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Language Link

October 2000

Previous issues

Feature Article:
The Foreign Language National Assessment of Educational Progress (FL NAEP): Questions and Answers

Journal Review:
Language Testing

News Corner


This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education, under contract no. ED-99-CO-0008. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI, ED, or NLE.

Feature Article

The Foreign Language National Assessment of Educational Progress (FL NAEP): Questions and Answers

Kathleen M. Marcos, ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics

What is the FL NAEP and why is it important?

The Foreign Language National Assessment of Educational Progress (FL NAEP) is an effort to give the nation a "report card" that will allow educators, parents, policymakers, and others to evaluate what America's students know and can do in foreign languages.

The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has targeted the year 2003 for the first FL NAEP, to be administered to secondary school students. For the first time, the United States will have a comprehensive national source of information on what its students understand and how they perform in foreign languages.

What does NAEP do? Who runs it?

NAEP is a congressionally mandated project of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education. NAEP is the only nationally representative, continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Administered in grades 4, 8, and 12, NAEP plays an essential role in evaluating the conditions and progress of the nation's educational progress. Since 1969, NAEP has conducted assessments periodically in reading, mathematics, science, writing, history, geography, and other fields. Both public and private school students are sampled and assessed.

The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), created by Congress, sets the policies that determine who will be assessed, when, and how these results will be reported. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is responsible for overseeing the operations and implementation of the assessment. Specific tasks related to the NAEP are handled by outside contractors.

Who developed the FL NAEP framework?

NAGB awarded a contract to the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)( to work with its partners, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) ( and the American Institutes for Research (AIR)(, to conduct a national consensus-building project. The goal of this 14-month project was to make recommendations to NAGB for the 2003 foreign language assessment. NAGB stipulated that the assessment be conducted in Spanish and that it be administered to secondary school students only.

Developing the framework for this national assessment presented an unprecedented opportunity to foster national discussion and build national consensus on the role of foreign language education in America's future, both within the foreign language community and across government, business, industry, and the general public. The framework was informed in part by ACTFL's Proficiency Guidelines and the National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project's Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

How was the framework developed?

Working with representatives from government, business and industry, parent groups, public and private K–12 schools, higher education and research organizations, teachers, and foreign language organizations, the Project Management Team (CAL, ACTFL, and AIR) made a number of recommendations that were unanimously accepted by NAGB in May 2000. The Project Management Team prepared prepare an issues paper in Spring 1999. Consensus committee meetings were then held to consider the issues and develop a first draft of recommendations. The recommendations led to a draft framework. Throughout the fall, a national review of the draft framework took place in a variety of forums: at CAL's Web site, in teacher focus groups, at meetings of state teacher associations, in a meeting of representatives of several government agencies, in two public meetings, and at the November 1999 annual meeting of ACTFL in Dallas. On the basis of the comments collected at these forums, the working groups refined the framework and specifications and submitted them to NAGB.

In May 2000, after a further round of commentary and refinement, NAGB unanimously approved the framework and specifications, commending CAL, ACTFL, AIR, and the members of the committees for their work in the development of the FL NAEP framework.

What do the proposed framework and specifications approved by NAGB look like?

In the general framework, communicative ability in languages other than English will be assessed within three modes of communication:

The consensus building committees recommended that the first FL NAEP focus on assessing the following four areas, which are most used in real-world communication by secondary school students:

Two other assessment areas identified, but not included in the first FL NAEP, are:

Examinees will perform authentic communication tasks that are called for in daily life, school, and work, and that reflect four goals:

Performance will be evaluated on how well students understand (comprehension) and can be understood (comprehensibility).

How will the FL NAEP be conducted?

The FL NAEP will include a two-stage procedure. In the first stage, a language survey/background questionnaire will be administered to a representative national sample of 12th grade students (both students who have studied a foreign language in school and those who have not) to collect data on demographics, experiences with foreign language learning both in school and beyond, attitudes toward language study, and self-reported language proficiency.

In the second stage, the focus will narrow as a Spanish version of the FL NAEP is administered to a sub-sample of students responding to the national survey. The sub-sample will consist of 12th grade students who have learned Spanish in a variety of ways and for different lengths of time. The Spanish NAEP report will examine the achievement of students exposed to various lengths of Spanish language study, to show the connection between length of study and achievement.

What about languages other than Spanish?

While NAGB mandated that the first FL NAEP would assess students of Spanish as a foreign language, data on all foreign languages will be collected through the survey in Stage 1. The consensus building committees have also proposed three small-scale studies, placing highest priority on the assessment of foreign language achievement in a language other than Spanish and at a level other than secondary; namely, an assessment of the achievement of 4th grade learners of Japanese. Such a study will provide policymakers with information about the early stages of achievement of students in elementary school who begin learning a foreign language that shares few similarities with English.

What are the next steps?

NCES has contracted with the Educational Testing Service (, the American Institutes for Research (, and with the Center for Applied Linguistics ( for the development of items for the FL NAEP, in accordance with the framework and specifications established in the first phase. The questionnaires will be field tested in 2002 and administered operationally in 2003. Analyses of the data collected via the test and questionnaires will give policymakers, educators, and the general public a report on the condition of foreign language education in the United States.

Where can I get more information?

The Framework for the 2003 Foreign Language National Assessment of Educational Progress (pre-publication edition) is available at Frameworks for mathematics, reading, and other subject areas can also be downloaded at this site.

The June 2000 issue of the CAL Reporter included an article about the FL NAEP initiative, "Strong Start for NAEP Assessment." Read the newsletter at

The Web Site for the Foreign Language NAEP National Consensus Building Project offers background information and describes the consensus-building process in detail (

Breiner-Sanders, K.E., Lowe, P., Miles, J., and Swender, E. (1999.) ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines-Speaking. Revised 1999. Foreign Language Annals, 33 (1). Full text of this article in PDF format is available at the ACTFL Web site (

National Standards in Foreign Language Learning Project. (1999). Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century including Chinese, Classical Languages, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Lawrence, KS: Allen Press ( This document incorporates the Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century, in language-specific learning scenarios, including a heritage language scenario.


U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have officially declared November 13-17, 2000 "U.S. International Education Week." Using the theme of "Classroom to Classroom Diplomacy," the Clinton administration has invited foreign ambassadors in the United States to visit public schools or universities during the week of November 13, and has encouraged U.S. ambassadors abroad to visit schools in their host countries (NAFSA News 5 (28)). For more information, contact NAFSA ( More information about U.S. International Education Week will also be available at Web sites of the Departments of Education and State, and

On September 14 and 19, the Senate Government Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services ( conducted two subcommittee hearings on national language needs and capabilities in the United States. More information about the hearings, testimony, and results is available at the Web site of the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) at

Journal Review

In each issue of ERIC/CLL Language Link, we feature one or more of the journals that we abstract and index for Current Index to Journals in Education (CIJE), the ERIC database's monthly index to education-related journals. In this issue, we profile Language Testing.

Language Testing

Language Testing ((ISSN 0265-5322) publishes articles in the fields of second and foreign language testing, mother-tongue testing, and assessment of language disability. It also publishes articles reporting language project and program evaluation that have theoretical implications for language testing. This journal is published four times per year by Arnold Publishing Company. Recent articles include "Teacher Assessment and Psychometric Theory: A Case of Paradigm Crossing?," "On ESL Standards for School-age Learners," "Modern Language Testing at the Turn of the Century: Assuring that What We Count Counts," and "Authenticity in Language Testing: Some Outstanding Questions." To subscribe, contact Turpin Distribution Services Ltd, Blackhorse Road, Letchworth, Herts., SG6 1HN, UK.

Search online for articles from this and other journals included in Current Index to Journals in Education at

You can recognize journal abstracts in the ERIC database by their "EJ" prefix followed by a six-digit number. ERIC abstracts can be read at ERIC centers in libraries in the United States and overseas, as well as on the World Wide Web ( Subscriptions to the journals can be obtained from the publishers; individual articles from many journals are available through the following reprint services:

You may also wish to contact your local university or research library.


News from ERIC/CLL

Our new Directory of Foreign Language Resources at provides links to Web sites, online publications, publishers, instructional materials, programs, listservs, databases, and other resources for improving foreign language programs. ERIC/CLL partnered with the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education (NCBE) ( to create this reliable, up-to-date information source.

What Teachers Need to Know about Language by Lily Wong Fillmore and Catherine E. Snow outlines the reasons that educators need to know about language, describes the kinds of knowledge about language that they need, and offers an inventory of professional development courses. Read the paper at

ERIC/CLL has published the following new digests:

Contextual Factors in Second Language Acquisition by Aída Walqui (

Strategies for Success: Engaging Immigrant Students in Secondary Schools by Aída Walqui (

Thematic, Communicative Language Teaching in the K–8 Classroom by Mari Haas (

Print copies may be obtained from ERIC/CLL at 1-800-276-9834 or

News from the National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE)

Take a moment to check out the latest NCLE digests at NCLE digests make excellent staff development tools and can be duplicated and distributed as needed. New digests include Learning Disabilities and the Adult ESL Learner, Trauma and the ESL Classroom, Online Professional Development for ESL Educators, and Finding and Evaluating Web Resources for Adult ESL Instruction. Also new to NCLE's Web site is Learning Disabilities and Adult ESL Resource Collection, Integrating Technology with Adult ESL, and the latest issue of NCLENotes. NCLE staff are available to answer your questions at or 202-362-0700.

News from ERIC and the U.S. Department of Education

Funding opportunities from the U.S. Department of Education are regularly posted to Visit this site for the latest information on funding from the Office of Education Research and Improvement, the Office of Bilingual and Minority Languages Affairs, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and other Department of Education offices.

ACCESS ERIC recently published two new parent brochures. What Should Parents Know About Schools as Community Learning Centers? explores the implications of opening schools up to community members. What Should Parents Know About Information Literacy? explains the concept and importance of information literacy. Both brochures are available at the ERIC systemwide Web site at

The ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) now offers online access to the full text of most ERIC documents produced since 1993 via its E*Subscribe service. For more information, contact EDRS at 1-800-443-3742 or

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education recently published new ERIC Trends on major topics in higher education. Most of the new ERIC Trends can be viewed and downloaded on the ERIC/HE Web site at

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools collaborated with the Office of Migrant Education to produce the Directory of Services for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers and their Families. This online searchable database includes federal programs and national organizations. Visit the database at

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education has published Characteristics of Effective Professional Development, the second in its E-Primer series. Read the new E-Primer today on the ERIC/SP Web site at

Among the new publications included in the Virtual Library of the National Parent Information Network (NPIN) are Trends and Issues: School Reform, Helping Children Master the Tricks and Avoid the Traps of Standardized Tests, Otra perspectiva sobre lo que los niños deben estar aprendiendo, Family Literacy Strategies To Support Children's Learning, and Conferencias de padres-educadores: Sugerencias para los padres. Visit NPIN's Virtual Library at (

New publications from ERIC/CLL's sister clearinghouses include Informal Workplace Learning from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education (ERIC/ACVE); Readings on Special Education Laws from Disabilities And Gifted Education (ERIC/EC); and New Trends in Language Education for Hispanic Students from Urban Education (ERIC/UD). To find links to these and other ERIC resources, visit

The items above appeared in ERICNews, an electronic newsletter from ACCESS ERIC. To subscribe, send the command SUBSCRIBE ERICNEWS FIRSTNAME LASTNAME to More information about ERIC is reported in the ERIC Users' Interchange at

News from Our Colleagues

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota is seeking proposals for papers and symposia on all aspects of the education and professional development of language teachers for the second International Conference on Language Teacher Education, to be held May 17-19, 2001 in Minneapolis. The deadline for submission of proposals is October 31. Guidelines are available at

The 2001 Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT) will be held March 8-10, 2001. The organizers have issued a call for papers on "Linguistics, Language, and the Real World: Discourse and Beyond" and other topics as family discourse, public discourse, narrative, political discourse, and language policy and planning. Proposals must be received by October 30, 2000. Send papers to: Georgetown University Round Table 2001, 519-B Intercultural Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 20057-1045. E-mail inquiries should be directed to

The Joint National Committee for Languages has prepared a paper entitled A Washington Update: Education at the Crossroad. For more information, contact JNCL at 202-966-8477 or visit their Web site at

Visit the new Multilingual Matters Web site at The site is fully searchable and offers online ordering.

NCBE Newsline is a bi-weekly online newsletter from the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education that offers legislative updates; Department of Education news; news from the regional laboratories; and information about awards, conferences, and job opportunities. To subscribe, send the message SUBSCRIBE NEWSLINE to Back issues can be read at

New NCBE publications include 1) Biliteracy for Global Society: An Idea Book on Dual Language Education at 2) If Your Child Learns in Two Languages (in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese) at; and 3) Issue Brief No. 3: Transforming Education for Hispanic Youth: Recommendations for Teachers and Program Staff at NCBE has also highlighted NCBE-ERIC/CLL "Directory of Foreign Language Resources" at its Web site.

The National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) has just published Language and National Security in the 21st Century: The Role of Title VI/Fulbright-Hays in Supporting National Language Capacity. Order from Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company at

Training Others to Use the ESL Standards: A Professional Development Manual is now available. This manual was created for staff developers, teacher trainers, and others who deliver pre- and in-service programs to teachers. Order from TESOL at or 703-836-0774 (telephone), 703-836-7864 (fax).

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