I think you have to understand that in assessment there’s different types of assessment for different purposes and one type of assessment is language proficiency assessment, and that is much more language-based. And you want to look at the different functions of language and how listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all interacting to produce language proficiency. On the other hand, another very common type of assessment is academic achievement and academic achievement looks at um more of the conceptual development of students. It is content-based and very much tied to the school-wide curriculum. Um so you can differentiate between the two by selected different kinds of assessments.
How should teachers make the distinction between language proficiency and academic (Interruption) No, it’s the fact that um I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding in that whole area. That’s why um – you should really think that – in fact, language proficiency is a function of academic achievement and in one level it is hard to divorce it to, but on another level you want to make sure um for some purposes language proficiency isn’t um confounding the child’s growth in academic learning.
Testing accommodations? (Interruption) I personally do not believe there should be any kind of testing accommodations for large-scale assessment um because the – the assessment in and of itself should be broad enough in scope and should have a blueprint that really captures the full range of all students who are about to take that test. Otherwise it would not be a – um a reliable and valid indicator of what the students know. The only exception would be children who have reached um high degrees of literacy in English or at a point of transition um into regular classrooms and um might be um better achievers if in fact they’re allocated a little bit more time or if in fact their able to access a bilingual dictionary. But until that time they are quite proficient in English um accommodations are just a way of trying to retrofit an assessment system that was never designed for language minority students. Um and to me that would be inappropriate. (Interruption) Yes. (Interruption) No, I’m – I’m – I’m talking about the whole principle – if criterion reference tests were designed for Native English speakers and never took into account any unique characteristics of language minority students, and yet when it came time to take these district-wide criterion referenced tests, all of a sudden it’s mandated that language minority students after 6 months in the program have – we need some (Interruption) “Yeah, and we’ll give you some extra time” or um – “Yeah, we’ll let you sit in small groups.” Well, that wouldn’t be very helpful. (Interruption) Okay. Um an illustration of – of this principle is that if in fact we were going to Russia, we’re all becoming cosmonauts um and we went to cosmonaut school and after 6 months they wanted to see how well we’re going to do, um no matter if I was given a bilingual dictionary, if I was given more time, if I was given um my own little carousel in which to conduct my assessment, nothing would improve my chances of – of um achieving on a scientific test in Russia. But if in fact I had been and trained with the cosmonauts and I had gained some experience and I had access to research and – and – and um really been involved in a training program, after a couple years I might feel comfortable enough that you would in fact get a more valid answer of what I was going to do.
I think policy that’s implemented in the Untied States today. And I think to some extent the standard-based movement has um provoked the continuation of this practice and um what we’ve done um with our documents, the whole assessment team floor, um has tried to show that um in order to – in order to indicate that um second-language learners are indeed are approaching the attainment of ESL standards, you have to look at um several context, several settings, um several pieces of sample – uh of student work, several forms of documentation, um several different time frames, um and then make a – a decision based on multiple perspectives.
Testing remains a very political um laden area and um there’s so many tensions in schools today. And I think that was probably the – the most frictionous cause by having external testing being imposed upon teachers who are desperately trying to – to show um in – in very sound and valid ways that students are growing in terms of their language proficiencies and their academic achievement. And by having – forcing them into taking um tests that, again, are invalid and will not show useful information, um no one is to gain from that except states to say that we have an exclusionary policy. But the information gleamed um has no utilitarian purpose. So if in fact teachers need to deal with again um many different levels of assessment, um they also have to serve as advocates for those students and to explain um the different – to the different stake holders um the value of testing when it is appropriate, and um when in fact it will yield useful information, and – and when testing will not serve (tape break) the advocates for the students and not only the teachers, um but the entire school, and the school district as well and um if everyone understands um the – the value of having complementary kinds of assessments. So if there is a standardized normed reference tool, that there can be local measures, meaning district-wide um instruments as well as classroom-based assessment that will give you a composite pictures of – of what students can do.
I think all teachers are aware of the limitations of standardized normed reference tools. Um it was created to sort children, to rank children, to put them on a bell curve where only 50% of the children can ever score at a mean. Um so in, in fact, it – it’s very exclusionary in the way the data are reported and yet it does yield information reliably, not so validly, but reliably on um a large scale level that cannot be collected through other means. So if you want your – an understanding – a general, you know, parameter of where students would fit in your district in relationship to students from around the country of that general um peer group, there’s no better way of um obtaining that kind of information. And yet for second language learners um standardized tests for the most part are tremendously language dependent, um they are infused with all kinds of bias towards the American culture and don’t take into account the diversity of languages and cultures in our nation. As I said before, they’ve been sampled on children who have not um – who have not received any kind of support services. They’ve been normed, they’ve been piloted, they’ve been validated on the same small, um quite homogenous group of students that might reflect the census of 1990, but now we’re approaching the new millennium. And so um I think again, teachers have to understand that um although there is a tremendous amount of bias and the information for the most part is – is very stilted, um it does give us a glimpse and – and that’s why, as I’ve mentioned before, it – it’s critical to um use multiple data sources in making any kind of assessment decision.
I think alternative assessment is more then a potential in language minority students. I think it’s a main thoroughfare for having them um express um their language and academic growth over time.
There are many different forms of performance assessment, um some is more authentic then others. Some rely on single activity. Some are multiple faceted. Some um are based on tasks. Some are more extensive and use projects or themes. Um, some take 5 minutes; others take um 4 years, as in a high school. And portfolios is one way irrespective of how you approach assessment and instruction, of being able to collect student work in a systematic way over time that you can um dove tail with very documentation forms and hopefully some kind of student self-assessment in order to get um a very thorough picture or portrayal of that student’s accomplishments um over a semester or over a year, um whereas other forms of alternative assessment um will give you just – um the status of that child that point – point in time, if you use portfolios as an alternate assessment tool, it will um allow you to – to see um again, um progress over time and through um a collection that has been purposely um planned and um documented and analyzed and reported in uniform ways.
There’s many different forms of reliability. If in fact um teachers within a school are all using the same kind of documentation form – and by this I’m referring to the rubric, some way of um collecting data, uh then teachers need time to sit together along with student samples to um self assess um their interpretation of how students are performing and um to use those rubrics not only to interpret student work, but to interpret what they do as teachers and how they, in fact, can move from assessment to evaluation of students.
Um validity is um the measure – again, there’s many forms of validity. Um by it’s very nature, alternative assessment is valid because its contents are more geared to what happens in classrooms and are anchored to um instruction and the curriculum, and hopefully standards as well. Um it may not have um predicted validity. We don’t know, but I would say you have more of an understanding of the whole child and what that child can do then a number on a test or a letter on a report card. So in that sense it’s very valid because it’s a – a true um picture of who the student is.
Um, many teachers have a dilemma when it comes to grading, and by grading I mean that you’re moving from assessment to evaluation. You’re – you’re judging the child based on the evidence that you have before you, whether that evidence has been gathered from a test, or from student samples, or from conferencing um again using multiple approaches of – of gathering that data. And the – the fairest way is to base it – especially in a standards-based system, is to have it referenced back to those standards. And if in fact you are using ESL standards or you’re using ESL standards in conjunction with other content standards, that your evaluation is based on those performance indicators, or those performance standards um that have been measured over the course of that year. And um – so you have again, um lots of different um samples and that, although I know teachers are very much in the dilemma of having to use a grade, if in fact you’re using criteria that our performance-based that could be aligned directly with the standards, and you’re using some documentation form like a rubric that, again, might reiterate the – the descriptors that you see in the standards or have more task-specific criteria that those two um pieces of information merge and if in fact you need to assign a letter a letter or a number or some form – summary grade, that it is again, anchored to those specific criteria on which you’ve based both instruction and assessment, and it isn’t just an average of numbers that you’ve accumulated over the 9 weeks.
In terms of fair grading, I think you have to evaluate the student for his or hole – her own worth and – and document the progress that that child has made in relation to where he started and where he’s suppose to be. Um and that doesn’t mean to um elevate grades unduly or not to elevate grades because they – they haven’t reached parity with their native English-speaking peers yet, but again, um that – that the grading per say should be criterion referenced against that own – that – that student and the criteria, and not with other students.
Do it often. (Interruption) Oh, I’m sorry. (Interruption) Um, one reminder that assessment is ongoing. It just doesn’t happen at the end of a marking period and so um to – I would encourage all teachers to be aware of incorporating assessment um throughout there days and enjoy it.
Mandy Marvel: Bernhardt, Burns, Ricento, Gottlieb, Malone