NCEO - National Center on Educational Outcomes

Academic and English Proficiency Standards and ELLs with Disabilities


State standards that apply to English language learners (ELLs) with disabilities include:

  • Academic content standards, which define what all students should know and be able to do;
  • Academic achievement standards, which give detailed descriptions of how well students are developing knowledge and skills in the content standards;
  • English language proficiency standards, which represent the academic language that ELLs need in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

These three sets of related standards are key elements for ELLs with disabilities in accountability systems.

Teachers use a variety of curriculum materials to help ELLs with disabilities reach language and content standards. They also use instructional strategies that are adapted to meet individual student needs. Students must be assessed on their skills and knowledge in grade-level academic content regardless of whether they take regular or alternate assessments. Similarly, all students who receive ELL services must take assessments that show their progress learning academic English. ELLs with disabilities are included in this population.

ELLs with disabilities must have access to challenging standards through high quality curriculum and instruction if they are to benefit from standards-based reform. They need reliable, valid, and fair assessment of progress toward the standards. Standards-based accountability systems provide an opportunity to measure access to instruction. These systems also measure progress in both English and the general curriculum. Careful alignment of student learning to the standards ensures that progress, not just access, occurs.

More on academic standards for fluent-English speaking students with disabilities is available.