“more accurate” estimate of the number of LEP students, as is required by ESEA. To be more accurate, the statutory official definition would have to apply a consistent basis to ensure uniform measurement within and across states.

A good and usable definition is not only consistent, it is also a transparent off-shoot of the operation of the programs within the states and stable over time. The task of arriving at one consistent definition applicable across the states is particularly difficult because of the rich variety of programs and measures used by the states and localities to meet their obligations under the law (and its interpretations), as well as the many changes in state practices and reporting procedures over time, particularly those having to do with students’ entry and exit from the program. In regard to defining LEP, the department has concluded that there is “no one, common, approved method to operationalize the term, either for initial identification purposes or for ultimate exit from an Language Instruction Educational Program (LIEP) or the LEP category” (U.S. Department of Education, 2008a, p. 7). The 2006 GAO study documented no less than three operational definitions that could be employed to identify the LEP population: see Table 1-2.

Since 2006, considerable progress has been made by the department and the state education agencies in refining the data collected on the LEP population in the CSPR system. New policies about how data are to be collected and aggregated have also emerged from this effort. Thus, for purposes of this report, the definition that has been selected for the analysis is the definition used in collecting operational data from state agencies, which are the data as reported in the Consolidated State Performance Reports as Code the unduplicated number of limited English proficient students enrolled in an elementary or secondary school at any time during

TABLE 1-2 Operational Definitions of the ELL Population



How Measured

The number of students with limited English proficiency in grades K-12 who are assessed for English proficiency

ESEA allowable data for Title III allocation

States develop assessment instruments and practices, with data collected by state education agencies.

The number of students identified as limited English proficiency in grades K-12

State standards for identification of the population needing services

States use various methods of identifying the population, including home language surveys or teacher observation reports, which are administered by local education agencies with data collected by state agencies.

The number of students enrolled in state and local Title III programs

Administrative counts of program participants

State education agencies collect this data from local education agencies as an administrative requirement.

SOURCE: U.S. Government Accountability Office (2006b, p. 14).

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