(National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1997; Olson and Goldstein, 1997) covers several areas:

Use of native-language assessments. Assessments can be developed in languages other than English, a strategy under active investigation. New York state, for example, will offer three of its four core subject Regents examinations in five languages in addition to English (Spanish, Haitian-Creole, Russian, Chinese, and Korean); the English exam must be taken in English.

A number of technical difficulties arise in attempting to create a comparable test in another language. Difficulties include "problems of regional and dialect difference, nonequivalence of vocabulary difficulty between the two languages, problems of incomplete language development and lack of literacy development in students' primary languages, and the extreme difficulty of defining a 'bilingual' equating sample (each new definition of a bilingual sample will demand a new statistical equating). Minimally, back-translation should be done to determine equivalent meaning, and ideally, psychometric validation should be undertaken as well" (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1997:121).

Results of a recent NAEP field test of mathematics items illustrates the challenge of using native-language assessments (Anderson et al., 1996). "Spanish-language items were translations of English-version items. This research found substantial psychometric discrepancies in students' performance on the same test items across both languages, leading to the conclusion that the Spanish and English versions of many test items were not measuring the same underlying mathematical knowledge. This result may be attributable to a lack of equivalence between original and translated versions of test items and needs further investigation" (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1997:122).

Implementation of non-English-language achievement tests as part of assessment systems needs to be accompanied by research establishing the validity and reliability of such assessments and their comparability to scores on related assessments in English.

Decreasing the English-language load through modification of items or instructions. This is difficult to do and research thus far is limited. "While some experts recommend reducing nonessential details and simplifying grammatical structures (Short, 1991), others claim that simplifying the



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement