ELL Accommodations with TABE 9 & 10

Dear Colleagues,

In your state Adult Education Assessment Policies, how many of you have a documented procedure for providing accommodations to English Language Leaners on the TABE 9 & 10 assessment (not the CLAS-E).  The only guidance I could find from McGraw-Hill was vague at best:  https://www.ctb.com/ctb.com/control/researchArticleMainAction?topicId=390&articleId=475&p=ctbResearch

I would like to provide some written guidelines, but I'd rather not reinvent the wheel.  If you could share that section of your assessment policy with me, I would be forever in your debt. :)

Thanks in Advance!

Tonya Creamer
Education Associate / ESL Specialist
South Carolina Department of Education, Office of Adult Education


I am also interested in this, as my program uses the TABE test exclusively, which means my ELL students are taking the TABE from day one, no matter their level.  We currently offer no accommodations for ELL status.

We don't have an accommodations policy for ELL learners for TABE. I can't think of many states that would have an accommodations policy for TABE since being an ELL is not a disability. TABE is a terrible indicator of ELL performance. CASAS or TABE CLAS-E would be better to measure growth. 

We have used Best literacy, TABE-E, and TABE with our students. We started basing the use of any particular test using students' goal and prior EFL back ground. We found out that TABE is successful among our ELL students with strong EFL background. It started out as an experiment, but became popular with our high level students that come with the goal of passing the college entrance exam which is Compass in our state for Community colleges. I can't think of a single student who tested into any remedial classes. Not only that, they were very successful in Composition 1 &2 classes as well. In my opinion, it is worth trying it out, so the students won't have to waste their time and money doing classes that are not necessary. We haven't had any student with a 12th grade diploma who is weak in content areas. Most were ready in 3 three months.

However, once our ELL 'top out' of BEST Plus and BEST Literacy, they transition to the TABE which is why I think accommodations might sometimes be appropriate.  In our state, ELL accommodations are given for other K-12 assessments, such as the high school exit exam out students used to have to take provided the following conditions were met.  Here is an excerpt from the manual for that assessment (which is currently no longer required):

Preparation Before Administering the HSAP

ESOL/LEP students may receive special test preparation instruction prior to the administration of HSAP. This instruction may cover test format, directions, answer document use, and test taking strategies.


Accommodations should be used only as appropriate for individual students and should not be applied to all LEP students indiscriminately. Appropriate accommodations should be based on the student’s ELDA scores, teacher judgments, and other evidence, including the accommodations used in the classroom for individual students. Accommodations should be recorded on the student’s accommodations form and kept with the student’s ESOL folder. If accommodations are used with the HSAP, complete the appropriate codes on the student’s answer document.

The following accommodations may be used on the HSAP tests:

•• Bilingual Dictionary – LEP students may use a word-for-word bilingual dictionary during all HSAP tests. However, the dictionary must not include any examples, pictures, or definitions. Bilingual dictionaries that include examples and/or definitions may be used only during session 1 of the ELA test (extended-response item).

•• Reword and/or Translate Directions – The directions may be reworded in any format or language necessary to enable the student to understand the task(s) by repeating in English, using the native language, etc. No other parts of the test may be reworded or translated. This rewording and/or translation of directions cannot go beyond the scope and meaning of the written directions.

•• Oral administration – LEP students may receive an oral administration of the mathematics test. Oral administration of this test is an accommodation because this test assesses knowledge of mathematical content standards, not reading ability. Oral Administration Scripts (OAS) or an Oral Administration Audio CD-ROM will be used in all cases. An Oral Administration Script (OAS) must be used if the TA reads the directions, questions, and some answer choices to the student. An Oral Administration CD-ROM will administer the test to the student on the computer. The CD-ROM contains the same information and wording as the Oral Administration Script but allows the student to take the test independently.  The ELA test cannot be administered orally to LEP students unless they have a documented disability and the IEP or 504 Accommodations Plan specifies oral administration of the ELA test.

•• Scheduling – The student may take portions of the HSAP over several days, as long as all testing is completed by the last day of make-up testing. Students may not go back to previously completed sections of the test. Scheduling accommodations may include the following:

▪▪ administering the test in the afternoon rather than the morning.
▪▪ administering the test in one day with several testing sessions per day.
▪▪ administering the test over several days with one or several testing sessions per day.

Procedures – The following procedures should be followed when using the scheduling accommodation:

1. Estimate the duration of each testing session for the student.
2. Determine if the student can complete the test in one day or several days.
3. If it is determined that the student requires testing over several days, divide the test into “sections” according to the time allotted for each test session. Each “section” should end with the last question on an odd-numbered page so the student is not able to see test questions for the next session.
4. During each testing session, the student may work only on test questions for that “section.”The student may not go back and work on any “section” from a previous session.

Note: To the extent possible, the extended-response portion of the ELA test (session 1) should be completed in one day, as indicated by the state test administration schedule.

•• Individual or Small Group Administration/Setting – The HSAP may be administered in a setting appropriate to the student’s individual needs. Setting accommodations may include the following:
▪▪ preferential seating in the classroom.
▪▪ separate location with minimal distractions.
▪▪ small group administration in a separate location.
▪▪ individual administration in a separate location.

LEP students may participate in individual or small-group administrations by the ESOL teacher or other school or district designee.

•• Timing – The HSAP are not timed tests. Students may take as long as they need to complete each test during the school day. Any timing accommodations must be monitored to maintain test security. Timing accommodations may include the following:

▪▪ frequent breaks in the testing room without contact with other students.
▪▪ extended breaks that may involve contact with other students.


After reading everyone's comments, I keep coming back to the question of TABE CLAS-E. 

Are there any programs that have incorporated TABE CLAS-E into their ELL's testing? And if so, have you seen increased outcomes due to switching ELLs from CASAS - CLAS-E or TABE 9/10 - CLAS-E? Did the switch boost the students outcomes on CLAS-E?

It's frustrating when our Advanced ELLs top out of CASAS and don't transition well onto TABE due to incompatible goals or the like.

Anna, Thanks for your important question. It would be good to hear from those who are using TABE CLAS-E. I know our colleagues in Massachusetts are using this tool. I'm not sure what other states have approved this instrument. What has been your experience thus far, Massachusetts colleagues? Please weigh in if you have been using TABE CLAS-E.


Susan, Moderator AELL CoP

Hi Tanya, Thanks for posting this interesting question about accommodations for ELLs. I am not aware of any state offering accommodations for ELLs on TABE, but there may be some that do. This would seem to be a question for policy makers at the federal and state level. Since TABE CLAS-E, which is designed for English learners, is now an approved NRS assessment, the question of accommodations for ELLs on the regular TABE may be viewed as unnecessary.

As far as the appropriateness of using TABE with adult English language learners, I recall an article in NCSALL's Annual Review of Adult Learning and Literacy  by Van Duzer and Berdan in 1999 entitled "Perspective on Assessment in Adult ESOL" in which the authors concluded that TABE, which was not designed to be used with English learners, would not be appropriate for most ELLs, but may be appropriate for ELLs at the advanced levels. In my local program, we are using this tool for advanced ELLs, with mostly positive results.

It would be interesting to hear more on this issue, including regarding programs' experiences with the TABE CLAS-E.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Hi-- I would like to add some thoughts to this thread on the TABE and ELLS taking it.   In my experience as someone who is called on to try to explain why ELLs fail in certain situations, it is a common plaint of adult ed. teachers who receive ELLs in the ABE or GED classes that even though these students have "topped out" of the BEST and other ESL testing, they crash and burn, so to speak, in adult ed. classes.  This problem is often caused by the BICS-CALP dichotomy-- the gap between survival, conversational English and the English and level of language needed for academic work.  The TABE and the materials in adult ed. and certificate classes are designed for native English speakers and have a far more robust vocabulary level and challenging grammar range than ESL materials do except at the highest academic levels of ESL.   It is not surprising, therefore, as someone mentioned earlier in the thread, that students who have a strong EFL background do better on the TABE than ESOL students.  In my experience, EFL materials are far more challenging in vocabulary and move faster through grammar than ESL materials do.     I have long maintained that it is IMPORTANT to give ESOL students the TABE so that everyone-- teachers and students-- can see where the students are vis-a-vis English speaking students, or, in other words, to calculate their CALP level--where they are in academic English.   I have found it is easier to convince the ESL students of the need to continue to deepen their skills and vocabulary before attempting classes designed for native English speakers when they (the ESL students) can see that their scores/knowledge of English are still far below those of their new peers.   Therefore, I would NOT endorse any accommodations for ELLS on the TABE.  I have taught academic preparation classes for ESL students at a university and two community colleges, and I know that students coming right out of ESL-- particularly adult ESOL-- are ill prepared for the challenges of reading and writing in freshman-level academic classes.  In fact, at one community college where I taught in suburban Washington, DC,  the students coming from the county's adult ESOL program were the weakest candidates for college ESL and often had to be sent back for more work before they could succeed in the reading, writing and listening/speaking ESL classes that were pre-requisite for college classes.  I do not think it is doing the ELLS any service at all to accommodate them on the TABE if they plan to go on to any kind of higher level post-secondary training or education.  

Just one more endorsement for high standards and clear information to the ESOL students about what lies ahead:  I am currently tutoring two adult sisters--both Spanish speakers, both of whom completed high school locally.  The older one started school in the states in middle school; the younger started in lower elementary school.   Both started college as adults--many years out of school.  Their academic and English skills are VERY weak --the older one should have taken remedial English classes at her community college, but logistically could not, so I am tutoring her instead.   She cannot understand much in her textbooks nor do anything close to an acceptable writing assignment on her own.  The younger one has much stronger skills relative to her sister's but still needs a lot of help understanding directions on assignments and the reading in her world history text book.   Both are extremely hard-working and do as much as they can on their own.  They never had really good ESL preparation for high school, much less college.   I wish both had had the TABE or something like it to really help them understand where they needed to focus BEFORE starting college classes. 

So, as I said earlier, I am not in favor at all of accommodations for ELLS on a test that can tell them how their REAL English is for the real world of academics or higher level classes.   It is, in some ways, a false achievement to have topped out on the BEST-- it gives everyone the impression that the ELLs' skills are better than they actually are for real-world work and study.  

Robin Lovrien  



Hello Robin and all, Thanks so much for your (as always!) thoughtful posting, Robin. I think all of us who work with "advanced" ELLS are well aware of the gap between the ESL assessments we are using and supporting students to their next steps. In my experience, too, TABE, though certainly not perfect, does serve this purpose. The NCSALL article by Van Duzer and Berdan that I cited earlier suggests using TABE with ELLs for this purpose can be appropriate.

You underscore the importance of Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). BICS is the language we use for everyday interactions and conversations; whereas, CALP is academic language that is pervasive in complex texts. We know that it takes much longer for a learner to develop CALP. For learners who have had limited education in their primary language, it will almost always take even longer. In other words, those who come with a solid educational foundation will develop their academic language in English more quickly than those who have had limited or interrupted formal schooling.

I'm curious what folks who have been using TABE CLAS-E with this population have experienced. Has this test been useful for the purposes we are discussing here? What has been your experience?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Thank you so much for chiming in, Robin.  Like you, a lot of my experience with English Language Learners has been at the community college setting.  It had never occurred to me to offer accommodations on the TABE for our ESL students (regardless whether they are EFL or ESOL) until the question came up from the field, but I didn't want to make a policy decision without getting some weigh-in from my colleagues across the country.

In South Carolina, I have been advocating strong transition plans which include keeping the language learner with a trained ESL teacher while working on TABE Language and Reading skills and integrating WorkKeys instruction into our ESL classes.  Combined with other proven transition strategies, these have yielded promising results.

Tonya Creamer
South Carolina Department of Education
Office of Adult Education

Tonya, Thanks again for starting this important thread. It's good to hear you are seeing positive results with ELLs in South Carolina. I know members would welcome hearing more about how teachers are actually integrating TABE and WorkKeys. Are you able to share any details?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Hi Susan,

Happy to share, just need more than 24 hours in the day! LOL!  I uploaded a few documents which exemplify some of the resources we have developed.

In South Carolina, many of our transitioned ESL students remain with an ESL teacher in a class that often contains students assessed with different tools:  TABE Language and/or Reading, BEST Plus and/or BEST Literacy.  To assist teachers with content, my colleague, Terry Phillips, created a chart which shows the content of each TABE level/form (the checkmarks denoting the number of questions assessed on that level/form).  Here is a link to the TABE Reading chart and the TABE Language chart.  As you can see from looking at the charts, the skills covered are often found in a variety of ESL curricula.  Helping the teacher see precisely what is assessed can assist them in contextualizing priority skills as related to their students' unique needs.

To help with differentiating instruction and groupings within the ELL classroom, I created this Assessment Analysis Tool which helps a teacher look at his/her classroom composition in terms of individual skill strengths and weaknesses.  This is a new tool and has been received well in theory, but I'm awaiting practical feedback from those actually implementing its use in the classroom.

One of our ESL instructors, Jan Camp from Horry County Adult Education, developed this ESL Career Ready 101 Guide to help teachers in using CareerReady 101 (CR101) with ELLs. In South Carolina last year, 72 ELLs earned Career Ready Certificates (CRCs) (63 of which were ESL students).  These CRCs were earned by students at all NRS levels, but we do find that ESL High Beginning and Intermediate Low is the best starting point.  Jan recommends having students work through levels 1-3 of Applied Math and Reading for Information before beginning Locating Information due to the difficulty of the latter.  They have responded enthusiastically commenting how the training has helped them to assist their children with math homework, etc.  Students also see their progress and enjoy having their certificates celebrated, both of which encourage student retention.

CR101 actually offers a lot to our ELLs; of course, the CRCs help them to enhance their employability (for those who are eligible) while at the same time building their technology skills.  However, the other modules include listening activities, financial awareness, and a wide variety of content, tapping into the diverse interests and backgrounds of our students.  We have actually approved all of the units for ESL distance learning, so students can work from home at their leisure.

I hope some of these resources are helpful to others who have transitioned ESL students into 'Regular Ed' assessments.  I should mention that while our transitioned ESL students do typically make gain with TABE Math subtests, we don't recommend using those subtests until the student has reached 7.0-9.0 GLE on both the TABE Reading and Language subtests.  In this way, we continue to strengthen the students' language acquisition which they can then use for their diverse pursuits.

Tonya Creamer
Education Associate
Office of Adult Education
South Carolina Department of Education


Hi Tonya,

You asked an interesting question,  Jared was correct in his response to you.  Accommodations are for people/students with documented disabilities that have barriers to completing tasks of any kind that are directly attributed to that disability.  Adult ELL students would only be eligible to receive an accommodation if they had a documented disability ( such a vision or hearing impairment, neurological or mental health disorder, etc.)  that stands in the way of their taking the TABE Test, or any other test.

Rochelle Kenyon, Subject Matter Expert

Disabilities in Adult Education group



Thanks, Rochelle, As far as I know, there are no policies allowing for accommodations specifically for adult ELLS on TABE -- similar to those many states use for testing children who are ELLs in K12. In my view, this is an important issue to highlight. It's clear that any test administered to an English language learners IS a language test. There has been quite a lot of research showing that the way a test is worded, for instance, can make a huge difference in the results of testing. I'll post some details about this in my next message.

The bottom line is that policy makers are the ones who would need to make this determination.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

I asked this question because I AM a state policy maker. :) I was hoping other COP participants who were state policy makers could share their policies.  I apologize if that was unclear... I thought that would be inferred from my title.

From the link I posted above, CTB-McGraw Hill acknowledges the potential need for these accommodations with ELL:

"CTB is committed to supporting the use of appropriate testing accommodations for students taking large-scale assessments, including standardized tests, and the ability of decision-makers to make valid and useful interpretations of test data. This document provides guidelines on the use and appropriate interpretation of the results of inclusive test administrations. These guidelines are intended to facilitate the valid interpretation of individual student results and valid comparisons of year-to-year and group-to-group summary data for students with disabilities, as well as limited English proficiency (LEP) and ELL students."   That document also states that "to facilitate appropriate interpretation of individual examinee results, accommodation decisions and use should be well documented. Because examiners are directly involved with test administration and the use of test results, they are apt to be the best providers of information about the testing conditions and accommodations used. Such documentation includes IEPs, 504 Plans, or LEP/ELL team recommendations for both instructional and testing accommodations and details about the actual use of accommodations, in both instruction and testing."

I was hoping to get a look at how other state policy makers have addressed the use of TABE 9/10 with the ELL in their state that have already topped out on the ESL assessments.



Since most of the ESL students who top out of BEST and BEST Plus are reading and writing at a 5th grade level or higher, I don't see the need to do any kind of special accommodation for the TABE 9/10.  Once they transition to the ABE / ASE side, the TABE as it is will help the teacher identify areas that need work before the student attempts the GED, HiSET or the like.   Making changes to the test would make the interpretation of their readiness to take those tests in English very difficult.

From the publishers comments, on the interpretation side, it will of course be important for the instructor to view the results of the TABE in light of the student's English language level because that will bring into focus language skills on which the student may need additional assistance. 

This is, of course, just my opinion and not a state policy.  Texas, as far as I know, has no official state policy for accommodating ELLs on TABE 9/10

Thanks for this interesting, thought-provoking question.


Hi Glenda, Thanks for sharing your experience with ELLs who top out on BEST Plus and BEST Literacy. I'm curious what other members are seeing for students who transition from ESL to ABE, specifically with regard to TABE reading levels. What about math?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Hi Glenda!

Thanks for chiming in.  I agree with the need to use TABE diagnostically (without accommodations) to help ELLs prepare for their next step.  Thanks, also, for letting me know how Texas handles this issue policy-wise.  That's what I was hoping to hear. :)



Hello all, I promised to share a bit more about the concept that every test is, indeed, a language test for ELLs (Bosher & Bowles, 2008). In preparation for a workshop with college nursing faculty I did some research about this. Abedi (2009) is another researcher who has done a lot of work in this area. I'm curious what you think about these researchers' point of view. Here is a quote from Abedi (2009):

"To make content-based assessments more accessible to ELL students, the concept of a linguistic modification approach has been suggested. The main theme underlying this method is to reduce or eliminate unnecessary linguistic complexities in order to make assessments more reliable, more valid, and more accessible for ELLs. Under this approach, the linguistic features that make assessments more complex are identified and then revised. For example, ELL students have been shown to have difficulty with unfamiliar vocabulary, passive voice, conditional clauses, long and complex phrases, relative clauses, and long nominals. In the linguistic modification, unfamiliar or infrequent words are changed to familiar words, passive verbs are changed to active verbs, conditional clauses are replaced with separate sentences or the order of conditional and main clauses are changed, complex question phrases are changed to simple question words, relative clauses are either removed or recast, and long nominals are shortened. Below is an example of an original test item and a proposed linguistically modified version of that item. As can be seen from this example, multiple sources of linguistic complexities were involved, and multiple modifications were performed."

Here is an example nursing exam question in both the original version and the revised version  from Bosher and Bowles (2008):


A patient with chronic pain treated over a period of months with an oral form of morphine tells you that she is concerned because she had had to gradually increase the amount of medication she must take to achieve pain control. Your best response would include:


A patient has chronic pain. She is treated over a period of months with an oral form of morphine. She tells the nurse that she is concerned because she has had to gradually increase the amount of medication she takes to achieve pain control. What is the nurse’s response?

These researchers and others are questioning the validity of certain standardized tests administered to ELLs. What are your thoughts? Do you agree that revising standardized tests in this way would "make assessments more reliable, more valid, and more accessible for ELLs"? Or, would we be short changing students since they need to be prepared to grapple with the reality of complexity. Is the revised test question above an example of good technical writing or is it oversimplified in a way that does not serve learners well?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this complicated issue!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Abedi, J. (2009). Meaningful measurement: The role of assessment in improving the achievement of high school education in the twenty-first century. Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.all4ed.org/files/MeanMeasCh7Abedi.pdf.

Bosher, S., & Bowles, M. (2008). The effects of linguistic modification on ESL students' comprehension of nursing course test items. Nursing Education Perspectives, 29(3), 165-172.

At your community college we have incorporated a course called ESOL+. This course is for students who have topped out of TABE CLAS-E and are going on to their high school equivalency. We created this course to bridge the gap between what they learned in ESOL classes to what they would need for tests like the GED. We have an ESOL Intensive course which is designed to to help students who are in college or looking to take college courses.

Jared, Thanks for posting about your program's high school equivalency course for ELLs.  This is a hot topic for our field. You say that your course is designed for those who top out on TABE CLAS-E. What assessments are you using for these adults? I think many members would like to hear more about the design of your program.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment

Hi Jared,

Can you tell me more about your ESOL+ program? What are some of the courses offered within this program? Is it a credit course?


Students who top out of TABE CLAS-E are allowed to move to the ESOL+ class. On special occasions with approval of the ESOL and ABE/HSE directors students who are at an ESL Intermediate High level can move on to ESOL+. The class is run just like any other HSE class, students receive help in passing one of the high school equivalency tests. North Carolina just adopted Hi-Set and TASC along with GED as HSE assessments. We created the course to for two reasons. The first was to stop what I called the "cycle of hopelessness". This is where ESL students move from ESL to the HSE classes but due to various reasons such as a lack of academic English acquisition, a feeling of being different than other students, teachers frustration with ELL, etc the student drops out of the program, returns to ESL, tops out and returns back into the cycle. We also established the class to help students pass the writing test of previous GED test series. This test usually proved to be the most difficult for our students to pass. 

Once a student enters the ESOL+ class they are tested with the TABE 9/10 series. Students are broken into two groups, students who have tested low and are not yet ready for the tests, and another group for students who are ready to test or at some point in their testing process. Students are considered to be ABE/HSE students for NRS purposes. The ESOL+ course is a general overview of all the test subjects, with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing. I would like to see the ESOL+ program grow to the point where classes are subject specific. But at this point our program is very small and the ESOL+ population couldn't support that many courses.