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    #1

    Question Standardized Testing for ELLs

    Dear educators,

    I am a fourth grade teacher at a title 1 school in Fort Wayne, IN. I am currently working toward my Master's degree in English Language Learning and Teaching. As a part of my assignment in my Assessing ELLs course, I am required to initiate a discussion about a common issue with assessing ELLs.

    I would like to address the issue of standardized testing for language learners and am seeking professional advice. Many of my co-workers are against high stakes testing and I too, find it extremely detrimental to all learners, especially ELLs. This is only my third year of teaching and first year working with ELLs in a general education setting. However in one short year, I understand how extremely challenging it is to meet the needs of ELLs and it is evident that alternate forms of assessments must be used to show reliable and valid results. I have been learning a lot about the deeper issues with standardized testing and the benefits of authentic assessments in my recent course.

    I would like to receive input on the following questions:

    1. As an educator, what is your stance on standardized testing for ELLs?
    2. What pros have you noted for standardized testing if any?
    3. What are some major cons to standardized testing that you have experienced first hand in your classroom?
    4. What forms of assessment have you or your colleagues used to more efficiently evaluate ELLs?
    5. How do you ensure that you are meeting the needs of your language learners?

    Any advice is extremely appreciated! I am eager to learn from your experiences.

    Best regards,


    Rachel Allen

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    #2

    Re: Standardized Testing for ELLs

    You are starting from the view that standardised tests are bad, but when you talk about authentic assessments, how do you include the transferability that standardised assessments, however poor, have?

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    #3

    Re: Standardized Testing for ELLs

    I do not necessarily think all standardized testing is "bad". Let me correct myself. Standardized assessments certainly have some benefits and allow us to compare our students' levels with their peers. Teachers can use the data from these tests to help drive their instruction. It is helpful to have feedback based on critical skills our students should be working on.

    Unfortunately, standardized testing is over used in the public school system today. My fourth grade students take at least 20 practice/real tests per year and it mostly just discourages them. For example, we take three acuity practice tests per year which are supposed to mirror Istep. Even my high ability students fail these tests because they assess standards we have not even covered. It is data but it's not reliable nor is it valid. The fact of the matter is, not all students perform well with these types of tests, but it does not necessarily mean that they haven't mastered the standards.

    Moreover, with English Language Learners (ELLs) there is even a bigger disadvantage as these students have not had enough time to fully comprehend the English language. Many of their parents do not speak English either. The bigger issue I would like to address is the language barrier between ELLs and non ELLs and how that affects results of standardized testing.

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    #4

    Re: Standardized Testing for ELLs

    20 tests per year sounds like serious overkill to me. So, please let me correct myself too. At that rate, how do they see any progress between tests? Even if it is a mix of practice and real tests, it doesn't leave much time for anything other than looking towards the next test.

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    #5

    Re: Standardized Testing for ELLs

    1. As an educator, what is your stance on standardized testing for ELLs?
    As an educator, I have never been fond of standardized testing to begin with. I believe that a student's knowledge on a given subject cannot be determined by a single test. Students are often given 1 or 2 chances (questions) to prove whether or not they have mastered the topic on the standardized test. Many of the time the wording is "tricky" or unclear. Sometimes the student needs a phrase or a quick reminder to refresh their memory, but when taking the test, a teacher cannot do what instinctively comes to mind; they cannot guide or assist the student. Sometimes students just need a reminder of how they have learned it before. If the teacher could even say, "Do you remember how we did this in class? We did a similar problem where Sarah found the area of the pool." That simple statement is enough to help kids get their "Ah-ha moment." Standardized testing is not how the real world works. Adults may go to colleagues or the internet to request clarification or assistance. Which leaves me thinking, "Why on Earth would you test a child without giving them references or assistance?" For ELL's the problem is even more evident! On these standardized tests, the tricky wording catches native language speakers and readers off guard, where the ELL student might not have a fighting chance. They may not even understand what the question is asking of them, yet they are expected to answer proficiently. I believe that ELL students can show you what they have learned through activities, work sheets, discussions, and projects much more efficiently than by a test that may be biased or unclear. If an ELL student is truly being tested on what they know, and if they have to take a standardized test, then I believe the questions that do not pertain to grammar and English as a language should be in their native tongue to give them the same odds as primary English speakers.

    2. What pros have you noted for standardized testing if any?
    For teachers, the assessment can sometimes give them data that shows them where many students struggled or failed. If the teacher then goes back to the test itself, they can determine if it was the wording of the question, they way the problem was set up for the student, or really an error in comprehension that the teacher should reteach.

    3. What are some major cons to standardized testing that you have experienced first hand in your classroom?
    The problem is, with so many standardized tests in a year, the teacher often does not have time to evaluate the data from the prior standardized test. Even if they do, they've been forced to push onward to prepare their students for the next test. Often the teacher only has time to expose kids to the problems they might see. (If the kids don't even know anything about fractions, then how could they simplify it?) Teachers don't have time to delve in deep with the kids to ensure mastery, for if they do, they won't have enough time to even mention the other topics the kids might see on the test. (exposure) Another problem I have is that the teachers cannot assist the students during the test. The students cannot ask for clarification of the problem, for the meaning of words in the question, or for a reminder problem that might help them remember what they have learned. In the real world, an adult has all of these resources at their fingertips, so why are we handicapping our students? Tricky wording poses a problem. Students are fooled because they take the question as is and do not tap into their deeper thinking. If they did, then they wouldn't have time to finish the test, so many kids only answer one step of the multi-step problem thinking it's correct or "good enough."

    4. What forms of assessment have you or your colleagues used to more efficiently evaluate ELLs?
    I have used both formative and summative evaluations to assess my ELL learners. Some adaptations are made like reading the problem or passage out loud to them, allowing them to work with a partner helps them get clarification on what the question is asking without giving them answers. I have done small group assessments, DIBELS, running records, quick checks for understanding, writer's response, posters, videos, speeches, draw and responds, and formal testing to evaluate my students. This allows for me to see their progress as a learner no matter what learning style appeals to them most. It also shows me exactly what they know since I use a combination of all of the methods to determine their grades.

    5. How do you ensure that you are meeting the needs of your language learners?
    I ensure that I meet the needs of my ELL learners by giving them different outlets to show me what they have learned. I try to keep my teaching hands on rather than a lecture so that they can question, test, and theorize work. When students are given a chance to work independently or with partners, it allows me time to circulate and question them. If they cannot answer the questions then it is clear they need additional support, examples, or a new way of presenting the data or information. Making lessons visual, audial, and hands-on ensures the students can see it or manipulate the information to best suit their needs. It's important to check in with the parents of the ELL student. If they cannot speak the language use a translator or have a translated note written for them so they may inform you if there is a particular concern or problem the student is facing. It's also important to meet with the kid themselves informally to make sure they feel comfortable about their abilities and own understanding.

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    #6

    Re: Standardized Testing for ELLs

    My thoughts exactly Tdol! Twenty tests is just ridiculous and discouraging. Some of the tests do show growth. However, for acuity, many of my students do not show much growth at all between the three acuity tests. Some went up in the middle of the year (MOY) and then down at the end of the year (EOY). Some students received their best score in the beginning of the year (BOY). Honestly, the only valid purpose of acuity was to show the teachers which standards needed to be taught more thoroughly. It was extremely defeating for the teachers and students even though the scores did not count for anything. The students also participate in a reading fluency, accuracy and retell test through a program called Dibels in the BOY, MOY and EOY. These scores showed a little more data however, the test does not account for the extra time that ELLs needs for decoding. Therefore, the results could be considered unreliable and impractical for our language learners. I do think standardized assessments are necessary, however, I hope that students in the future do not have to endure such stress with so many tests. Thank you for your participation in my thread. I really appreciate it!

    Kind regards,


    Rachel Allen

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