2. What Spanish and English oral language assessments are used in TWI programs? What information do they offer about native speakers and second language learners? Should the same assessments be used for first and second language speakers?

A variety of standardized and non-standardized assessments of oral language proficiency are used in TWI settings, as in other educational settings with second language learners. The Language Assessment Scales (LAS), an assortment of Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery-Revised (WLPB-R) assessments and the Bilingual Verbal Abilities Tests (BVAT) are three commonly used standardized oral proficiency assessments, with parallel versions in English and Spanish. Standardized assessments such as these and others are useful for program-level information about the performance of groups of students over time.

Non-standardized assessments include the Student Oral Proficiency Assessment (SOPA); the Stanford Foreign Language Oral Skills Evaluation Matrix (FLOSEM); and the Arlington (VA) rubrics for immersion students in Grades 1-5. Non-standardized assessments such as these can be used either for program evaluation purposes, as described in relation to the standardized assessments in the previous paragraph, or for instructional purposes, since the information is specific enough about students skills to guide instruction.

In general, for instructional purposes, assessments that give teachers qualitative information about student performance are more useful than tests that simply produce a score. For this reason, portfolios that document student performance over time can be particularly informative. Sample portfolio items might include recordings of student speech or samples of student writing.

In addition, by using rating scales based on a set of rubrics, teachers can get a clear sense of what students are able to accomplish in oral language. Rubrics can be developed on the basis of teachers’ own expectations and program goals. They should also be heavily based on existing ESL standards and foreign language standards, as well as English language arts standards and standards for the other language. Although many native English-speaking TWI students never attain native-like fluency in the second language, the same standards should be used as guidelines for proficiency attainment in both English and the partner language. Thus, rather than deciding whether to use the same assessments for first and second language speakers, teachers can compare progress in students’ first and second languages.

At Nestor Elementary School, a 90/10 program in San Diego, staff administer the FLOSEM to all students at the end of each year in both Spanish and English. They also administer the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) for all English language learners. In addition, all students take the Pre-LAS in Spanish in kindergarten. Students who entered as monolingual or bilingual in Spanish are retested in Grade 2 if they did not score a 4 or a 5 in kindergarten. All English-dominant students are retested with the Pre-LAS in Grade 2 and then again with the LAS in Grades 4 and 6.

In Key Elementary’s 50/50 program, oral proficiency rubrics were designed by TWI program teachers to provide information about progress made during the course of the academic year. In English, the Stanford English Language Proficiency (SELP) is administered to English language learners by the ESL teachers. This assessment establishes formal English language proficiency levels. Teachers also conduct informal assessments of students in both language groups, through observations and anecdotal records, on a continuing basis.