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The assessment of English Language Learners is crucial. However, it raises a number of issues surrounding the validity and reliability of the assessment tool being used.

According to the NAEYC, “All young children have the right to be assessed in ways that support their learning and development. For children whose home language is not English, this means being assessed in culturally and linguistically responsive ways.”

Keeping this in mind, a number of obstacles can cause these assessment practices and policies to be ineffective. The NAEYC has set forth five (5) recommendations and indicators that help guide the assessment process of ELL students. As advocates for our English language learners, it is our responsibility to ensure that the assessments we are using are both valid and reliable.

To prepare for this assignment, download and read the?NAEYC Position Statement?on?Screening and Assessment of Young English-Language Learners BELOW

?For this assignment, download and complete the template below.?

Adopted Summer 2005NAEYC Recommendations

Copyright ? 2005 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.

1

Screening and Assessment of
Young English-Language Learners

Supplement to the NAEYC and NAECS/SDE Joint Position Statement on

Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

1 Although all young children are language learners, we use the
term English-language learner to describe young children
whose home language is not English, because this is the term
used in research and in public policy to describe children
learning English as a second language. Many of the issues
discussed in this document are relevant for children learning a
second language other than English. They are also relevant to
trilingual or multilingual young children.

Adopted Summer 2005

naeyc

Introduction

The National Association for the Education of Young
Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early
Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Educa-
tion (NAECS/SDE) in 2003 published the joint position
statement ?Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment,
and Program Evaluation: Building an Effective, Account-
able System in Programs for Children Birth through Age
8.? The position statement explains what effective
assessment looks like for all young children.

One of the indicators of good assessment is that it is
linguistically and culturally responsive for all children,
including children whose home language is not English.
The aim of this document, which was requested by
experts in the field, is to explain and expand on the
meaning of ?linguistically and culturally responsive?
and to make specific recommendations so that all young
English-language learners1 will have the benefit of appro-
priate, effective assessment. All aspects of the full posi-
tion statement are relevant for young English-language
learners, and readers of this document should first read
the curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation
position statement, bearing in mind that this document
serves as a supplement to the full position statement.

This supplement is intended for a range of audiences
in the early childhood profession who have a stake in

the well-being of young English-language learners. It is
hoped that readers will use this document to articulate
their own philosophies, needs, and challenges in this
area; to create or revise policies and practices; to guide
the development of more resources; and to develop a
forward-looking vision of how to improve the develop-
ment and education of young English-language learners.

Why now?

A number of factors make the need for this document
especially urgent, not the least of which is the dramatic
rise in ethnic diversity in the United States. Citizens
from diverse racial and ethnic groups now comprise
about one-third of the U.S. population. Hispanics are the
largest minority population; there are approximately 40
million people of Hispanic origin living in the United
States. Although Spanish accounts for almost 80 percent
of the non-English languages, more than 460 languages
are spoken by English-language learners nationwide.

Because early childhood professionals are serving so
many more young English-language learners, there is a
great need for appropriate and effective assessment to
support these children?s learning and development. The
field lacks the assessment tools and well-trained profes-
sionals required to implement effective assessment prac-
tices for this group. Without appropriate ways to assess
young English-language learners, teachers cannot make
the best decisions about how and what to teach. The
lack of good tools and practices can lead to underidenti-
fication of children who have special needs, resulting in
the failure to provide needed services. Simultaneously,
problems with the assessment of young English-
language learners sometimes lead to overidentification
of special needs?that is, misdiagnosing language delays

Adopted Summer 2005NAEYC Recommendations

Copyright ? 2005 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.

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and other disabilities?resulting in children being taken
out of the classroom to receive services they do not
need. Compounding these difficulties are the enduring
danger, stigma, and frustration that result when chil-
dren are mislabeled. For these and other reasons, it is
critical that the early childhood field improve its ability
to screen, assess, and effectively use the results of as-
sessments with young English-language learners.

The right to be assessed

Young English-language learners in the United States
have the right to experience ongoing, effective assess-
ment that supports their learning and development.
Through individual assessments, teachers can appreci-
ate children?s unique qualities and talents and individu-
alize instruction; make decisions about classroom ac-
tivities; identify children who might benefit from special
services; and have more informed communication with
families and with other professionals. Through program
evaluation and accountability assessments, decision
makers can make improvements in programs and ser-
vices that benefit children. Young English-language
learners have the right to be assessed for the same
reasons and benefits as all children. Moreover, they
have the right to be assessed with high-quality assess-
ments and under assessment conditions responsive to
their needs. NAEYC?s belief in the right of children to be
assessed stems from research and professional values. 2

Acknowledging the challenges

Because assessment is key in determining effective prac-
tices and enhancing program quality, it is of great con-
cern when real-world obstacles stand in the way. The
biggest challenge is the scarcity of appropriate assess-
ments to use with young English-language learners.
Other obstacles include difficulty attracting and retain-
ing bilingual and bicultural staff, lack of financial re-
sources, lack of articulated program philosophies about
English-language learners, lack of community awareness
about the importance of the issue, and lack of profes-
sional development opportunities, to name a few.

These conditions make it difficult to implement
recommendations or improve policies and practices for
the assessment of young English-language learners.

NAEYC recognizes the gap between realities faced in the
field and the vision conveyed in these recommenda-
tions. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the recommenda-
tions will help policy makers, program administrators
and supervisors, assessment specialists, advocates, and
practitioners know what to strive for and how to create
environments for improved assessment of young
English-language learners.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND INDICATORS

1. Using Screening and Assessment
for Appropriate Purposes

RECOMMENDATION

As with assessment of all young children, assessment of
young English-language learners should be guided by specific,
beneficial purposes, with appropriate adaptations to meet the
needs of children whose home language is not English.

Assessment of young children should occur for
specific and beneficial purposes. The purpose of each
assessment must be clear to those conducting assess-
ments and others who review and use the results, and
results should be used only for the purpose for which
the assessment was designed. Because so few appropri-
ate assessments for young English-language learners are
available, this caution is especially pertinent in the
assessment of these children.

INDICATORS

1a. Screening: Young English-language learners are regularly
screened using linguistically and culturally appropriate
screening tools. Results of screenings are used to determine
what further supports and services are needed.

As with all children, young English-language learners
should receive regular screenings. The screenings
should be used with two ends in mind: (a) to detect a
possible problem in areas including health and physical
development, social and emotional development, and
cognitive development and (b) to detect a possible
problem in the area of language development, including
first- and second-language acquisition.

What should differentiate screening of young English-
language learners from the screening of monolingual
English-speaking children are the tools used and the

2 It is important to be aware of federal, state, and local laws,
regulations, and rules as well as case law guiding the provi-
sion of education, including for immigrant children.

Adopted Summer 2005NAEYC Recommendations

Copyright ? 2005 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.

3

patterns of follow-up after the screenings. Screenings
should use linguistically and culturally appropriate
tools that meet appropriate technical standards. Screen-
ings should occur in the child?s home language and
English, if the child speaks some English, and screeners
should accept a child?s use of code-switching (i.e., using
words and grammar rules from both languages).

Follow-up after screening is critical. If a potential
problem is detected, further in-depth assessment with
specialists should be scheduled to determine whether
the problem exists, and if so, how best to address it.
Because young English-language learners show variable
paths to language development and because there is
limited research on expected levels of language profi-
ciency, it can be difficult to interpret the results of
language screening for individual children. When results
are unclear or follow-up is needed, it is important to
involve specialists who can communicate in the child?s
home language and have expertise in the relevant areas
of diagnostic assessment.

1b. Assessment to promote learning: Assessments of young
English-language learners are used primarily to understand
and improve children?s learning; to track, monitor, and
support development in all areas, including language develop-
ment; and to identify disabilities or other special needs.

As with all young children, assessment of young
English-language learners should be used primarily to
understand and promote a child?s learning and develop-
ment as well as to respond to concerns raised by
screenings. Specifically, assessment of young English-
language learners should be used to (a) guide curricu-
lum planning, teaching strategies, and the provision of
learning opportunities in all areas; (b) monitor develop-
ment and learning in all domains?including children?s
content knowledge, skills, and capabilities; (c) deter-
mine language proficiency and ongoing language
development in both the child?s home language and
English, as appropriate; and (d) identify children with
developmental disabilities or delays, emotional impair-
ments, physical disabilities, and other conditions that
indicate the need for special services.

1c. Program evaluation and accountability: Young English-
language learners are included in program evaluation and
accountability systems, and culturally and linguistically
appropriate assessment instruments and procedures are
used. Inclusion of English-language learners in accountability
systems never acts as a disincentive for programs to serve
English-language learners.

As noted earlier, young English-language learners
have the right to be assessed for all of the reasons all
young children are assessed and should be included in
program evaluations and tracking systems so their
progress as a group may be monitored and services
improved. 3 Every effort should be made to find appro-
priate instruments so that these children can be in-
cluded. At present, very few assessments used with
young English-language learners meet the rigorous stan-
dards necessary for use as part of program evaluation
and accountability. When appropriate assessment in-
struments and procedures are not available for children
who are not proficient in English, these children should
not be included in program evaluation or accountability
procedures, but test developers, program administra-
tors, and policy makers should rapidly work to find
ways to include them by developing or supporting the
development of appropriate assessments.

In large-scale accountability systems, assessments
typically rely on standardized formal instruments. In
addition to developing more appropriate and effective
standardized formal instruments, policy makers and
educators should proactively seek ways to include
English-language learners? results from other types of
assessments, such as observation-based assessments.

It is important to ensure that the inclusion of young
English-language learners in accountability systems
does not discourage programs from serving these
children. Administrators who fear that results will
reflect negatively on their program might limit or even
deny services to these children. Policy makers should
use assessment information to create incentives for
programs to serve and promote progress in the devel-
opment of young English-language learners.

Program evaluation requires that information be
gathered from large numbers of children. Sampling
(assessing only a representative percentage of children)
is the most efficient and effective means of capturing
data for accountability purposes in a way that is both
scientifically rigorous and sensitive to program needs.
Administrators and policy makers should include
enough English-language learners in their sampling
plans to permit conclusions to be reached about the
effectiveness of strategies used with young English-
language learners and the programs serving them.

3 Assessment procedures for accountability purposes?because
they are not designed or used to guide instruction or improve
programs?do not directly benefit young children, and the
results should never be the sole determinant of any decision
made for an individual child, whatever the child?s language,
culture, or other characteristics.

Adopted Summer 2005NAEYC Recommendations

Copyright ? 2005 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.

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2. Culturally and Linguistically
Appropriate Assessments

RECOMMENDATION

In assessing young English-language learners, great empha-
sis should be given to the alignment of assessment tools and
procedures with the specific cultural and linguistic character-
istics of the children being assessed.

One of the indicators of effective assessments is that
?assessments are designed for and validated for use
with children whose . . . cultures [and] home languages
. . . are similar to those of the children with whom the
assessments will be used? (NAEYC & NAECS/SDE 2003,
2). In other words, assessments should be culturally
and linguistically responsive and appropriate.

INDICATORS

2a. All screenings and assessments used with young English-
language learners are culturally appropriate.

Culturally responsive and appropriate assessments
are those that occur in settings that embrace diversity
and demonstrate esteem for a child?s home culture; are
administered by bicultural professionals who are
knowledgeable about the values and norms (especially
norms pertaining to interactions) of the child?s home
culture; do not include inappropriate referents to
objects or words that are either unfamiliar to the child
or may carry a different meaning than the one intended;
and are interpreted in the context of the child?s cultural
and social history.

The term culture includes ethnicity, racial identity,
economic class, family structure, language, and reli-
gious and political beliefs. Each of these aspects of a
child?s identity, heritage, and experience profoundly
influence the child?s development and relationship with
the world. Every child deserves learning and assess-
ment environments that are welcoming and responsive
to her or his culture. Programs should create environ-
ments that respect diversity and incorporate elements
of children?s home languages and cultures. Teachers
should encourage children to share family values and
traditions and to communicate in their home language
as well as English. Teachers who speak a child?s home
language should use it, as well as English, to communi-
cate with the child.

Adults involved in conducting and interpreting
assessments must be aware of how cultural values may
affect young children?s behavior and performance on
assessments. Culturally shaped expectations affect
young children?s ideas about interactive behaviors,
such as when they are supposed to talk, to whom they

should talk, and what kind of language to use in various
contexts. These factors affect performance during
assessments, especially standardized formal assess-
ments in which a child may not know the person
conducting the assessment. Those assessing should
make a point of knowing about a child?s culture and
community so they will understand children?s behaviors
and interpret responses accordingly.

Before being accepted as culturally appropriate, an
assessment should be carefully examined by bilingual,
bicultural professionals familiar with the culture and
community in question to ensure the assessment is
culturally appropriate. Culturally appropriate assess-
ments do not contain any inappropriate referents, such
as words and objects that would be unfamiliar or have
an unintended meaning for a child. Differences in
connotation can result in confusion, frustration, and
misunderstood responses on the part of the child.
If the individual conducting an assessment is not
familiar with a child?s culture, a cultural guide (a
qualified representative of the child?s cultural and
linguistic group who can serve as a broker or mediator)
should assist in the assessment process, including the
interpretation of results. Interpretations of assessment
results should be made only in the context of a child?s
language history and cultural background.

2b. All screenings and assessments used with young English-
language learners are linguistically appropriate.

Beyond simply translating materials into another
language, linguistically appropriate assessment takes
into account a child?s language history, proficiency, and
dominance and preference, where applicable; has
alignment between the goal of the assessment and the
language(s) used to assess; is administered by a bilin-
gual person fluent in the language of the assessment;
and allows for flexibility in the child?s language of
response (except when assessing for proficiency in a
given language). Because of these challenges, it is
important to include curriculum-embedded, observa-
tional assessments and other methods that place less
reliance on children?s production or comprehension of
language as a key part of the assessment. However, to
some degree all assessments are measures of language,
and the issues noted below are important to keep in
mind no matter what the assessment purpose or
approach.

Language history and proficiency. Planning for
assessment of young English-language learners should
begin with gathering information about the child?s and
family?s history with language. The information should
include the language the family primarily speaks at
home and in the community, other languages spoken in

Adopted Summer 2005NAEYC Recommendations

Copyright ? 2005 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.

5

the home, the family?s country of origin, the length of
time the family has lived in the United States, the child?s
age at first exposure to English, and who in the family
speaks English and how well. Also, for children rela-
tively advanced in their language development, those
assessing need to determine a child?s language profi-
ciency. Accurate assessment of language proficiency is
important because these children may seem to be
speaking English with ease when actually they are not
fully capable of understanding or expressing them-
selves in complex ways and still lack vocabulary skills,
auditory memory, ability to follow sequenced direc-
tions, and other markers of proficiency. Insights about
language proficiency will help staff effectively plan
learning opportunities for young English-language
learners.

Assessments of language proficiency should rely only
on instruments and procedures designed to assess
language proficiency, not those designed to assess
content knowledge or anything else. It is also important
not to assume that all assessments of language profi-
ciency measure the same aspects of language. Decision
makers should carefully review information about
language proficiency assessments before selection.

Home language or English? Matching the method
and purpose of assessment. After gathering information
about the child?s language history and current language
proficiency, those responsible for assessment need to
consider the purpose of the assessment before deciding
on appropriate language(s).

If an assessment is to be used for program evaluation
or accountability purposes, it should take place in the
language and dialect in which the child can best show
what he or she knows and can do. If the child is profi-
cient in both the home language and English and it is
unclear which language is dominant, the child should
be assessed in both languages. Although it is always
important that a well-trained, bilingual, bicultural
professional administer assessments to English-lan-
guage learners, it is especially important for these
purposes.

If an assessment is to be used to guide instruction,
three options could be appropriate, depending on the
goal of the assessment and the child?s level of profi-
ciency: (1) assess only in the child?s home language (for
example, when evaluating a child?s knowledge of
content in a specific area, such as mathematics); (2)
assess in a language in which the child is proficient,
even if it is not the child?s home language (this could be
English or a third language); or (3) assess in both

English and the child?s home language. Because of the
episodic, unpredictable, and rapidly evolving nature of
language development among young English-language
learners, a dual-language approach is recommended,
assessing in both English and the child?s home language
whenever possible.

Code-switching. When learning a second language,
children often go through a period of code-switching or
code-mixing, using rules and words of both languages
between one sentence and another or within a sen-
tence, respectively. This behavior is not unusual and is
not necessarily a sign of deficiency. It demonstrates
children?s efforts not only to practice multiple lan-
guages, but also to successfully navigate multiple
cultural markers, norms, and values in order to commu-
nicate effectively. Except when evaluating language
proficiency, those conducting assessments should
accept responses that involve children?s code-switching
and code-mixing.

2c. Translations of English-language instruments are carefully
reviewed for linguistic and cultural appropriateness by native
speakers well versed in the complex issues of assessment
and translation.

Assessments used with English-language learners are
often translations of assessments developed for mono-
lingual English-speaking children. It is common to
assume that a translated assessment is appropriate
simply because the language of the assessment is a
child?s home language. This assumption may not be
correct. Translated materials are likely to differ from the
original version in both content and construct, and
those conducting the assessment should not assume a
translation produces an instrument that is equivalent to
the original version in difficulty, content, and reliability
and validity. Translations should not use dialect,
colloquialisms, and unfamiliar referents that are inap-
propriate for the child being assessed. Spanish-trans-
lated materials appropriate for a Mexican American
child, for example, may not be appropriate for a Puerto
Rican child.

Native speakers of a child?s home language who are
familiar with assessment constructs should carefully
review translated materials for cultural and linguistic
appropriateness. Likewise, test developers should
establish translation equivalence before assessment
decision makers decide to use translated instruments.
On-the-spot translations of standardized assessments
should not be used.

Adopted Summer 2005NAEYC Recommendations

Copyright ? 2005 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.

6

3. Characteristics of Assessments
Used to Improve Instruction

RECOMMENDATION

The primary purpose of assessing young English-language
learners should be to help programs support their learning
and development; classroom-based assessment should
maximize the value of the results for teachers? curriculum
planning and teaching strategies.

The indicators discussed in this section are adapted
from those outlined in the full position statement on
curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation, but
with special reference to implications for young English-
language learners.

INDICATORS

3a. Programs rely on systematic observational assessments,
using culturally and linguistically appropriate tools as the
primary source of guidance to inform instruction and to
improve outcomes for young English-language learners.

For informing teaching and improving learning,
assessments based on observation provide the richest
and most relevant, accurate, and useful data. Teachers
should rely most heavily, therefore, on observational
assessments such as rating scales, checklists, analyses
of samples of children?s work, and portfolio approaches,
many of which are linked to a particular curriculum
model. These methods are especially valuable in
assessing young English-language learners, whose
strengths and developmental needs may not reveal
themselves through direct verbal methods. Observa-
tion-based assessments should be chosen with care to
ensure they are sound, of high quality, and culturally
and linguistically appropriate.

3b. Assessments for young English-language learners are
based on multiple methods and measures.

No one assessment, measure, or method of collecting
information about a child will provide all the informa-
tion educators and others want to know. This is espe-
cially true for young English-language learners, and
assessments of any aspect of their development and
learning should always include several methods and
measures. Because purely verbal procedures tend to
underestimate children?s cognitive ability, approaches
should include both verbal and nonverbal procedures.
As with all young children, assessments should occur
across all the domains of the curriculum and should
involve a range of activities. Allowing young English-
language learners to express themselves in areas as

diverse as art, music, and block building gives them
opportunities to demonstrate their intellect and knowl-
edge in ways that exceed the boundaries of language.
Assessments should occur across different settings,
such as in the classroom, on the playground, and during
interactions with peers, familiar adults, and strangers.

3c. Assessments for young English-language learners are
ongoing; special attention is given to repeated assessments
of language development over time.

There is a misconception that young children acquire
language more easily and quickly than adults; in fact,
with the exception of pronunciation, this is not the case.
Children can, but do not necessarily, achieve social
language proficiency in a second language in two to
three years and academic proficiency in four or more
years. Because of the long-term nature of second-lan-
guage development, and because paths to proficiency
are uneven and unpredictable, a snapshot approach to
assessment is particularly ineffective for young English-
language learners. A more accurate picture of a child?s
progress will reveal itself gradually over time as a child
experiences a variety of social interactions and oppor-
tunities for growth in all domains. Assessments used to
guide children?s learning should be ongoing, with em-
phasis on assessment in everyday, naturalistic settings.

3d. Assessments for young English-language learners involve
two or more people.

Conclusions about the development of young English-
language learners should always be based on informa-
tion from multiple sources. Assessments usually involve
some interpretation and judgment on the part of those
assessing, so there is room for error and bias in the
assessment process. With assessments of young
English-language learners, the backgrounds of those
assessing?their identity, cultural stereotypes, life
experiences, conceptualizations of constructs, and so
forth?can influence assessment decisions. Also, adults
often have different perceptions of a child?s abilities,
and these differences can become particularly salient
when there is a linguistic divide?when adults commu-
nicate with the child in different languages. Observa-
tions or data about a child can more safely be assumed
to be accurate if they are verified by several people
rather than by only one person.

More than one professional (teacher, paraprofes-
sional, consultant, and so forth) should be involved in
significant assessment-related decisions about a child?s
progress, and at least one of these professionals should
be proficient in the child?s home language. In addition,
at least one of the people providing input on the child?s
progress should be a family member.

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7

3e. Assessments for young English-language learners are age
appropriate.

Because there are few assessments?and in some
cases, no assessments?available for young English-
language learners that are psychometrically, linguisti-
cally, culturally, and age appropriate, those who assess
may be tempted to use an assessment designed for an
age group different from the age of the child being
assessed, if that assessment tool has other positive
features. Despite constraints, decision makers should
avoid selecting assessments that are developmentally
or age inappropriate, as the results are likely to be
inaccurate and uninformative.

4. Using Standardized Formal Assessments

RECOMMENDATION

The development of state and other accountability systems
has led to increased use of standardized formal assessments
of young children. Specific considerations about the develop-
ment and interpretation of these assessments should guide
their use with young English-langu

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