• The best criterion to determine readiness to meaningfully participate in an English-language assessment is level of English literacy, rather than years in English-only instruction (or native-language instruction) or other background characteristics. This is because years in English-only instruction may not accurately predict English literacy, given variation in language acquisition due to individual factors and home, school, and community linguistic contexts.
  • A measure of proficiency should not be limited to oral language proficiency, because such a measure is not sufficient to determine whether an English-language learner can meaningfully participate in a written assessment.
  • Implementation of an approach that tailors testing to a student's English literacy level would require the development, validation, and adoption of a standard procedure to determine levels of English literacy. An empirically determined threshold level would indicate that the student could take the standard English assessment. Similar thresholds could be established for modified versions of the standard English assessment. An alternative would be to use current scores, including literacy subtests of language proficiency tests or reading/language arts scores on standardized achievement tests or other assessments.
  • When a test is available in multiple languages, and when testing a student proficient in two or more languages for which the test is available, the student's relative language proficiencies should be determined, and the test generally should be administered in the test taker's most proficient language—unless the test is designed to determine proficiency in a certain language (American Educational Research Association et al., 1998).
  • Generally, decisions about the language of assessment should take into account how much instruction in the native language students have received in the specific content to be assessed, i.e., reading or math (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996). However, because of the complexity of deciding which English-language learners are most appropriately assessed in their native language,7 this decision might be left up

7  

For example, most native speakers of other languages (even Spanish) are not instructed in their native language. Even students instructed in bilingual programs receive more instruction in English. Thus an assessment in the native language may not be appropriate for these students. For students who have recently arrived in the United States and have received most of their instruction in a language other than English, it would be more accurate to assess their subject-matter knowledge (e.g., math, science) in their native language.



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