When is a New Language Learner Ready for Standardized Testing?

photo: greatschools.org

It’s spring and while most of us anticipate the awakening of plant and animal life that the warmer weather brings, students all over the country also wait in anticipation for the challenge of standardized testing.  But just how prepared are new language learners when it comes to taking standardized tests?

I often refer back to this 12 minute short film when reflecting upon the abilities of bilingual students.  It serves as a reminder of how capable these students are, yet how often their abilities are overshadowed by language barriers. (Side note: This film is also really well done, in my humble opinion, which is also why I watch it so much)

Multiple factors must be considered to determine if a child’s language abilities in the new language are adequate for testing, but one researcher of language development helps to measure language ability in a simple way.   […]

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Bilingual Students: Academic Testing and the English Language Learner

There is no doubt we are a society that does not take academic testing lightly. While there is some reform in progress, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 continues to ensure our students are tested for reading and math annually while in grades 3 through 8.  Beyond these years, students prepare for the SATs and ACTs which determine entry into competitive universities.  Let’s not forget the exams also determine if the students will receive scholarships to attend these schools, which for many, are crucial to pursue an education beyond high school.

Photo: Giveyourchildanadvantage.com

If these tests were not difficult enough for the monolingual students and simultaneous bilingual students (acquired both languages at the same time) who were born in the United States, they are nearly impossible for many bilingual students who acquire English sequentially (after acquiring the home language).  It is projected that by the 2030s, 40% of the public school population in the United States will be bilingual.  Research indicates that the older the student, the more difficult it is to acquire the language in time to keep up with these strict testing requirements.  These tests are enough to cause stress to any child, let alone a child who is taking the time to acquire a new language.  And where did this child come from?  Does the child have a well-educated family and come from an excellent school?  While this may be the case, the child may have come from an unfortunate scenario such as a war-torn country, resulting in gaps in academic learning due to these unfortunate circumstances.  The move to the US may also have resulted in a gap in academics.

Photo: Dreamboardkids.com

Photo: Dreamboardkids.com

So how do we help as educators you ask?  The first step in determining the child’s abilities is to […]

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