Testing and Assessment

Assessment is a critical element in language education. Well-crafted assessments provide valid, reliable, and relevant information about student needs and student progress. Assessment data can be used to inform program evaluation and instructional design to better meet the needs of language learners and the educators who serve them. 

For over fifty years, CAL has been a key player in developing language tests used by many public and private agencies. CAL staff produce resources, develop tests, conduct research on language testing, and provide professional development for language teachers on assessment. Our assessment projects serve foreign and English language learners of all ages at all educational levels. This includes professional settings, such as the government and workplace. 

K-12 EL Assessment 

Like all students, English learners in grades K–12 must meet the demands of college and career readiness standards. Given ELs’ twin challenge of learning English while also learning academic content, language assessment plays a valuable role in ensuring that ELs have the opportunity to achieve academic success. In particular, assessing academic English language proficiency, rather than merely general social English, focuses on the language ELs need to know in order to access grade level academic content. 

The K–12 English language proficiency tests developed by CAL are part of a system of assessments that can be used to determine appropriate language support services, ascertain annual growth, and tailor language instruction. The overall goal of language assessment is to provide teachers useful information that can inform instruction to help students progress in learning English, so they may access the general education curriculum. Screener assessments ensure that ELs are identified appropriately to receive English language support, while summative test scores are able to demonstrate students’ annual progress in acquiring academic English. Furthermore, interim assessments can indicate students’ progress throughout the school year and can help teachers tailor instruction to meet instructional goals. 

Adult English Assessment 

As the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse and the number of adults learning English continues to grow, the need for effective language instruction and assessment has never been greater. CAL understands the needs of language educators and programs serving adult English language learners, and we have a long-standing commitment to serving adult ESL practitioners. 

CAL uses current best practices in test development to create its assessments, which are designed to help programs evaluate students and make instructional decisions. CAL’s assessments use authentic language and communicative tasks that allow examinees to demonstrate what they know and can do in English. Our tests are reviewed and field-tested with the support of state education directors, local program directors, and experienced adult ESL teachers.  

CAL’s adult ESL proficiency assessments meet NRS reporting requirements and are designed to give programs a full range of options for their assessment needs. BEST Literacy and BEST Plus address the different needs of adult English language learners by providing assessment options that can reliably demonstrate student progress. With BEST Plus for speaking and listening skills and BEST Literacy for reading and writing skills, programs can use our assessments together to test the full range of student performance. We invite you to contact us to discuss your program’s needs. Learn more. 

World Languages Assessment 

CAL has a long history of developing operational tests in foreign languages, particularly the less commonly taught languages. 

CAL developed the Foreign Language Assessment Directory (FLAD), which is a free, searchable directory of nearly 200 tests in over 90 languages. The FLAD serves as a starting point for teachers and educators to search for foreign language assessments. Educators can search by name of test, grade, proficiency level, language, skills targeted by the test, and intended test use. 

CAL has also developed an online tutorial to serve as a companion resource to the FLAD. This online tutorial introduces key concepts in language testing to help with selecting tests and using test results appropriately and efficiently. Topics include practical considerations when selecting a test, reliability and validity, the use of results, and the impact of testing in the classroom. A list of resources and a glossary of assessment terms are included. 

Projects

WIDA Partnership
WIDA Partnership

Funder: Funder: University of Wisconsin, WIDA

STARTALK
STARTALK

Funder: U.S. Department of Defense, via subcontract from the University of Maryland, National Foreign Language Center

NYSESLAT (New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test)
NYSESLAT (New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test)

Funder: New York State, via subcontract from MetriTech

Massachusetts World Language Standards Update
Massachusetts World Language Standards Update

Funder: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Computerized Oral Proficiency Instrument (COPI) Test Administration Project
Computerized Oral Proficiency Instrument (COPI) Test Administration Project

Funder: U.S. Department of Education, International Research and Studies Program

Assessment and Evaluation Language Resource Center (AELRC)
Assessment and Evaluation Language Resource Center (AELRC)

Funder: U.S. Department of Education

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News and Resources

CAL Tapped to Develop Career-Focused Resources for STARTALK Initiative
CAL Releases Actionable World Language Resources & Supplements
[VIDEO] Researchers Work to Maintain Choctaw Language By Adapting CAL Assessment
CAL Launches Updated Assessment Resources for World Language and Heritage Language Teachers
Assessment For Language Instructors: The Basics – Online Course
Assessment For Language Instructors: The Basics – Online Course

This online course provides world language instructors with an understanding of the fundamentals of assessment. The course lasts five weeks and includes five units that require 2 hours each. Unit ... Read more

Assessment Literacy For Language Educators
Assessment Literacy For Language Educators
Effects Of Instructional Hours And Intensity Of Instruction On NRS Level Gain In Listening And Speaking
Effects Of Instructional Hours And Intensity Of Instruction On NRS Level Gain In Listening And Speaking
Adult English Proficiency Assessments
Adult English Proficiency Assessments

The number of adult English language learners in the United States continues to grow substantially and programs serving them face many challenges in providing instruction to meet their needs. Having ... Read more

Ask a Test Developer – A CAL Commentary
Ask a Test Developer – A CAL Commentary

Mina Niu, Kristine Nugent

September 2018

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) 2020 Annual Convention (Virtual)
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