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collects counts of students with limited English proficiency status at the state and district levels, but these figures are not generally considered to be accurate as varying definitions and methods of aggregation are used. Because the data collected by OBEMLA, OCR, and OUS are generally counts of students for purposes of project accountability, technical assistance, or compliance, this chapter focuses primarily on the data collection efforts of NCES and the Bureau of the Census, although it also reviews some relevant efforts by other offices.

One of the major charges to NCES is to report on the condition of education in the United States. To address that charge, NCES conducts many sample surveys and some censuses. Although data collected from samples are considered statistics, the agency aims to generalize to the nation—to estimate the true population parameters in order to report on the condition of education nationwide. This is possible through the use of well-designed, large samples and the application of sample weights to allow extrapolation to the entire population (for example, to all K-12 English-language learners in the United States).

Education statistics address a major issue facing national policymakers: the need for reliable and valid information on language-minority and limited-English-proficient students to assess the effectiveness of policies and services at the broadest national level. Yet currently, there are various obstacles to the collection and reporting of good data to address this need, resulting in inadequate data at the local, state, and national levels. Obstacles frequently mentioned include the following:

Inconsistent definitions and decision rules across surveys, resulting in differences in the comparison of results or the aggregation of data

Lack of definition of and agreement on common indicators for measuring student status and outcomes for English-language learners

Lack of data on and inability to monitor English-language learner achievement and other outcomes

Lack of consensus on how (and by whom) data on the education of English-language learners should be collected and/or funded

This review of the state of knowledge in education statistics begins with a description of efforts to improve NCES data collection efforts, with particular focus on issues of interest to the education of English-language learners. This is followed by three sections providing a review of the major data collection efforts: the first summarizes the various national and state surveys and data collection efforts, the second examines limitations of current surveys and population estimate studies, and the third reviews assessment issues.

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