TCTA has heard from several members who have concerns about their ability to collect the writing samples required by TELPAS (the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System), a state standardized assessment that TEA created to annually assess the progress that English learners make. Students are assessed in four language domains — listening, speaking, reading and writing. The collection of writing samples as part of TELPAS is required in grades 2-12.
Members have expressed concern about the ability to collect writing samples this school year, due to the varied learning environments students are experiencing.
According to TEA’s Spring 2021 Assessment Guidance (updated 1/20/21), in response to the question “Can TELPAS writing samples be collected for students who are receiving remote instruction?”, TEA’s answer is:
“Yes, writing samples should reflect authentic classroom instruction, and that includes remote or digital learning in the current environment. Teachers assembling writing samples should select writing samples that are reflective of the student’s current level of proficiency. Writing samples in which students relied heavily on a dictionary or thesaurus or used editing tools (e.g., spell check, spell prediction, or grammar check) should not be used. Writing samples should not be collected for the sole purpose of assembling TELPAS writing collections. Districts must ensure that the holistic rating process is valid and that FERPA regulations are maintained. As a reminder, it is a requirement for writing collections to be complete. If a student has an incomplete writing collection towards the end of the assessment window, contact the Student Assessment Division for guidance.”
Additionally, according to TEA’s TELPAS Rater Manual (posted 10/20/20): “Writing samples may be typed and collected in electronic or printed form provided that spell check and grammar check are disabled for students not eligible for this designated support.”
As for the timeline to collect the writing samples, the Spring 2021 Assessment Guidance provides that the testing window for TELPAS holistic assessments (K–1 and 2–12 writing) is six weeks (Feb. 22–April 2). However, districts have discretion within the testing window to designate the date by which writing samples must be collected, according to TEA’s Grades 2–12 Writing Collection Overview (updated 09/04/20).
On Feb. 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education provided guidance to states on assessing student learning during the pandemic. USDE specifically called for assessment of English learners to be extended beyond the end of the 2020-21 school year “if necessary, to ensure that districts are administering this assessment when it safe for them to do so.”
TCTA is continuing to collect information on this issue and sent a letter to Commissioner Morath and others on Feb. 24 to request flexibility and extension of timelines regarding the collection of writing samples, given the difficulties posed by the pandemic.