Students who are learning English as a Second Language, or ESL are often at a disadvantage when taking standardized tests that are designed for students who consider English to be their native language. The No Child Left Behind Act, introduced in 2002 does allow for special accommodations to be given to ESL students. However, those accommodations are the same ones that are intended for students who have disabilities. Many teachers who are involved in helping ESL students to learn feel that the testing requirements for ESL students should be adjusted to be different than the standards already in place for the disabled.
It is important to remember that ESL students do not necessarily possess less knowledge than their native English speaking peers. Rather, their limited and developing grasp of the English language makes it very difficult for them to prove their comprehension of a subject.
A common agreement among teachers of ESL is that students should be allowed to practice test situations before the actual test is given. Many students have never been required to demonstrate knowledge through a standardized test previously, and find the format to be quite bewildering. Additionally, others have suggested that a method be implemented which allows for students to verify their understanding of what is being asked within a question. Students who have only very basic sentence construction skills may struggle for several minutes to determine what is being asked in a question, and then may get off in the wrong direction simply because of confusion over a single word.
Finally, some students may excel in a testing environment if they are given the option to have the test given to them in an oral format, or at least having access to an oral interpreter that can verify a word or the overall meaning of a sentence.