The effects of test translation on young English learners' mathematics performance

Joseph P. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a nationally representative sample of kindergarteners and first graders, this study asks if native-language test translations help English language learners (ELLs) demonstrate their mathematics skills. ELLs frequently encounter testing hurdles because they are not proficient in English, the predominant language of assessments. Low scores on these assessments can limit ELLs' academic opportunities through inappropriate track placements and decreased confidence. This study uses a rigorous quasi-experimental design (regression discontinuity design) and finds that Spanish-speaking ELLs perform significantly better on mathematics assessments when tested in Spanish (instead of English) in kindergarten and first grade (Cohen's ds > 0.85). Because these and other findings suggest that test translations may provide ELLs with opportunities to demonstrate their mathematics knowledge, policy makers should consider adding translations to the list of available accommodations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-590
Number of pages9
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • education policy
  • English language learner
  • evaluation
  • methodology
  • regression discontinuity design
  • research validity/reliability
  • test translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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