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Assessing ELLs who are not Performing at Grade Level

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1 Assessing ELLs who are not Performing at Grade Level
Leandra Jack Stephen Eidick Vivian (Yen-Wen) Chen

2 What is Assessment? Using different techniques and strategies to enable a student to demonstrate what he or she knows (Eckes & Law, 2007). A method of evaluating the performance of a student (Eckes & Law, 2007).

3 What are Standards? Performance and content standards help to set goals and expectations for curriculum, teaching and learning(Wolf, Herman, & Dietel, 2010). To optimize ELL learning and performance, standards and assessment must correlate (Wolf et al., 2010).

4 Why Assess ELLs? They are the fastest growing group of students in America (Wolf et al., 2010). With the ELL population increasing with each year, teachers need proper methods to assess their students correctly (Wolf et al., 2010).

5 Why Assess ELLs? Initial assessment may help to determine the language level and academic background of the students so teachers can develop lessons that are challenging yet achievable for ELL students (Wolf et al., 2008). Teachers need to get an understanding of the content the student was taught where they previously attended school (Eckes & Law, 2007).

6 Why Assess ELLs? Ongoing assessment can determine how effective lesson plans and teaching techniques are to see whether modifications need to be made. This also helps in monitoring the students’ progress (Alberta Education, 2007).

7 Why Assess ELLs? Assessment may also identify diversified learning groups. If a teacher notices that a student is mastering the material and could be working on more challenging curriculum, teachers should enhance their instruction so they are not holding them back.

8 Why Assess ELLs? Assessment may help to identify the disparity between the student’s academic potential and the achievement levels they are attaining as a result of learning a new language (Eckes & Law, 2007). Assessment can play an important role in determining when students are able to transfer to mainstream classrooms (Wolf, Fransworth & Herman, 2008).

9 Reasons Students’ may be Performing Below Grade Level
Test performance may be deterred by the language barrier and may not accurately demonstrate the knowledge of the student (Eckes & Law, 2007). If the student doesn’t understand the academic language, incorrect judgements can be made of the student’s academic potential (Wolf et al., 2008).

10 Reasons Students may be Performing Below Grade Level
Proper assessments must be made in order to clarify the reason an ELL student may be performing below grade level (Wolf et al., 2010). Assessments need to be done in order to find out whether the student was struggling in their native language (Wolf et al., 2008).

11 Valid Assessments It is important to ensure that assessments are valid and test content using language appropriate questions. Questions should be modified to make them easier to understand while still testing the same learner’s expectation. Biased items should be removed or changed (Eckes & Law, 2007).

12 Valid Assessments In order for an assessment to be valid, it must properly measure a student’s potential, strengths, weaknesses, skills and abilities. Assessment should be done during optimum performance times which would be before students are exhausted from the additional stress and fatigue related to learning a new language and culture (Eckes & Law, 2007).

13 Valid Assessment Teachers could assess students’ understanding by frequently Giving simple directions to follow. Asking yes or no questions. Asking questions requiring only a one word answer. Providing only two options for answering a question. (Eckes & Law, 2007).

14 Cultural Awareness Teachers need to have cultural awareness when assessing their students. ELL students can come from different political, social and cultural backgrounds where things are done very differently. ELL students may have had different expectations and methodologies at previous schools (Eckes & Law, 2007).

15 Cultural Awareness In order for a teacher to properly assess these students, they also need to educate themselves on the students’ backgrounds (Eckes & Law, 2007). Something to keep in mind is the student’s body language or the use of eye contact. Even these gestures can lead teachers to incorrectly assess an ELL. (Eckes & Law, 2007).

16 Enhancing ELL Instruction
Provide ELL students with a seat at the front of the class -This will ensure that the ELL student is able to hear the teacher clearly and see the board free of obstruction. Give ELL students more time to work on written assignments -This will take pressure off of them to work quickly giving them time to form better and more accurate responses. (Alberta Education, 2007)

17 Enhancing ELL Instruction
Create visually engaging lessons Teachers can use pictures, props, objects and gestures to clarify comprehension. This can also be used as a method of assessment. Support group work and study buddies - Providing students with an opportunity to interact with their peers will help them to establish friendships. This may also increase the students’ sense of belonging and desire to learn to speak English. (Alberta Education, 2007)

18 Enhancing ELL Instruction
Use a wide range of learning styles -Not all students learn the same way so teachers should incorporate different learning styles into their lessons. Teachers should get their ELL students to actively participate where possible (Alberta Education, 2007). All of these will provide the teacher with ongoing opportunities to assess students in a manner other than formalized testing.

19 Oral Assessment

20 Oral Assessment 1) Observation of Process 2) Observation of Product

21 Observation of Process
Observation of Process: The non-formal observation of students while learning happens. As students read, write, work out math problems, conduct experiments, collaborate on projects, or work alone, teachers have the opportunity to respond, react, intervene or participate in learning. This allows teachers to gain a better understanding of their students’ actual knowledge, skills and attitudes. For a struggling learner, this kind of observation helps teachers identify some of the communication road blocks that may be present in the classroom.

22 Observation of Process
Observation allows teachers to discover how students are doing with both the content matter and language skills, outside of the high stress atmosphere of formal assessment. When observing students, teachers should identify 5 specific categories: 1) Strategies students use as they read, write and speak. 2) Level of explicit understanding they have of the process they can and should use when reading, writing, and communicating. 3) Attitudes towards, reading, writing, conversation, and English language. 4) Students’ interests and backgrounds. 5) Control over language and its use in many contexts.

23 Observation of Product
Observation of Product is a more formal evaluation and requires students to prepare, practice and be evaluated. Like written assessments, this can be accomplished in multiple ways, settings, and difficultly levels. This type of evaluation allows struggling students to communicate their content knowledge outside of the traditional written assignments.

24 Observation of Product
Formal oral assessment allows teachers to better understand a student’s content knowledge even if their written communication is not adequate. The biggest criticism of oral assessment is that it often lacks validity and reliability. This is most often due to a lack of criteria followed by teachers when implementing and creating an oral assessment (Wolf et al., 2008). A growing amount of research has been undertaken to develop better criteria for teachers to adapt oral assessments to their classrooms (Baba & Ishii, 2003). Ishii and Baba (2003) have complied much of this research to develop an easy to use 5 stage criteria for teachers.

25 Stage #1- Identification of Course Objectives
Guiding Questions: In what contexts will the learners speak the target language? What kinds of speech are present in the above context? Which kinds of speech take priority among the participants? (Baba & Ishii, 2003)

26 Stage #1- Identification of Course Objectives
Oral assessment should reflect the knowledge and outcomes according to curriculum and institutional guidelines. It should also take into account the type of speech the learner is wanting to develop (Baba & Ishii, 2003) For example, if the student is older and needs help with formal language, the assessment could be a mock job interview where formal language is needed. If the student is in middle school and needs practice with conversational English, a task based around a T.V. interview with a important figure in history may be appropriate.

27 Stage #2-Identification of Skills, Strategies, Tasks, and Content
Guiding questions: What abilities, skills or strategies are necessary for the students to perform well in the target speech contexts? What kind of tasks may be used to assess these skills? Are the tasks too difficult or too easy for the learners? What topics or content will be used in the tasks? Are there any biases? (Baba & Ishii, 2003)

28 Stage #2-Identification of Skills, Strategies, Tasks, and Content
The second stage asks teachers to identify the specific abilities and skills that will be assessed in the task. The type of task should be chosen based on its ability to easily assess these skills. It is important to be aware that some tasks cater better to certain learning styles, personalities and ethnic backgrounds. Teachers should be actively reducing these biases while creating their oral assessments. (Baba & Ishii, 2003)

29 Stage #3- Design of Rating Procedures
Guiding questions: Who will assess the learners performance? Do the learners know how they will be assessed on the task? In what conditions will the task be performed? (Baba & Ishii, 2003, p. 96)

30 Stage #3- Design of Rating Procedures
The teacher does not have to be the only assessor. Other teachers, parents, family members or peers may also be involved. Self evaluation is also important to help students manage their own learning and foster metacognitive skills. Making sure that students understand the criteria and have ample opportunity to prepare and practice is essential. You do not have to restrict the conditions of the task to the classroom. Doing the assessment at home, or off school grounds through a tape recorder or a video recorder may allow the learner to feel more comfortable and confident with the task. (Baba & Ishii, 2003)

31 Stage #4- Interpretation of Learner Performance
Guiding questions: Is the performance assessed with the target abilities in mind? How are the results simplified for administrative purposes? What types and how much feedback should be provided to the learners? (Baba & Ishii, 2003, p. 96)

32 Stage #4- Interpretation of Learner Performance
The grade should only address the specific skills and abilities laid out in stage #2. If the rating reflects skills and abilities other then these, it will need to be revised. Communicating the results of the assessment should be meaningful and beneficial for the learner. It is recommended that teachers use many different types of feedback (e.g. audiotaped comments, written feedback, personal discussions, etc.) to communicate results. It is important that the results of the assessment are clear and organized so that administrators and parents can see the growth and development of the skills and abilities the task was meant to assess. (Baba & Ishii, 2003)

33 Stage #5- Reflection on the Impact of the Assessment Procedures
Guiding Questions: Were the procedures and results of the assessment meaningful for both the instructors and learners? Will the administration of the assessment itself change your teaching and learning in a positive way? (Baba & Ishii, 2003, p. 96)

34 Stage #5- Reflection on the Impact of the Assessment Procedures
It is important to determine how the learner felt about the assessment. Did they feel it helped them accomplish their own language goals? Did they feel it benefited their learning? Did they feel it was fairly graded? For students, this final reflection should produce a greater understanding of the grading process for a successful oral presentation. It will also allow them to reflect on the progress they have made. For teachers, final reflection will determine if and where they need to change their own instruction. The results may show that students need more opportunity to take risks with new vocabulary, pronunciation or ways of speaking. Or it may show that students need more practice with polished error- free speech. (Baba & Ishii, 2003)

35 Strategies for Assessing WRITTEN SKILLS of ELLs who are not Performing at Grade Level

36 Strategies for Reading and Writing Skills
Assessment for ELLs should focus on meaning and comprehension rather than language errors. Context-dependent (grammar lessons vs. informal writing) Clarify meaning (by meeting with students or a writing conference) Comprehend not retell reading passages (Eckes & Law, 2007)

37 Strategies for Reading and Writing Skills
Use a variety of assessment methods in different contexts and provide students with constructive feedback. Process and product are equally important. Reading and writing for different purposes and functions. Support and provide students with the opportunity to correct their mistakes. Let students know explicitly what they need to work on as well as what they did well on (Eckes & Law, 2007).

38 Strategies for Reading and Writing Skills
Show examples of good work. Explain to students how they will be graded and involve students in developing criteria. Writing examples, sentence starters, framework, etc. Read-Aloud, guided reading (Eckes & Law, 2007).

39 Strategies for Reading and Writing Skills
Use reading and writing portfolios as ongoing assessments, as well as for students to track their own learning progress. Focus on what students CAN do instead of what they cannot do. Make students aware of their own progress (Eckes & Law, 2007).

40 Strategies for Reading and Writing Skills
Adapt tests and test administration. Extended time for writing and reading responses. Scribe. Tape record reading passages (Eckes & Law, 2007, Baba & Ishii, 2003)

41 Strategies for assessing ELLs who are not performing at grade level
Positive attitudes as teachers! Focus on students’ capability not inability (Eckes & Law, 2007)!

42 Thank you for your attention! Any questions or comments?

43 References Alberta Education, Learning and Teaching Resources Branch. (2007). English as a Second Language (ESL): Guide to implementation kindergarten to grade 9. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Education. Baba, K., Ishii, D. (2003) Locally developed oral skills evaluation in ESL/EFL classrooms: A checklist for developing meaningful assessment procedures. TESL Canada Journal, 21(1), Claire, E. (1988).  ESL teacher's activities kit. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice Hall. Eckes, M., & Law, B. (2007). Assessment and ESL: An alternative approach (2nd ed.). Winnipeg, MB: Portage & Main Press. Wolf, M., Herman, J. L., & Dietel, R. (2010, Spring). Improving the validity of English Language Learner assessment systems (CRESST Policy Brief 10). Retrieved from the ERIC website: Wolf, M., Farnsworth, T., & Herman, J. (2008). Validity issues in assessing English Language Learners' language proficiency. Educational Assessment, 13,

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