In America today, the demographics of the public schools have significantly changed because of the highest levels of immigration. The general student body for almost all American schools reflects different categories of students with different cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Unlike in the past, todays educators face the challenge of an effective assessment of students in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. The assessments based on the United States standards have been previously criticized since they are applied to English language learners without considering the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds for a majority of these students. In this kind of assessment, most students from linguistic backgrounds are learning English as a second language or entirely as a foreign language are seen to be neglected. Therefore, for these students to learn and develop their understanding of the English language optimally, educators must strive to meet diverse cultural, developmental, linguistic and educational needs of these students. The purpose of this paper is to understand the purposes of the assessments in relation to the students of diverse backgrounds, the variety of assessment procedures appropriate and understanding of appropriate, valid and literacy assessments for the same students.
Purposes of the assessments
Most criticism on the assessment of the English language learner has been attributed to the lack of knowledge of the concepts and ideas that are considered crucial to the understanding of the assessment practice. In his book; Assessing English language learner Solano-Flores considers the concept of assessments of English language learner as an information gathering process on the students achievements, as a way of removing language-related barriers, improve students alignment with instructional practices in teaching contents, a way of documenting individual student growth and a way of identifying students development level, learning preference and language proficiency (Flores, 2016). With relevant strategies and concepts, assessing English learners allows educators understand their students learning skills in varying degree that can be strategically used to teach other subjects. In his view, sampling influences the reliability, validity, and fairness of all tests and is considered critical to the assessment of the English language. Eliminating the language- related barriers among students from different linguistic backgrounds helps in improving their ability in tackling other tests in schools and also the communication of other students (Flores, 2016). The foreign students are also able to understand the instructional practices applied in classrooms and thereby, are not left behind others.
Appropriate assessment procedures
According to recent research, direct linguistic support for students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds is very crucial and therefore, English language learner specific guidelines and procedures are needed by educators and test administrators in providing an effective assessment for these all ELLs. In preparing assessments, teachers are required to first identify the linguistic background of each English language learner. The research shows that differences in the ELL students backgrounds in terms of their first language and their levels of academic English proficiency can significantly influence their test performances (Abedi, Hofstetter & Lord, 2004). Different states should inform and encourage schools and local decision-makers to consider students native languages and backgrounds when identifying the appropriate English language learner assessments. Secondly, the States and educators should be able to identify the final decision makers, especially in the local districts. This should include multi-language professionals who can understand the ELL students language proficiency and therefore, their needs. Thirdly, the educators and the State should identify specific allowable and prohibited English assessment tests for ELL students after reviewing particular content areas of the assessments. Finally, educators should clearly define each operational English assessment tests. Research indicates that difficulties exist in identifying which assessment to use for a specific group of ELL students (Abedi, Hofstetter & Lord, 2004). For example; clarifying, explaining, simplifying, and paraphrasing assessments.
Appropriate and valid language and literacy assessments
Despite their level of English proficiency, all English language learners irrespective of their linguistic backgrounds should be given an opportunity to showcase their skills on the assessment; therefore, educators should provide an appropriate and valid language and literacy assessments for these students. They should focus on minimizing construct-irrelevant variance like the use of unfamiliar vocabulary in the tests, strange cultural references or idiomatic expressions, morphologically complex words, sentence structure that may be challenging and also the use of syntax that is above the level of the ELLs (Young, 2008). Research shows that States and educators have come up with effective linguistic modifiers that are specifically applied to the ELL students. For instance, reducing the use of unnecessary language or information minimizes confusion among these students.
Advantages and limitations of assessments
In order for the English language learners outcome to be appropriately assessed, it is crucial for the educators to understand major advantages and limitations of assessments for these students. With minimum construct-irrelevant variances, assessment test for the ELLs can help them improve English language proficiency over time, improve their research capabilities and help minimize English language barriers in their environment (Flores, 2016). However, these assessment tests have been criticized because, unlike other assessments that focus on evaluating students comprehension in this specific area of content, assessments have completely failed in providing the correct accommodation for the same.
Identifying ELLs language differences, giftedness, and special education needs
In assessing the English language learners, educators face the problem of identification between the ELLs language difference, giftedness, and ELLs with special education needs. When students from different linguistic backgrounds register for a class, they all face difficulties adapting to the new language and the environment. The gifted one, despite their education or cultural background, is quick in learning the language compared to the other ELLs students. They spend the shorter time it adapts and usually perform better in the assessments (Abedi, Hofstetter, & Lord, 2004). However, some ELL students struggle on tasks that are considered simple by their peers. These students make little progress despite their constant dedication to the course. Similarly, these students express difficulties in communication even in their native languages with their peers.
While assessing the English language learner, one must study and understand the purposes of the assessment as they relate to the ELLs, the available assessment procedures available for the ELLs, the appropriate and valid literacy assessments applied, advantages and limitation for these assessments and finally, one should be able to identify both the gifted ELLs and ELLs with special education needs.
Abedi, J., Hofstetter, C. H., & Lord, C. (2004). Assessment accommodations for English language learners: Implications for policy-based empirical research. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 1-28.
Flores, G. S. (2016). Assessing English language learners: theory and practice. Routledge.
Young, J. W. (2008). Ensuring valid content tests for English language learners. R&D Connections, 8.
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