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.
A version of this article appeared in the April 20, 2011 edition of Education Week as English-Language Learners