Published Online: April 19, 2011
Published in Print: April 20, 2011, as English-Language Learners

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English-Language Learners

"Evening the Playing Field: Creating Mathematics Examinations That Lessen the Gap Between English Language Learners and Non-English Language Learners"

A new study from the University of Georgia suggests that including appropriate graphics with test questions can help English-language learners translate their math skills.

Albert M. Jimenez, a researcher in evaluation measurement and statistics at the Athens, Ga., university, partnered with a large, unnamed suburban school district to evaluate test items for the district’s interim assessments for grades 3-8. About 400 of the district’s nearly 3,000 students in those grades are English-language learners.

Looking at nine math exams, Mr. Jimenez found that out of 270 test questions, only 70 included a useful graphic, such as a rectangle labeled with measurements for a question on the area of a swimming pool.

English-proficient students outperformed English-learners on questions without a relevant graphic by 7.9 percent. When ELLs had a useful graphic, the gap narrowed to 2.8 percent; they outperformed English-proficient students on 28 such questions.

The study was presented this month at the American Educational Research Association meeting in New Orleans.

Vol. 30, Issue 28, Page 5

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