld, K. L.,
Nelson, J. R. Teelucksingh, E. & Seyfarth, A. (1998, December). Educational results
for students with disabilities: What do the data tell us? Minneapolis, MN: University of
Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
Appendix A
Exemptions for Students with Limited English Proficiency
The following exemptions may be offered to limited
English proficiency (LEP) students taking the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and the
Basic Standards Tests.
The 1997 legislature mandated a system of statewide
testing and accountability (M.S. 121.1113). All students enrolled in grades three, five,
and eight are tested with a single statewide test for the purpose of system
accountability.
Students with limited English proficiency must
participate in statewide testing by taking the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in
grades three and five and the Basic Standards tests in grade eight unless they have
been in the United States less than 12 months.
Temporary exemptions from the Basic Standards tests
may be granted to students in grades 9–12 if they have been enrolled for three or
fewer years in a school where the primary language of instruction is English. Exemptions
must be reviewed annually.
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