ASSESSMENT OF YOUNG ENGLISH
LANGUAGE LEARNERS IN ARIZONA:
QUESTIONING THE VALIDITY OF THE STATE MEASURE
OF ENGLISH PROFICIENCY
Young English language learners generally considered to be between 0 – 8 years. Currently, one in four school children in Arizona has a foreign-born parent (Capps et al., 2005), and many of these children learn English as a second language.
Assessing the development of ELLs (English language learners) demands an understanding of their linguistic and cognitive development, as well as the social and cultural contexts that they are raised. Although many young ELLs have immigrant parents, the majority ofthese students are native born US citizens and have been legally granted the same rights to have education as their native English-speaking peers.
Several skills and abilities of young children are assessed in early education programs, including preschool and the first few elementary school years.Moreover, there are four purposes for assessing young children, those are:
a) to increase children’s learning and development,
b) to identify children’s weaknesses and strongnesses,
c) to control children’s learning progress,
d) to assess academic achievement of students, teachers, and schools accountable.
Several domains of development which is assessed during the early childhood years.These include cognitive or intellectual, linguistic, socioemotional or behavioral, and daily liveskills such as listening and speaking.Educational settings are primarily concerned, however, with thecognitive, academic, andlinguistic development of children.Language is the key distinguishing feature for English language learners. Therefore, assessments of language in elementary school settings to determine oral English proficiency, to determine first- and second-language vocabulary skills, to predict literacy performance , and finally to identify and place students into programs including special education(Garcia, McKoon, & August, 2006). In 2004-2005 school year, Arizona’s procedures for reclassifying English language learners (ELLs) to non-ELL status were based on multiple measures related to student language proficiency and academic achievement. In that year, Arizona adopted the Stanford English Language Proficiency Test (SELP1), a measure that provides an indication of language proficiency but not academic achievement, and began using it as the only criterion to reclassify ELLs to English proficient status.
There are some priciple as a collaborative effort of assessment:
1. Assessment instruments and procedures should be used for appropriate purposes. Assessments should be used to support learning such as evaluation and accountability purposes, ELLs also should be included in assessments and provided with appropriate tests and accommodations.
2. Assessments should be linguistically and culturally appropriate. Thismeans assessment tools and procedures should be aligned with cultural and linguistic characteristics of the child.
3. The primary purpose of assessment should improve the learning. Theassessment of student outcomes using appropriate tools and procedures should be linked to classroom processes.
4. Caution should be used when developing and interpreting standardizedformal assessments. Standardized assessments are used for at least three purposes, these are to determine program which is qualified, to monitor and improve learning, and for accountabilitypurposes.
5. Families should take critical roles in the assessment process. Parents have the right to be included in making decision process about the educational placement for their child. The process and results of assessment should be explained toparents in a way which is meaningful and understandable.
Moreover, for the Future Directions for Practice in Arizona, there are three ways in which students will be able to engage assessment to this end.
1. The students needs more tests that is developed especially for Englishlanguage learners. This will require assessment tools, procedures, and factor analytic structures are aligned with cultural and linguistic characteristics of ELL children.
2. It is about conceptual and empirical work on student assessment movebeyond the student level. The majority of the present discussion reflects to the extant literature which has focused on the assessment of processes and outcomes within the student—assessing language and academic learning. With this knowledge base teachers and schools are expected to adjust aspects of the environment to improve learning. It has become clear that processes outside the student include the classroom (such as teacher-student interactions, peer to peer interactions), the home (such as frequency of words spoken, amount of books), and within the school (such as language instruction policies.
3. As the population of young English language learners continues to grow, more serious psychometric work is needed so to make better serve these students in ways in which they will profit from the “right” to be assessed reliably and validly so they might be served effectively.
By: Nikita Nurul Milati