Adult English Proficiency Assessments - Best Plus | Best Literacy
Information For Test Administrators

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the Student Performance Levels (SPL) and how do I use them?

The original SPLs were developed in the mid-1980s as part of the Mainstream English Language Training (MELT) project under the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to describe the language abilities of the refugee population entering the United States at that time. The original SPLs were based on instructional program levels and learner characteristics and were developed so that teachers in refugee camps (e.g., in the Philippines or Thailand) and programs in the United States (where the learners in those refugee camps would eventually go) could communicate effectively about adult learners’ English skills. The SPLs described language ability in general and four skills specifically—listening comprehension, oral communication, reading, and writing.

In 1997 and 2002, with input from adult ESL practitioners from around the United States as well as staff members at the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, the original SPL descriptors were revised.

Each SPL has a corresponding descriptor. These descriptors describe what the student can do in English at that level. The SPL descriptors are useful in helping students set goals and helping teachers plan instruction. The SPL for listening comprehension and oral communication can be found here or in Section III, pages 14-17, of the BEST Plus Test Administrator Guide. The SPLs for reading and writing can be found here or in Appendix D, pages 59 and 60, of the BEST Literacy Test Manual (June 2008).

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What are the National Reporting System (NRS) Educational Functioning Levels and how do I use them?

In the late 1990s, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, established the National Reporting System (NRS) as an accountability system through which federally funded programs are required to show student progress from one of the six Educational Functioning Levels to another as a result of instruction. Learner progress is measured through specific learner outcomes, one of which is performance on an approved, standardized assessment of at least one of the four English language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing). Information and data about adult learner progress in individual adult ESL programs are collected by each state and analyzed at the federal and state levels to assess program effectiveness, improve program quality, and justify funding for adult ESL programs.

Like the SPLs, the NRS Educational Functioning Levels have descriptors that describe what the student is able to do in English at that level. The NRS descriptors are much more general than the SPLs, but are equally useful in helping students set goals and helping teachers plan instruction. The NRS descriptors can be found in Section III, pages 18 and 19, of the BEST Plus Test Administrator Guide and in Appendix C, pages 55 through 57, of the BEST Literacy Test Manual (June 2008).

For more information about the NRS, visit www.nrsweb.org.

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How can I use the scale scores from BEST Plus and BEST Literacy to help my students?

By matching up the scale scores to the SPL and NRS descriptors, you can see what your students are able to do in English and what they will need to do to move up to the next SPL or NRS level.

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Are BEST Plus and BEST Literacy scores correlated to each other?

No. BEST Plus and BEST Literacy scores are not correlated in any way with one another. As such, performance on one assessment does not predict performance on the other. You may need to check with your state’s assessment policy on how each assessment is to be used within your state.

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How can we order test materials?

BEST Literacy test booklets and the Test Manual are available for purchase online through the CAL Store using a credit card or you can download an order form and include it with a purchase order or check and mail them to:
Center for Applied Linguistics
ATTN: CAL Store
PO Box 630948
Baltimore, MD 21263-0948

BEST Plus can only be purchased by programs that have trained BEST Plus test administrators. Once you have been trained on BEST Plus, materials are available for purchase online through the CAL Store using a credit card or you can download an order form and include it with a purchase order or check and mail them to the PO Box address above.

Please allow one business day for processing. Signed copies of purchase orders must be received by CAL for all orders before we will ship your order.

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How can I get additional help and support?

You can contact our client relations and user support staff Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM ET by phone at 866-845-2378, option 1, or by e-mail.

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