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                                                Assessment in the Bilingual Classroom
                                               CIL 764

Course objectives and knowledge acquired:

Some of the methods discussed includes formal and informal methods of assessment which a teacher or administration may require. Within the formal arena you may find, Standardized/Norm-Referenced Criterion-Referenced Test. The need for formal assessment satisfies the need for accountability. Informal assessments might include daily school work or observations. This is done to ensure that students understand and comprehend what is being taught in the classroom setting. In class we had several discussions on the various tools that could be used to assess our students. Observations, dialogue journals, portfolios and conferencing are some ways of assessing a students’ work.  The traditional method of using teacher made test and text provided test are also tools of assessment that can be utilized. Many of the articles and text that we read gave ideas and suggestions on various assessment techniques that should be used in the educational setting.  Immediately what comes to mind are the Criterion Referenced Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and Interim Benchmark Assessments. I have had the opportunity to facilitate these tests to my students along with other students that are given provisions due to language issues. As educators we can study and apply those various techniques to assist our ELL population however a universal acknowledgement of understanding is lacking by the system. .Provisions provided to ELL students includes having the instructions read verbatim in Spanish and then having the test read verbatim in English. Although there is a language barrier the test is still read and administered in English. Unfortunately this provision does not meet the assessment methods and techniques as learned because we are not measuring their knowledge appropriately. A common thread that was woven in class discussions dealt with the importance of integrating assessments in all subject areas. It is vital that all educators have an understanding that the expectations for ELL students should be as high as those for mono-lingual students. If we are to create an environment of successful learners then we need to raise the bar of knowledge and expectations for all of our students not just those who enter school speaking English. There are many subject areas where non-traditional assessments can be done. For example, in math, assessments can be done by looking at the student solve a problem using manipulatives. In writing, a student can complete and answer a prompt by illustrating their ideas and in science projects can be created to show understanding. In class we discussed various methods of assessment for our bilingual students. Not only is it important for us as educators to be aware of effective assessment procedures it is equally important that our school environment supports the instructional programs for bilingual students. One of the activities that we did in class gave us an opportunity to complete a “Checklist of Criteria for Effective EE Programs”.   effective ell program   This activity allowed us to assess how our school administrators, teachers and support staff communicates with the community at large, academic and cultural standards, appropriateness of curriculum and instruction and development in language, academic domains and culture. The results were very interesting and reaffirmed the importance of educating teachers, administration and support staff on the importance of understanding second language acquisition. An activity that I found extremely valuable included completing a “Classroom Materials Checklist” and “Checklist for Choosing Materials”  checklist    . What I found to be surprising is that I teach a transitional third grade classroom and the materials that are provided by the school are not appropriate for my students. Additionally, I work at an Edison school so all of the texts I use are required and we do not have the liberty to delineate from the structured curriculum. I enjoy the structured format of our curriculum because I feel that our students benefit from structure however I do not like the materials as I feel they are not culturally sensitive or appropriate for second language learners. Another aspect that I don’t support is the time constraints that are placed for instructional time. An example that quickly comes to mind are the instructional times allotted to teach math. Our math program works on the premise that students will gather information and concepts in a spiraling mode of instruction. So you move on regardless if concepts are understood as the topic will be revisited several chapters down the road. Naturally this creates problems for our second language learners as they are still trying to understand the language used to explain the concepts.

*goals taken directly from course syllabus

Performance Skills:

Some of the activities that we did in class forced me to question our school structure and the expectations that administration  has for our ELL students. I will take on the position of  ELL Facilitator at our school for the 2005-2006 school year. Some of the changes that I have proposed include:

In class we used the text, Dual Language Instruction. It proved to be very informative however the chapter that made on impression on me was Chapter Nine: Advocacy. I am committed to making a difference for our students as I chose to teach Bilingual Education. The various strategies that were taught in this course are skills and ideologies that I will be using as I attempt to assist our ELL students move forward with their educational goals.

Useful strategies for ELL Students:

• Using Total Physical Response to meet the needs of all students. This would include model, model, model
• Encourage the importance of not making fun of a student or discouraging attempts at language
• Use body language to act out what is being said or used.
• Ask “yes/no, who, what, and where” questions.
• Use dialogue journals to open the lines of communication.
• Have students retell instructions
• Peer mentoring
• Speak slowly and clearly.
• Use variations in intonation.
• Give concrete examples and explanations of new vocabulary

What I value:

Within the field of education the obstacles that are present for bilingual students are varied. The first major obstacle is language followed by comprehension and assessment methods that are used by educators to test students for knowledge. Our federal government in an effort to meet the needs of all students has mandated a program (No Child Left Behind) that should level the learning field for all students.  Theoretically, one can assume that it sounds like a good ideal, however the practicality of the various applications has shown that the field of education in regard to students and assessment cannot be leveled as all students come to the classroom with different needs and experiences. The task of assessing a student is rather complicating and a cookie size cutter method does not work. There are rubrics that can and should be used however as educators we should have the flexibility to delineate from these rubrics to allow us to approach each and every student with their individual needs. I firmly believe that every child should have an equal opportunity to learn. Additionally, teachers should have tools and knowledge provided to help them so that the goal of learning is accomplished. As a student from a bilingual program, I learned the English language through immersion. Studying various research data has shown that this was not the best method of learning a language, however the ultimate goal was met. By all means I am not suggesting that teaching ELL students should be done this way, however I think that the need to provide teachers with cultural understanding and knowledge about various assessment tools is crucial in helping educate our ELL population.