¿Exito en California? A Validity Critique of Language Program Evaluations and Analysis of English Learner Test Scores


  • Marilyn S. Thompson Arizona State University
  • Kristen E. DiCerbo
  • Kate Mahoney
  • Jeff MacSwan




Academic Achievement, Elementary Secondary Education, Immersion Programs, Limited English Speaking, Political Influences, Scores, State Programs, Test Results


Several states have recently faced ballot initiatives that propose to functionally eliminate bilingual education in favor of English-only approaches. Proponents of these initiatives have argued an overall rise in standardized achievement scores of California's limited English proficient (LEP) students is largely due to the implementation of English immersion programs mandated by Proposition 227 in 1998, hence, they claim Exito en California (Success in California). However, many such arguments presented in the media were based on flawed summaries of these data. We first discuss the background, media coverage, and previous research associated with California's Proposition 227. We then present a series of validity concerns regarding use of Stanford-9 achievement data to address policy for educating LEP students; these concerns include the language of the test, alternative explanations, sample selection, and data analysis decisions. Finally, we present a comprehensive summary of scaled-score achievement means and trajectories for California's LEP and non-LEP students for 1998-2000. Our analyses indicate that although scores have risen overall, the achievement gap between LEP and EP students does not appear to be narrowing.


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Author Biographies

Marilyn S. Thompson, Arizona State University

Marilyn Thompson is Assistant Professor of Measurement, Statistics, and Methodological Studies in the Division of Psychology in Education at Arizona State University. Her research interests include methodological techniques for large data set analysis, applications of structural equation modeling and multilevel modeling, and policy pertaining to the assessment of English learners. Dr. Thompson is Director of the EDCARE laboratory at ASU, providing measurement, statistics, and evaluation services to the educational community. She previously taught physics and chemistry and was science department chair in an urban high school, giving her a first-hand perspective on the role of classroom assessment. She may be reached at m.thompson@asu.edu.

Kristen E. DiCerbo

Kristen DiCerbo is a Ph.D. student in the School Psychology program in the Division of Psychology in Education, College of Education at Arizona State University. Her research interests include psychoeducational assessment, especially the assessment of minority children, and internalizing problems in children. She is currently a psychology intern in a district serving a large population of English learners. Ms. DiCerbo was formerly Editor of Current Issues in Education. She may be reached at kristen.dicerbo@asu.edu.

Kate Mahoney

Kate Mahoney is a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in bilingual education at Arizona State University. Her teaching experience includes teaching 37 of 48 mathematics with English language learners. Her research interests include psychometrics and validity issues concerned with testing English language learners.

Jeff MacSwan

Jeff MacSwan is an Assistant Professor of Language and Literacy in the College of Education at Arizona State University. He has published articles in Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Bilingual Review, Bilingual Research Journal, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, and Southwest Journal of Linguistics. He is the author of A Minimalist Approach to Intrasentential Code Switching (Garland, 1999), and editor of the forthcoming volume Grammatical Theory and Bilingual Codeswitching (MIT Press). He is chair of the organizing committee of the Fourth International Symposium on Bilingualism, to be held at Arizona State University in April, 2003.




How to Cite

Thompson, M. S., DiCerbo, K. E., Mahoney, K., & MacSwan, J. (2002). ¿Exito en California? A Validity Critique of Language Program Evaluations and Analysis of English Learner Test Scores. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10, 7. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v10n7.2002