NABE Mulls Position on Assessment

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Los Angeles

The National Association of Bilingual Education has taken its first formal steps into the policy debate over how limited-English-proficient students should be assessed against national standards.

Presenting NABE's draft position statement on the assessment of L.E.P. and language-minority students at the group's annual meeting here last month, Edward DeAvila, an assessment expert, echoed the fears of many bilingual-education advocates that the national standards-setting movement will leave L.E.P. students behind, or even harm them.

While NABE has discussed assessment issues before, the statement was the first time the group has put together a list of "do's and dont's,'' said James J. Lyons, the organization's executive director.

The lack of discussion over assessing L.E.P. students in the context of education reform "shows a callous disregard for the demographic realities,'' the statement says.

Mr. DeAvila said he fears that L.E.P. students may be at a disadvantage if schools move toward performance-based assessments without taking into account their special needs.

No judgment of L.E.P. students should be based on a single test, Mr. DeAvila argued, since such issues as students' length of time in the United States, their home-language proficiency, and their educational background should be considered as well.

Home Language Emphasized

The draft statement's main points urge that:

  • Student performance be assessed in a manner consistent with students' needs and national performance standards. While students should not be excluded from assessment, testing those who do not speak the test's language gives "distorted'' results.
  • L.E.P. students should not be required to take large-scale tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress or others at the state or local levels. Students whose proficiency indicates such standardized tests are inappropriate should take standardized alternative-assessment procedures, which then should be used to determine whether a student moves to the next grade or graduates.
  • Alternative assessments should include multiple indicators, using different methods to measure the same activity.
  • Home-language proficiency should be part of the assessment process and should be considered in developing content assessments in that language.
  • Schools should wait about six weeks before assessing preschool children's language proficiency.

Vol. 13, Issue 23

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