Skip to main content

Education experts: language proficiency tests misleading

December 16, 2008

Jeffrey MacSwan and Kellie Rolstad have published an article in Teachers College Record in which they argue that English language learner (ELL) language assessment policy and poor language tests partly account for ELLs' disproportionate representation in special education.

MacSwan and Rolstad are associate professors of curriculum and instruction with the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University. In their article, “How Language Proficiency Tests Mislead Us About Ability: Implications for English Language Learner Placement in Special Education,” they recommend changes in language testing policies and practices for ELLs.

Previous research indicates that many states routinely assess ELLs’ first language at initial enrollment and that ELLs identified as limited in both languages have relatively high rates of identification in special education.

McsSwan’s research interests include language minority education, educational linguistics, bilingualism and learning a second language in a school setting. Rolstad’s work also is in language, minority education, early childhood education for English learners and language-literacy interface.

The full article is available at