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ESTIMATING POPULATION PARAMETERS:
SUMMARY OF THE STATE OF KNOWLEDGE

A review of the state of knowledge in estimating population parameters—or the work generally referred to as education statistics—reveals the following key points:

Over the last 10 years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education has taken several steps to improve its collection and reporting of education statistics.

Eligibility rules for the participation of English-language learners in the National Assessment of Educational Progress have become more standardized to ensure greater consistency in student inclusion. A number of studies are under way to help ascertain the validity of using current or other criteria for exclusion, as well as to investigate other issues related to the inclusion of English-language learners.

Weaknesses in the collection and reporting of education statistics persist in a number of areas, particularly with regard to certain subpopulations, including English-language learners. Among these weaknesses are the following:

 

Insufficient coverage of subpopulations, which biases the results; results often cannot be generalized to the excluded groups.

 

Inconsistent data definitions across the various surveys and studies, limiting comparability.

 

Similar variation in identification procedures, data collection methods, data collection levels (degree of aggregation of numbers), and data collection purposes.

 

Gaps in the data on important variables of interest.

The central problem in assessing English-language learners is their limited ability to perform on a test administered in English. Assessments based on translations into a second language have questionable validity.

To address this problem, various testing modifications have been introduced, including flexible scheduling, small-group test administration, use of dictionaries, simplification of directions, reading of questions aloud, and extra time. The validity of such modifications has not been adequately researched to date.



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