Common Core Assessments for English Learners

el academic tests

Two assessment consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced, have developed assessments to measure students’ mastery of academic content knowledge based on the Common Core State Standards. All students, including those designated as ELs, are required to take state level content area exams, unless they are recently-arrived ELs.


The PARCC assessment includes a performance-based component, administered around the three-quarter mark of the school year, an optional mid-year assessment, and an end-of-year assessment component. The computer-based assessments test students in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, and can be taken by students in K–12, although states choose what grade levels to test. PARCC offers specific accommodations to EL students, such as: extended time on assessments, clarified and repeated general administration directions read in the student’s native language as needed, the use of a bilingual dictionary (or electronic translator), the option to dictate responses to math problems to a scribe or through speech-to-text technology, and a translated version of the math assessment in Spanish or other available languages. See New America’s Mapping College-Ready Policies database for an updated list of states administering PARCC.

Smarter Balanced

Smarter Balanced has developed an end-of-year summative assessment in English language arts/literacy and mathematics that includes a computer adaptive test (which adapts the difficulty of questions based on student responses) and performance tasks. It has also developed optional interim assessments. Both are administered to students in grades 3–8 and 11. Smarter Balanced offers supports to EL students, including: translated test directions, translated glossaries of math terms for the math assessments, full translations of each math test item above the original item in English, the use of bilingual dictionaries for English language arts performance tasks, and a test administrator to read aloud the entire math assessment (or necessary portions) in Spanish. See New America’s Mapping College-Ready Policies database for an updated list of states administering PARCC.