News from the Center for Applied Linguistics

January 1996


News About CAL
CAL Opens Web Site
Changes in Board of Trustees
News About CAL Projects
Testing Spoken English for Citizenship
PAIE Awards Technical Assistance Grants
Improving Secondary Education for Immigrants
Study Evaluates School Reforms
Language Assessment in Two-Way Programs
News About CAL Publications
New CAL Products and Publications


CAL Opens Web Site

While thousands of users of Internet are just beginning to feel comfortable with the concept of electronic mail, bulletin boards, and chat rooms, still other thousands have moved on to the Net's fastest growing part, the World Wide Web. After several months of development, CAL joined the trend and in November went public with its own home page. The address is http://www.cal.org.

Visitors to CAL's home page will be able to gain a comprehensive overview of the organization, including the range of services offered, descriptions of current and completed projects, and information on publications and other products. A frequently updated "What's New" feature will highlight new publications, announce grant and fellowship competitions, describe the latest projects, and present other newsworthy information.

Designed to be accessible both to users who already know CAL and to those who are just becoming acquainted with its activities, the site will accommodate a variety of possible user scenarios. Suppose that you are a teacher of English as a second language in a middle school in the United States. You have been hearing a lot about the integration of language and content as a means of helping English language learners acquire the academic language they need to succeed in their content courses, and someone has told you that CAL might have information on that subject.

Since you are not familiar with CAL's work, when CAL's home page appears on your computer screen, it seems sensible to select "Search" in order to find what you want. Clicking on Search will lead you to an index, where you will find "Integrated Language and Content Instruction" as one of the key words. This will lead you to a page where, among other items, the National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning is described. One of the projects of this center studies the language used in social studies classrooms and textbooks.

A user who is already familiar with CAL's services and activities can save a few steps in the search process. For example, a researcher or materials developer, knowing that CAL has a database on materials used for the teaching of the less commonly taught languages, can reach the database in three quick steps. Even experienced users will find that the many links, both within the site and to other sites outside, may serendipitously lead them to unforeseen nuggets of information. Potential clients for CAL's services can browse the page to find out what CAL can do for them.

CAL's web page is attractively designed with full-color graphics. However, it may also be accessed by users whose equipment does not handle graphics and a plain text version is planned for the near future. For further information contact webmaster@cal.org.

Changes in Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees of the Center for Applied Linguistics announces the election of a new chair and three new members, effective in January 1996. Protase E. Woodford, formerly of the Educational Testing Service, will assume the chairmanship of the board, succeeding the outgoing chair, Kenji Hakuta, Professor of Education at Stanford University. The three newly elected trustees, Harry F. Cavanaugh, Gilberto J. Cuevas, and Deborah Tannen, will serve three-year terms.

Mr. Woodford retired from the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ after a distinguished 25-year career. Among the testing programs for which he was responsible are some of the most widely known of standardized tests, including the Test of English as a Foreign Language and the foreign language tests for the College Board Examinations, the Graduate Record Examinations, and the National Teacher Examinations. He also served as Director of Dissemination and Technical Assistance for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

During and after his career at Educational Testing Service, Mr. Woodford has been a consultant to a wide variety of agencies and ministries in the United States, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. His contributions to the field of testing and language study have been recognized in many forms. In 1993, he was asked to co-chair the National Advisory Council on Standards in Foreign Language Education.

Harry F. Cavanaugh is Chairman of the Board and financial consultant to Dynatem, Inc. of Mission Viejo, CA, which manufactures and distributes more than 200 products, including microcomputers and microcomputer systems. He is also a financial management consultant at Ditek, Inc., a firm which he established in 1978 to provide technical assistance in the diagnosis and solution of financial management problems. Prior to that time he had served for 16 years in various financial and operating positions for the General Foods Corporation and was for five years Vice President and Director of Bishop Industries, Inc.

Gilberto J. Cuevas is a Professor in the School of Education, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1976. His teaching and research are concentrated in mathematics education, multicultural education, program evaluation, and student assessment. From his early experiences as a fifth grade teacher up to the present, Dr. Cuevas has worked to improve learning and instruction in mathematics, particularly for language minority students. His many publications show an ongoing concern for the interface between language and mathematics.

Deborah Tannen, currently University Professor at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, joined the faculty of linguistics in 1979. She is widely known for her research and publications in the field of discourse analysis, especially the relationship between gender and conversational style. Dr. Tannen has authored or edited a dozen scholarly volumes in linguistics, as well as over 70 articles and reviews for journals and anthologies. Three of her publications, Talking from 9 to 5, You Just Don't Understand, and That's Not What I Meant, topped best seller lists in the United States and have been translated into several languages for publication overseas.

Departing from the board after five years of service was John P. Doran, who is retired from the Ford Foundation. He also previously held positions with the J. C. Penney Co., Squibb, Inc., and General Foods, Inc. Kenji Hakuta has also left the board, having served for eight years, including six years as chair.

Donna Christian, President of CAL, paid tribute to the invaluable contributions of Dr. Hakuta as he left the board. "CAL is indeed fortunate," she stated, "in being able to rely on the guidance of distinguished educators such as Kenji Hakuta and Woody Woodford. Their life's work demonstrates their commitment to exactly those issues addressed by CAL's mission."

Testing Spoken English for Citizenship

What does speaking "words in ordinary usage in the English language" mean? How can such language be assessed in a short oral test that can be easily and quickly scored? This was the knotty problem facing the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), as it investigated the feasibility of large-scale testing of spoken English for naturalization (citizenship) purposes.

To meet the urgent need of the thousands applying for naturalization under the Amnesty Program, INS contracted some years ago with several agencies to give group-administered government and history examinations. Literacy, i.e., the ability to read English and the ability to write a dictated English sentence, was also tested. Now in a parallel initiative, INS is looking for an effective and efficient means of large-scale testing of oral English proficiency, to complete the congressionally mandated testing requirements.

INS turned to the Center for Applied Linguistics to explain what "ordinary usage" meant and recommend how speaking proficiency might be tested. The first phase of the project proceeded on two fronts: observation of naturalization interviews and examination of existing English proficiency scales.

CAL project staff observed naturalization interviews in INS offices in Arlington, VA, Tampa, FL, and San Diego, CA. It was evident from these interviews that INS examiners varied a great deal in their assessment of ordinary usage, and that the English which was used in conducting the interview, (for example, the oath, military service, marital history) was anything but "ordinary."

Concurrently, project staff evaluated six English proficiency scales in current use to determine whether an extant scale could be used or adapted to establish cut-off scores for the oral English examination portion of the naturalization interview. None of the existing scales was found to be adequate to the project's purposes.

The solution was to develop a hybrid set of performance descriptions, based on the following factors:


The draft document submitted to INS describes the minimum passing performance level, as well as performances just below and just above passing. Part of the description of the minimum passing level states: "The applicant functions in a limited way in interactions where the topic is familiar, the examiner's language has been simplified, and some demonstrations or clarifications are used."

Preliminary results from CAL's pre-testing of two formats of test questions indicate that a short oral test can indeed determine if the applicant performs at the minimum passing level. Further, there is no significant difference in results when picture stimuli are used, provided that the test employs the "ordinary usage" of the congressional mandate and that topical content is limited to familar subjects such as shopping, housing, employment, child rearing and the like.

The next steps are for INS to determine how many forms of the test are needed, who needs to be tested (about 70 percent of those who present themselves for naturalization speak English above the minimum level), and who will test them. For further information, contact Allene Grognet at the CAL Sunbelt office.

PAIE Awards Technical Assistance Grants

The Project in Adult Immigrant Education (PAIE) at the Center for Applied Linguistics has awarded four technical assistance grants to support service providers in their efforts to develop and document solutions to common problems in workplace and vocational English as a second language. The recipients of the awards have an established capacity to provide training in English language and workplace or vocational skills to adult ESL learners and out-of-school language minority youth. PAIE digests and reports will disseminate the work funded by the awards.

In Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Language Intensive Training for Employment (LITE) project will enroll language minority youths 16 to 21 years of age who are at risk of not completing high school or who have dropped out, providing intensive pre-vocational ESL, vocational exploration experiences, and the opportunity to develop a career/study plan. Publications resulting from the project will include a program development guide for other school districts with similar needs, a catalogue of especially useful materials and practices, and a curriculum framework for teaching workplace culture and career options to young language minority adults. The project is conducted by the Vocational, Adult, and Community Education Division of the Broward County school district.

English in the Workplace, in the adult ESL program of the Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools, will use its award to build a coalition of small businesses to pool resources for workplace ESL classes, sharing the costs of space, course development, materials, and teachers. The project will document the process of building a coalition to serve as a model for other small businesses.

In New York City, English Language and Employment Services for Adult Immigrants and Refugees (ELESAIR) is a community-based literacy program at the Chelsea Center YMCA. ELESAIR will use its award to strengthen student evaluation and placement practices and to increase follow-up and tracking activities as a means of improving its program. Publications will describe these practices and activities and will document the participation of volunteers and of the businesses that accept students as interns or employees.

The Spring Institute of Denver, CO, will develop materials useful to other workplace ESL programs. These will include a guide for adapting company materials on safety and employee benefits, guidelines for incorporating the skills from the SCANS (Secretary [of Labor's] Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) report into workplace curricula, a description of curriculum needs and resources for learners from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and a format for a workshop for supervisors to help them communicate with non-native speakers and encourage the use and learning of English on the job.

The Project in Adult Immigrant Education (PAIE) at CAL is funded through a grant from the Mellon Foundation. For further information, contact Allene Grognet at the CAL Sunbelt office.

Improving Secondary Education for Immigrants

In a time of acrimonious public debate and private despair over the state of American education, the Program in Immigrant Education (PRIME) is attempting to improve a weak and generally unnoticed aspect of public education: secondary school programs for immigrant students. With overall program support from the Center for Applied Linguistics, four demonstration projects in California, Texas, and Maryland are addressing challenges unique to their local settings as well as general problems in serving immigrant students.

Funded by the Mellon Foundation, PRIME began with a six-month planning phase and recently completed the first of three implementation years. The program addresses three goals in its efforts to strengthen secondary education for immigrant students:


Four organizations have designed and are implementing the demonstration projects: University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Center for Language Minority Education and Research, California State University, Long Beach; Intercultural Development Research Association, San Antonio; and California Tomorrow, San Francisco. Each organization has put in place in its demonstration sites a core group of school staff that are aware of immigrant students' needs and are committed to making a difference in the quality of their education. An indispensable requirement of the projects is to establish stuctures and processes in the schools and districts that will allow ongoing positive change. Moreover, extensive documentation will make it possible for other school systems across the country to benefit from the experience of the demonstration projects.

Although all the participating organizations have had considerable experience in the fields of immigrant education and educational reform, they found during the first implementation year that improving secondary education for immigrant students is much more challenging than was anticipated when the projects were designed. Among the obstacles that project staff have had to deal with are increasing resentment of immigrants and resistance to providing educational and social services for them. Programs for immigrants must compete for support with other programs at a time when funding from all sources is in decline. To ensure onging school renewal, teachers must find the will and develop the skills to collaborate with one another. School and district leadership must be not just sympathetic to change but active, even aggressive, in its support.

Despite formidable obstacles, the demonstration projects have met with some degree of success in their first year. In several instances, obstacles were turned into opportunities to advance the projects' aims. For example, one project created a forum in which school staff, administrators, and parents could discuss the possible impact of Proposition 187, thus furthering home/school connections, one of the objectives of the project. In all four projects, the process of building collaborative groups is underway. Increased collaboration is having a profound psychological impact on participating colleagues, and is beginning to bear fruit in improved educational practices. Attention has been focused on coherent sequencing of courses. The often neglected problems of students with limited prior schooling are beginning to be addressed. Sheltered content courses have been established, helping students move through the course sequences required for graduation while they continue learning academic English. Additional support for immigrant students have been developed, including such structures as advisory periods for teacher-student conferences about academic progress, tutorial periods during the school day, and an extracurricular council to encourage students to explore the option of postsecondary education.

Such outcomes are encouraging, but just as valuable is the overall increase in awareness of the needs of immigrant students and of how to work with them. Educational reform has generally paid little attention to immigrant students. Thus, the demonstration projects have already begun to make an important contribution.

For further information about Program in Immigrant Education (PRIME), contact Joy Peyton at joy@cal.org.

Study Evaluates School Reforms

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA) are designed to set the agenda for school reform in this country: establish high standards, focus on systemic improvement, restructure the organization and delivery of education, and hold schools accountable for student performance. Title VII of the IASA creates bilingual education programs intended to meet the need for systemic improvement of programs serving limited English proficient (LEP) students. But does this federal policy foster schoolwide reform, and does such reform lead to improved student learning, especially for language minority students?

In a rare opportunity to evaluate a public policy initiative, the Benchmark Study of Title VII Programs will document the process and content of school change over a five-year period and analyze how it impacts the education of language minority students. Under Title VII, 106 Comprehensive School Grants and 32 Systemwide Grants have been awarded in support of schoolwide reform that meets the needs of LEP and all students. The Benchmark Study will evaluate reform efforts, analyze the conditions for success, and disseminate findings to policymakers, practitioners, and the research community.

The study will involve three levels of analysis, beginning with the gathering of baseline data about the schools and districts receiving Comprehensive School and Systemwide Grants, and ending with the intensive study of exemplary sites. Using quantitative and qualitative research methods, the study will seek to understand how schools develop and implement their plans for reform. Further, the study will examine teaching and learning in classrooms, where the efforts for schoolwide reform must lead to new approaches to curriculum and instruction.

One goal of the study is to identify optimal attributes of effective schooling for LEP students. The progress of schools towards these optimal conditions for learning will be tracked over five years and factors affecting student learning will be analyzed. Project staff will assist schools in building their capacity and simultaneously enlist their support as co-developers and co-researchers in the process of creating appropriate student assessments for measuring growth.

Funded by the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs of the U.S. Department of Education, the study is being conducted by a team of researchers from the Institute for Policy Analysis and Research in Berkeley, CA, the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC, the National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning in Santa Cruz, CA, and other research organizations. The team members combine in-depth knowledge of school change processes, expertise in conducting large-scale evaluations and ethnographic research on schools with language minority students, and commitment to making fundamental advances in assessment practices for English learners. For further information contact Grace Burkart at CAL.

Language Assessment in Two-Way Programs

A new grant from the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs will support a field-initiated research project that combines features of several innovative practices in second and foreign language teaching. Researchers from the Center for Applied Linguistics will collaborate with teachers and administrators from the Arlington County (VA) Public Schools to design and field test alternative assessment instruments for use in two-way bilingual immersion programs in grades K-5.

Two-way bilingual programs are a relatively recent development among models for the delivery of instruction. In the Arlington County schools participating in the project, students are instructed according to the regular school curricula, but the medium of instruction is English for some courses, Spanish for others. In this way, young learners can continue to develop their native language while learning a second.

Innovative means of instruction call for innovative means of assessment. Teachers from three elementary schools and one middle school will work with CAL researchers to develop alternative assessment instruments (e.g., checklists, rubrics, self-assessments) for measuring speaking and writing skill development in both English and Spanish in grades K-5. This collaborative approach will enable teachers to develop their skills in assessment. At the same time, it will help to ensure the feasibility, validity, and reliability of the assessment instruments.

The primary orientation of the project is to research and develop unique assessments that uncover new information about student achievement of oral and written language objectives in two-way immersion programs. The assessment instruments developed will be made available to other two-way immersion programs and to the general public when the project ends in 1997.

For more information, contact Dorry Kenyon (dorry@cal.org).


New Publications

Video Wins Award

The National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning (NCRCDSLL) recently accepted the Silver Apple, a national education media award, for the second part of its three-video series, Meeting the Challenge of Teaching Linguistically Diverse Students. The series presents some of the most effective instructional practices currently being used by teachers of linguistically and culturally diverse students. Each of the 30-minute documentary videos shows these practices at work in the classroom and presents interviews with the showcased teachers and with other experts who explain how and why the teachers are successful. Accompanying each video is a guide providing trainers with background information and suggestions for using the video in variety of training formats. See the NCRCDSLL publications and products page on this Web site for the titles and prices of the already published videos. Titles of later parts of the series will be announced as they become available.


Polish Your Polish

Listening to Poles by W. Walczynski, a new listening comprehension course for beginning students of Polish, is available on CD-ROM. The interactive courseware is designed for the Macintosh and contains digitized sound, text, still graphics, and animation. For more information, contact Dora Johnson at dora@cal.org.


Other New CAL Publications

Digests and annotated bibliographies are two-page publications that highlight a topic of current interest in the field of education. They may be ordered from CAL free of charge. Longer publications and videos may be ordered from CAL for the price given in parentheses following each title.


ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics

Digests

Bibliography


National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education

Digests
(An asterisk indicates a joint publication with the Project in Adult Immigrant Education. )


National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning


Project in Adult Immigrant Education

Refugee Service Center

Refugee Fact Sheet Series

No. 12 Cubans: Their History and Culture ($3.00)



Center for Applied Linguistics --- http://www.cal.org
Revised: 10/4/96, more information at webmaster@cal.org