LORRAINE VALDEZ PIERCE
My name is Lorraine Valdez Pierce. L o double r a I n e V as in victor a l d e z. Pierce as in pierced ears P I e r c e. And I’m at George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia.
I think there’s there’s several things that that I would like teachers to keep in mind. Um the first thing is a need to have a systematic approach to assessment. Um systematic means there’s a plan and you do it on a regular basis. You do assessment on a regular basis. Um another thing I would like them to keep in mind would be the need to let the language learners know what is expected of them before they’re asked to engage in as task or work assignment. Um we call this making the criteria visible the criteria for assessment and evaluation visible. And so the tenant of making the criteria visible is an essential aspect of performance based assessment that that is also very useful for language learns so they can focus on a target. Um um I suspect a third thing they could keep in mind would be the need to teach students and how to engage in monitoring and reflecting on their own work. Um many times we think students, because they are language learners, they are not capable of engaging in self assessment activities um but I think it’s important for teachers to number one realize it is possible to do to engage these learners in self monitoring and self assessment and that it’s necessary to do so.
The part about taking a systematic approach to assessment I would say is pretty much the same. If you’re going to be doing assessment on a regular basis it would be the same for monolinguals and for for second language learners. Um the part about making the criteria visible is especially important for working with second language learners who may not be familiar with teaching expectations in US public schools ah who may not be able to read between the lines and understand ah teacher inferences about what’s going to be evaluated, what’s going to be expected of their work. Um it’s also very important so they if we make these criteria or teacher expectations visible then the students have a higher likelihood of hitting the target so to speak. Um I think another very important aspect that would be different from monolinguals is the need um to add ah something that would help reduce the language load. Ah Jim Cummins has talked about un contextualizing language and language instruction and we need to keep in mind, I think, um the need to link assessment to instruction. The way that contextualizing language instruction comes in and I guess I’ going to go back to the part where ah it’s the same but also alittle different. Many times teachers think that assessment needs to be different from instruction and so many times they tell me, you know the reason I don’t do assessment on a regular basis is because it takes time away from instruction. And I really don’t have that time, I can’t afford that time for assessment. These teachers who are saying these things are people who do not realize that the ideal approach would be to to merge to to join assessment and instruction in a mutually beneficial partnership. So going back to the decontextualizing and the contextualizing language part, what language um what ESL ESL bilingual teachers need to keep in mind is that the way you teach, what we know about affective teaching strategies for second language learners on the flip side also work for assessment. So if you are doing something that is research based for example, we know that cooperative learning activities carefully structured collaboration in the classroom, partners, small groups, can help increase for example reading comprehension, process writing, oral communication skills. Can we take those same powerful research based activities and turn them into assessment? And I’m proposing that we can if we start with a plan. If we go into this knowing what we’re looking for. The students know our expectations and they have it in black and white, in writing. This is the hardest part I think of assessment for teachers of monolingual and and teachers of bilingual students. I think the hardest part is that many teachers are doing assessment in formal types of assessment on a reagular daily basis. They’re doing it naturally, intuitively, they can tell you who the students are who are weak in reading and who the ones that are weak in writing. They know, but do they have a systematic documentation that they can share with parents, students, and other teachers? I think this is where many teachers fall short, because they don’t have a handle on how to make assessment documentation, systematic, regular, and planned, and useful for instruction.
Um an example of this would be ah let’s say you’re a language teacher, language teacher and you’re working with cooperative learning groups. And you’ve got your students in literature discussion groups or they’re working on a science experiment cooperatively. You could be aiding, if I were to walk into your classroom and I’m observing you I shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between instruction and assessment, it should be going on simultaneously. This is the ideal. How would you accomplish this? You would accomplish this by having planned in advance what it is you’re looking for in the cooperative learning groups, what kinds of skills language um proficiencies ah are you looking for. And then how are you going to keep a record of it. Are you gonna be walking around with a clipboard and a checklist are you talking andecotal records of what people are doing in littler groups, do you do you have um a matrix of groups member names and you’re writing down little notes, or do you have a holistic scoring rebert where you are looking for certain people to be doing certain things, in other works are you looking at specific tasks and performances and expectations on a scale of performance or a range of performance that you can conduct simultaneous to the instructional activity going on.
I think the key to a systematic approach to assessment is planning, planning, planning. Just as you plan, make a lesson plan you need to make sure assessment is a part of that plan. Um the funniest thing I've ever seen is a curriculum plan, you know people design a curriculum and the funniest thing I’ve ever seen is a curriculum without an assessment component. I find that to be the oddest type of animal I’ve ever seen. And so teachers come to believe that assessments really aren’t part of instruction. Um so planning, planning, planning, ah building collaborative and cooperative activities into ah classroom learning, in aorticular teaching students how to give constructive peer feedback. Because peer feedback is much less intimidating than getting feedback and maybe evaluating from a teacher. But teaching students what to look for and that’s that’s um called visible criteria, teaching them what to look for um through these collaborative activities ah something else I could recommend would be staggered cycles. That is, many times teachers tell me they don’t have time for assessment, well I’ve got 30 students, when am I gonna assess 30 students and so on. It takes a lot of creative creative scheduling which we call staggered cycles. Staggered cycles means something like um ok my plan is this week I’m gonna look at these five students and there work in literature discussion groups or in cooperative learning activities. Ah next week I’ll look at the next five students that need my assistance or that are critical on the list.. The following week I’ll look at the next five, however many weeks and days it takes for you to go in cycles until you get to everybody in your class that needs to be assessed. Um these are some suggestions I could make toward um a systematic approach to assessment.
One of the problems that I that I hear people have with performance based and teacher made assessments is you know we don’t do that because those things aren’t valid and they’re just too much subjective, they’re much too subjective to be reliable. And my response to that is we’re talking about validity um (cough) and teacher made assessment we’re talking about validity, we’re talking about 2 types that are particularly relevant to classroom teachers. One would be content validity and the other would be consequential validity. And many teachers are familiar with one but not the other. When we’re talking about content validity we’re talking about the link of assessment to instruction so that assessment is taken from actual instructional activities. Example, um you’re teaching me reading strategies directly and you want to see how I apply them ah in a learning situation. So you structure a check list that looks at the different types of reading strategies I should be using in that situation. This type of activity could be said to have content validity for assessment. If you’re teaching, if you’re assessing what you’ve taught. If you’ve given the students an opportunity to learn what you’re assessing, that’s content validity, you’re covered on that. Consequential validity is very important and yet when we’re talking about standardized test that doesn’t really apply, that is people aren’t using consequential validity in standardized testing, that’s a great opportunity for teachers who use the results of the assessment. When teachers can use the results of the assessment for diagnosing students strengths and weaknesses, for redirecting instruction oh look they didn’t get that they didn’t get that point, I gotta go back and teach that again or teach it in a different manner, this is consequential validity. Now consequential validity is using the consequences of the assessment to improve teaching and learning. Um for reliability a lot of teachers many times think oh ah my assessments can’t be reliable it’s just me it’s just my opinion, it’s just my assessment. Um and sure enough teacher grading policy for example are very subjective and ver and have a lot of um friability to them. One way that teachers can build in reliability into teacher made assessments um is through multiple indicators. Um using multiple types of assessment and instruction over time. That means not just using multiple choice tests. Not just using sentence completion tests, but putting together a repertoire of assessments that will help gauge the different dimensions of learners the learners performance. So I think, when we’re talking about reliability ah for classroom based instruction multiple indicators. Now let’s say we’re talking about a little bit higher stakes assessment where we’re doing some assessment to see if the student is ready to exit to leave an ESL program and go into the mainstream and we’re doing some assessments of oral language, reading and writing. That’s when reliability can be increased by having multiple raters. The multiple rates are not really needed is it’s one teacher doing assessments of of his or her students for that purpose. But if you’re doing assessments for higher stakes, entering and exiting out of a program, graduation from high school, reliability can be increased by having multiple raters and having a set ah a set criteria that we’re looking at.
Well, rather than accommodations I would like to to look at what teachers are doing with um ESL bilingual students in the content area. I’d love to look at modifications and smart teaching strategies. All too often when we’re talking about assessment teachers forget that it’s a part of teaching, it’s a part of learning. What teaching strategies am I using for these students? Can I use what I know about instruction for assessment? And so I would say whatever reason for instruction, for example, ah reducing the language demand um by having the students, you could you could either simplify the language of the assessment you could give options in the assessment , you can use graphic organizers, visuals in the assessment, you can have the students perform their competence. All of these smart teaching strategies that we use for second language ah teaching can also be put on their flip side for assessment. Ah it’s simply a matter of having a tool, an assessment tool to document ah the standards of criteria the standards of learning or the criteria that we’re looking for in this performance of this activity. I would say ah reducing the language demand, I would say adding collaboration, many times teachers think well if there’s two people involved I can’t really do an assessment of one and that’s not really totally correct because if there’s two people let’s say you’re having a role play or you’re having people work on an art project together to demonstrate certain reading comprehension, um or listening comprehension, ah you can assess two people simultaneously if you know what you’re looking for and you keep the documentation for the individuals separate. And it’s also a much more authentic setting because communication is very much an inter interactive activity, interpersonal and when you have these things going on in a collaborative format um using, like I said graphic organizers, visuals, ah reducing the language demands, all of these things are adaptations, modifications, and smart teaching strategies that we can apply to assessment.
Wow! Graphic organizers, wow. The power of graphic organizers, I’m thinking of imparticular of of ah say ah reading. Ah we can in in in teaching reading to second language learners the research shows we now have at least two decades of research that shows when we teach reading strategies directly to the learners they are more able to apply them and to internalize them and become independent readers. And we’re talking about teaching pre-reading strategies during reading strategies and post-reading strategies and the power of the graphic organizer is that you can use it for all 3 purposes. Now I said teaching. Now if you took a look at the flip side of that and look at assessment many teachers they know they use the power of graphic organizers for teaching but they haven’t tapped that power for assessment. Let me give you an example. Ah one graphic organizer that’s very common commonly used is the KWL. The know, want to know, learn. Where you’re tapping into prior knowledge of the student in regard to what they’re going to read or learn about in a fanatic unit. Um teachers use that, they model it for teaching. How often do they ask students to complete the form alo the graphic organizer alone or with a partner and then turn it into assessment? What about um ven diagrams, somatic maps, any of these things could be part of an exercise where the teacher has modeled and demonstrated the use of the graphic organizer and asked the students then to work alone or with a partner to complete them to demonstrate their reading comprehension, their listening comprehension, or planning for writing. We can use graphic organizers for planning, for pre-writing strategies, during writing strategies, post-writing strategies. A graphic organizer is a very flexible very adaptable tool that has power, extreme power that needs to be tapped for assessment. That is instead of the learner turning into you a completed writing sample, or a 20 item multiple choice test on a reading, they could similar similarly turn into you ah a competed graphic organizer that you could use to judge whether they understand what they read or are planning to write.
To date we have very little research. Ah very little research on self-assessment on second language learners. But what there is um suggests that self-assessment has benefits as far as increasing self-esteem, and increasing achievement, that is students begin to become independent learners, they begin to see it’s not just the teacher giving me a grade I can also track myself. I’d like to give you an example I like to give in workshops. I I I, made up this example and I don’t know why, it’s just crystal clear to me, I hope it is ah to you. Um let’s say I invite you to my house to come to a birthday party. I’m having a birthday party next week and I invite you. But I’m I’m I’m saying to you, you can come to my birthday party on 3 conditions: ah the first condition is you can’t use a map to get to my house, now I noticed you don’t know where I live. You can’t use a map to come to my house um you can’t ask anyone for directions, and you can’t read the street signs. What are the chances that you’re gonna find my house and ultimately make my party if you cannot use a map to find my house, you cannot ask for directions and you cannot read the street signs? Now if on the other hand I say ok you come to my house, here’s my directions, my they’re printed, here’s a map, you can stop and ask anyone. I want to give this as an analogy for self-assessment. Self-assessment is the part where you have to have the map, you have the feedback, you have the street signs. You you can stop and ask someone for directions and they go yep you’re goin the right way, that’s the way it is, you’re on the right path. Without without self-assessment you you don’t know which way you’re going or you know you got a bad grade on that but you don’t know why. Or you know she didn’t like that that the teacher didn’t like that, he didn’t like that, they weren’t satisfied with your work, you’re not making progress but you don’t really know why. If people if the teacher teaches you what you are suppose to be looking for, what you’re suppose to be doing for, doing in your own work, and help you set your own path to reflecting on your own work, um the self assessment component can have particular benefits for language learners. Um some of the cautions, some of the problems of self-assessment ah obviously, I think there’s at least 3 ah problems ah concerns, let’s say concerns about self-assessment for second language learners. The first concern would be language proficiency. Ah English language proficiency, ah when is an ESL student ready to engage in self assessment? And I would suggest that given the limited research we have, common sense would say um beginning students may not be able to express um their self evaluation verbally or orally. But if the teacher perhaps does some kind of a visual or manipulative kind of assessment with them or just checks for comprehension ah maybe uses ah some kind of visuals on a hand out or something beginners might be able to to work with self assessment depending on their age. If they are very young children this might not be very possible. Um I think you’d not you’d need to really get people to go into self assessment um with understanding you’d need to start working with lower to intermediate to intermediate students and advanced learners would really benefit greatly from self assessment. So the 3 concerns we have for self assessment with language learners ah would be language, English language proficiency so that it is enough for them to express their evaluation of their work. Teacher preparation, that is is the teacher ready and able and willing to engage the learners in the self assessment process. Many times teachers assume that students can’t do this, I mean if you can’t speak English what makes me think that you can assess and evaluate your own work and many times these are are are not research based they are not right so the teacher needs to overcome theses misconceptions and learn um get some tools for for guiding students in the um in a self assessment process which would begin with whole class demonstrations of reflecting student work and application of the criteria to the work. Whole class demonstrations, peer and partner activities, and then working your way to self assessment. You can’t start with self assessment on day one. You have to work with whole class demonstrations, peer and partner actives, where they look at each other’s work and give each other feedback, and now I’m ready for self assessment, now I’m reflecting on my own work after all these opportunities you’ve given me. So it’s either 3 concerns apart from English language proficiency and teacher preparation, student preparation. Is the student ready to engage in self assessment. Does the student culture promote the understanding of self assessment, if not if students come from a traditional culture or experience where the teachers are the sole evaluators, what business do I have evaluating or reflecting on my own work? I don’t feel comfortable doing this. Um teachers have to understand that students who come from culturally diverse backgrounds and even native speakers of English are going to have ah a natural resistance to the self reflection and self assessment. And so teachers will need to um teach the multi-step process to self assessment to students with patience, with guidance, with different a variety of ways for engaging the learners in self assessment so the students can see begin to see the value of self assessment. For example in portfolio design, selecting individual things to go in the portfolio, giving a rational why something is in the portfolio, what it tells about me as a reader or a writer, um or ah as a learner of geometry or chemistry or whatever it is that I’m learning. Um so I think the multiple opportunities, teacher modeling and demonstration are all of these things can help prepare the student for the self assessment process.
Self assessment is is so important to to develop independent learners. And I think um like I many second language learners will not be ready for it. And I’m not sure if I understand your question but um are you asking how (interruption) Self assessment is so critical to learning because it takes the job of assessment, the sole job of the teacher and it makes the learner a participant in the assessment process. And the learner now comes to see why and how the teacher is assessing his or her work. And so assessment is no longer a secret. You know when people go, when many of us go to college and high school, and maybe you can think of an occasion where your college professor sitting there or your high school English language arts teacher is sitting there and you’re wondering, I wonder if this teacher is an easy grader or a hard grader and I wonder if they are gonna give me a higher grade if I talk more if I’m quiet and I wonder how they grade. Or I wonder why I got a C in this class from this teacher and a B from this teacher. What self assessment does, the sharing of the evaluation criteria of the students, it takes the mystery out of the assessment and it makes it so much clearer for second language learners and thereby enabling them to take control of their learning if they wish and set a path for improvement and progress in the the learning process.
Grading. Everywhere I go, all around the country, I do workshops and the number one question is how do we grade students when you are talking about performanced based assessment and so on. All these things are wonderful but you know what ultimately we have to give our students a grade. Guess what, I have to give my teachers a grade in the university where I prepare teachers and I use only performanced based assessments. So I’ve had alittle bit of experience turning these things into grades. I’ve also done some research and attended many workshops myself on grading. Grading our native speakers of English does and don’ts and grading for second language learners. And I think there are several things to keep in mind for grading second language learners. Um the first thing is to make the criteria visible, take the mystery out of grading. Let them know what they are expected to do in writing for example to get an A, to get a B, to get a C. Um in reading comprehension what is it that I , what are the performance tasks. What kinds of skills do you want me to demonstrate to get an A, B, C, and how many times and so on. How high do I have to jump? So making the criteria visible. Um I think a something we want to avoid in grading and I’ve seen many teachers do this, you want to avoid grading on the curve. Many teachers grade on the curve and they don’t know why. It’s just that’s the way they were graded. So they figure there’s a research base to this and there is not. Grading on the curve came from um standard deviation used with large numbers of students taking standardized tests and they weren’t given the grade. Somehow a lot of university professors have taken to grading on the curve. I would say that grading on the curve is unethical and unfair. And certainly not appropriate for second language learners and ESL students. A third thing I would suggest for grading or something to avoid is avoid averaging. Many teachers have no other way to grade, they can’t conceptualize grading in any other way then, OK I’ve got these 10 scores what if I just average them and give them a grade. You can see what happens when you average scores, you erase improvements, you erase any kind of increase in learning over time if you only take the average. So I would suggest grading on, basing your grading on improvement, give an improvement grade, improvements in learning. Improvements in achievement based on physical evidence of this. One thing that a lot of teachers do is they grade based on attendance or behavior, so many teachers grade on behavior. And the problem when you, the problem when you grade on behavior and attendance is the grade tends to lose it’s meaning to the student because it doesn’t really tell you what they have learned. IT just tells you what they’re not doing. Well, he missed half a semester, I’m gonna give him an F. Well what did I learn when I was here? What do I know? Did I improve during that time, um so I think there’s a lot of things that go on with grading ah that teachers need to be very careful about. I would say the most important thing would be to to try to make the grade as fair and criterion referenced, criterion based as possible. And move away from comparing students to each other, doing norm referencing within the classroom and making grading a mystery.
Um sure. Rubrecks can have multiple, what they are rubrecks are basically the specifications of student performance for a certain task or project. Um and this is very difficult for many teachers to put into words. Teachers have an intuitive sense for what I want the student to be able to do in reading, writing, oral language, content areas, but when it comes time to put that in writing, teachers have a very difficult time getting away from judgmental language like the student did an excellent job. What’s an excellent job, what’s it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? If I’m looking at that performance would I also call it excellent? So the wording of the rubreck for teachers needs to be very much observable. And if we base our grades on observable behavior that has been specified to students, parents, and other teachers that represents our high expectations for learning on a continuum, on a scale, then we can be pretty much assured that our grading will be fair and not just based on ah my impression of the student or my like or dislike of the student. Or maybe even ah a previous knowledge that I had of the student. Now I’m forcing myself really to to look at the student’s performance. Let me give you an example from my own teaching. Um ah where I teach at Mason, at George Mason University we have a lot of teachers, teacher candidates come from other countries, from international settings. They are not native speakers of English. And yet I do not lower the standard for these people. They need to meet the same standards, the same criteria, the same rubreck that I have for the everyone else in my class, all native speakers. Now when these folks turn in their projects, if I did not use rubrecks and criterion referenced assessment and I also used something which which really helps me, which helps keep me honest and I use blind ah, blind scoring. And blind scoring means removing the person’s name from their work. I remove their name from their work and I assign them a number. Number one, number two number three. And I use a little yellow stick it and I remove the persons name. So now I go and mix them all up and I don’t know who’s is what, who’s is who’s paper. I’ll tell you honestly, many times before I started ah using performanced based assessment I would go to a paper and say, ahhh this is from that teacher from Japan and I know she doesn’t speak English very well or this person from that country and so on, so you know I’m gonna cut em some slack. Her English isn’t perfect here and and I could ig, you know I I really have a lower expectation of this person because I have prior knowledge of this person, but when I stopped when I stopped looking at names and I no longer knew the identity of the person or the cultural background and looked solely at the work itself based on my criterion referenced rubreck ah I was really surprised and amazed that my my my preconceived, my preconcepted notions, my my biases were gone. They, the rubreck would keep me honest because I would have to give this score to this paper whether you were from this background or this background. And many times I was so disappointed and so surprised to see that many native speakers of English who want to be teachers of ESL were scoring far worse on the rubreck than non native speakers of English.
Performance based assessment has, does have promise for for language minority and students and ESL students. The promise I think people have been looking for in alternative to standardized tests, I think we know what some of the problems are with standardized tests. Um and I think these are the kinds of opportunities that performance ah based assessment brings. I’m talking about things like cultural bias, like lack of relationship to instruction, when you have a standardized test that’s being given at a school system level or a state level and the students, or the teachers don’t see much of a link between that and what’s going on in instruction. Performanced based assessment can overcome that. When you, when we’re talking about linking assessment to instruction um so I think things like cultural bias, things like um cul um standardized tests assume English language proficiency that teacher made performance based assessments do not. Ah if you don’t do well on a standardized tests, people assume, it’s because you don’t know the content. They may not assume it’s because you don’t know the language. And the performance based assessment ah will never assume you know the language, it will hopefully structure it around your language proficiency. And I guess one of the ah the potential potential benefits of performanced based assessment um I think ah norm referenced assessments have limitations for English language learners that can be overcome with performanced based assessments which would be um more criterion based, criterion referenced. Looking at specific performance criteria and I think that’s um a potential benefit for, ah using performaced based assessment with language learners. Um some of the ah concerns that we might have in using performanced based assessments and I have seen some of these ah is the um ah over dependence on language. That is just because we’re using a performanced based assessment doesn’t mean it’s gonna be useful for ESL students. If the performance based assessment is very dependent on language, a lot of reading involved, lots of writing. Assuming which language proficiency um of all students in this class that in itself will not will not make a the assessment useful for for teachers or students of of English as second language. Ah so I think um ah looking at um um well I lost my train of thought.
A portfolio assessment ah, it’s amazing to me ah the the the range of knowledge that teachers have. Every like portfolios 10 years ago were like unheard of or poo pooed and so on, but now a days everybody is talking about portfolios and the thing that amazes me is that no two assessments of a portfolio assessment are the same. And so I think what we need to keep in mind is that ah if we’re going to be using portfolios we know we know the benefits of portfolios for language learners. The benefits could ne ah contextualized ah instruction and assessment that that reflects opportunities to learn ah very personalized individual feedback to the learner, visible criteria to the learner, maybe even collaborative opportunities for peer feedback on what’s going to go into my portfolio, things that are gonna go in, what they tell about me as a learner and so on a reader and writer and so on. Um I think the the the problems may arise with portfolio when the portfolio lacks a focus. And I think many teachers are doing one of three types of portfolios. I think many teachers are doing collections portfolios, it’s like a work folder. You put everything in the in the portfolio and the problem comes at the end of the year when you have a portfolio like this and you go ok now what do I do with it? And the the thing is you should have asked that before you put anything in there. What is the purpose of your assessment portfolio. The three types of portfolios I’m familiar with are collections, showcase and assessment. A collections portfolio is a collection of everything the student has done in your class. Showcase would be something where it’s got the students best work and you’re gonna share it with other teachers or maybe even the student’s parents um on portfolio night. But the assessment portfolio is the one that interests me and that would have the most benefits to language learners and to their teachers. Um the assessment portfolio has a specific purpose. Whether it’s reading strategies, whether it’s reading comprehension whether it’s writing, whether it’s writing process, whether it’s ah listening and speaking skills, whether it’s geometry, the assessment portfolio, the assessment portfolio can not be a catchall work folder. That’s the collections portfolio. So you have a very specific purpose. I would suggest the purpose be either the focus of instruction or the weakest area that the learners have. The the learners are weakest in writing, let’s have some reading and writing portfolios. Or just some writing portfolios. Um so the the you need to have a purpose you need to have a focus and you need to have visible criteria. Everything in that portfolio has to show how it’s being evaluated. What are the standards and criteria by which it’s being assessed. And finally and most importantly ah the assessment portfolio needs to have the self assessment component the the critical evaluation by the student of his or her own work and this all assumes that the teacher knows how to teach the students these these skills. Now if the students have actually had opportunities to learn how to self assess so so portfolio assessment is no, by no means an easy ah panacea to the ESL students. It’s systematic planning, it’s it’s over the long term, it’s teaching the students how to engage in self assessment, it’s setting a specific purpose and this takes a lot of teacher training and student training so that everybody’s working together for a common goal.
You know it’s amazing to me that across the United States these days there is such a heavy focus on standardized testing and ah inparticular we had ah presidents of the United States now a days and in the past who want to be known as education presidents and who have who have come before Congress and said you know we have to measure learning and measuring student learning is the only way we’re going to know what students are learning. Well let me give you an analogy. Ah so you go to the doctor, you’re feeling sick, and so let me take your temperature ten times this year. Well we’ve measured your temperature but that’s not gonna help you improve, it’s not gonna help you get better. Ah this is the problem with high stakes standardized testing. You are putting a lot of pressure on people you’re making them come to the scene, you’re making them take this test, they are sweating they are nervous. And what do they get out of it, what does the teacher get out of it, what does a school get out of it? Um I would say there is to date no research that supports the use of high stakes standardized testing to improve learning. No where do we have evidence that high stakes testing improves learning. AH I would say there is more of a political base than an academic or research base for the use of high stakes testing.
I think it’s very important for teachers to be um good consumers of assessment, informed consumers. And ah I think information is power. And so you hear things that are being said about standardized tests and you hear things being said about performanced based assessments and authentic assessments. How can you judge the value of these comments. Ah the regardless of the authority with which they are stated to authority of the source from which they come. So I would say it is very important for for all teachers, but inparticular ESL and bilingual teachers to be aware of the strengths and limitations of assessment tools. Ah because ah unless and ah until we become familiar with the strengths and limitations of standardized high stakes tests. And classroom based performance assessments and authentic assessments linked to instruction. Until we become familiar with the strengths and limitations and the ways to overcome the limitations of each type of assessments, um we will not be people, teachers who can make wise and informed choices and advocate on behalf of the students for the for the appropriate assessment tool for the specific purpose ah for which it has been designed. And so I I would suggest that people become, teachers need to become informed consumers of assessment uh and not just say, oh all standardized tests are bad or performanced based assessments authentic assessments are too subjective, too time consuming, I can’t do them. I think it’s it’s ah neat to me to think about strengths and limitations of the different kinds of assessments and ways to overcome them so that you can use them ah on a routine basis and advocate on behalf of students. The other thing that’s very important ah about high stakes testing, I’m very concerned ah about states using high stakes testing and excluding the scores of ESL students. Making the students come and take the test, suffer through the test and then excluding the scores is unethical and unnecessary. First of all these students scores should be included in the state’s assessment because if the state is not accountable for these students then they become an invisible minority and no one is accountable for them. So first of all scores of some type for he student at the state level need to be need to be forthcoming, they need to be produced, they need to be counted, they need to be there. Secondly, alternative approaches to assessment need to be devised, need to be designed, need to be accepted and used by all states so that when the ESL student is not yet ready to take the state wide test we have other assessments on the backburner. We have other assessments that show us where they are and when they will be ready and these assessments can very well be portfolio assessments. They can very well be teacher made assessments and in fact there are two states inparticualar that I have familiarity with Wisconsin and Illinois. That in these days and times are preparing alternative assessments that are teacher and classroom based for ESL students who are not yet ah ready, capable of taking the the English language based high stakes standardized test for the state. And so we need to have alternative assessments and we need for ESL students who are not taking the state wide test and we need to make sure they are counted because once we exclude those students we tend(buzzer) to forget about their needs.