TABLE 5-1 Differences Between the ACS Estimates and State-Provided Counts of ELL Students

Type of Difference

ACS Estimate

State-Provided Count

Age Range

5-21 years of age

Not specified (elementary and secondary school-aged population is usually defined as 5-18 years of age)

School Enrollment

Enrollment status not specified (i.e., includes public and private schools)

Newly and continually enrolled in elementary and secondary schools for which Consolidated State

Performance Reports are submitted by state education agencies (i.e., public schools including charter schools)

Assessment Method

Single question regarding spoken English ability

Comprehensive assessment that incorporates information from multiple sources

Mode of Response

Indirect and subjective measure, based on the response of a parent (or other adult in the household) to a single question

Direct evaluation based on a student’s performance in acquiring English proficiency

Modality(ies) Assessed


Speaking, listening, reading, and writing

Context Assessed

Not specified: likely to be community and family setting

Classroom setting

Basis for Distinguishing Proficient from Not Proficient

Single national cut score

State- or local-determined criteria

Comparability Across States

Item is identically presented across the nation; estimates based on a uniform methodology across the states

States use different assessments, procedures, cut scores, and criteria; estimates based on different methodologies

language proficiency across multiple modalities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). The measures of language proficiency explicitly address both academic and social contexts. Unlike the ACS estimates, the information from the states varies because the policies, practices, and criteria used by the states are not uniform.

CONCLUSION 5-1 The criteria used by the states for counts of English language learner students are more conceptually sound than the criteria on which American Community Survey (ACS) estimates are based. However, the policies, practices, and criteria used by the states differ from state to

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement