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Cristina Giansante

ESC 761
NYSESLAT Assessment

1. Standardized Assessment:
The NYSESLAT is a yearly exam that is given to all students who receive ESL
services to determine how well they are learning the English language. If students
pass the NYSESLAT they do not receive ESL services the following year. There are
many biases that ELLs face when taking standardized assessments such as content,
linguistic, and disproportionate representations. Laing & Camhi (2003) discuss the
large issue that many of these tests are created under the assumption that all
children have been exposed to the same concepts and vocabulary, or have similar
experiences to that of their age. Unfortunately, this is not the case due to the wide
range of life experiences students have faced in their past. Norm-Referenced and
Criterion-Referenced assessments are extremely unreliable indicators of ELLs
content knowledge and skills, but are often used to measure both.
Norm-Referenced tests, such as the SAT, only recognize one type of English
language and do not recognize dialects. Students who are new to the English
language or have grown up being taught a dialect of English often are
misrepresented by these exams because of the language structure. Solano-Flore &
Trumbell (2003), found that different socio-economic status interpret words
differently. Culturally diverse students have a difficult time interpreting words in
problems correctly due to the vary in context it is used. In the past culturally and
linguistically diverse students have not been included in the norm samples, which
results in an unfair disadvantage to these students. Criterion-Referenced
assessments compare all students skills to pre-determined criteria. Regardless of
the students cultural or linguistic background they are assumed to score in
comparison to the pre-determined criteria. Exams like the Regents and other state
tests often lack data on culturally and linguistically diverse populations, so these
students often perform and score poorly.
Despite the bias faced, standardized assessment data can be used to plan
instruction and improve programs by noting trends in responses, such as language
structure; if many students are getting language and vocabulary questions wrong,
this could be implemented into the curriculum for the following year. These
assessment creators can also note large incorrect responses and correlate them
with the students; if they notice a correlation between CLD and incorrect responses,
these questions could be eliminated or tailored for the following year due to bias.

Laing, S., & Kamhi, A. (2003). Alternative Assessment Of Language And Literacy In
Culturally And Linguistically Diverse Populations. Language, Speech, and
Hearing Services in Schools, 44-55.

Solano-Flores, G., & Trumbull, E. (2003). Examining Language In Context: The Need
For New Research And Practice Paradigms In The Testing Of English-Language
Learners. Educational Researcher, 3-13.

2. Authentic Assessments:
Colorin Colorado discuses the benefits of using authentic assessments to
target student problem areas, show growth through the school year, and to help
adapt instruction through out the school year. These authentic assessments can
demonstrate more of an accurate portrayal of an ELLs content and linguistic skills
than that of standardized tests. These assessments allow students the opportunity
to demonstrate their knowledge and provide educators with a more in-depth look at
their academic needs. Performance-based assessments and portfolio assessments
are two of the most commonly used authentic methods, although they measure
progress accurate progress toward objectives, educators face challenges in
assessing ELLs language proficiency and content knowledge.
The biggest challenge educators face is getting ELLs to learn grade level
content even though they are still learning the English language. As educators we
have to capitalize on ELLs thinking ability and encourage critical thinking skills to
compensate for the language development, but how do we do so when all our ELLs
are learning at different proficiency levels? A challenge educators could face in the
classroom is differentiation of these authentic assessments due to the vast
proficiency levels of ELLs. Finding a task that can assess the entire class, but yet
demonstrating each students appropriate proficiency level could be quite the
challenge. Teachers should be aware of using any assessments that use thick
language to assess a student due to its poor validity on the students content

Using Informal Assessments for English Language Learners | Colorn
Colorado. (2007, January 1). Retrieved September 12, 2014, from

In order for students to be successful on the NYSESLAT they must meet the
standards in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Throughout these sections
they are responsible for completing sentence ideas, responding to picture prompts,
making inferences, showing comprehension of text, and the ability to write with
appropriate sentence structure and grammar.
I believe that as the exam continues the questions and demands increasingly
get harder and slightly thicker in language. I believe an issue with this exam could
be that students may be very successful on one part of the exam, and do poorly on
the rest because their language is not as proficient in that other section, such as
listening, or reading, or writing. It leaves room for a lot of misinterpretation of how
the student is growing as a learner.
After reviewing the exam and sample questions one could get a feel for what
topics are addressed on the NYSESLAT exam, which could be beneficial when
creating lessons. As an educator you can find ways to implement a lesson to feature
a task such as, speaking, or listening, to help ease the students into this process. I
dont believe teaching to the test is the proper way of instructing, but in this case to
not have the students feel so overwhelmed it could be helpful to their anxiety if they
are taught strategies on how to attack comprehension or inference questions, and so
on. The problem that is still posed is what if your student does not have the
language proficiency to complete these tasks, but does know the content knowledge
in their native language, its just translating it. That is where the NYSESLAT becomes
an inaccurate assessment.

The 8
grade ELA exam is a common core assessment that is administered to
all students in the 8
grade, unlike the NYSESLAT, which is administered to just ESL
students. Both exams are similar in that the students are being asked to make
inferences, write full and complete sentences, respond to picture prompts, and
comprehend text. Students on both exams are being asked to analyze texts and
respond through multiple choice, short response, and extended response.
The ELA exam focuses a lot on vocabulary knowledge as well, almost every
question requires students to determine and/or clarify the meaning of words given.
A lot of sophisticated content specific vocabulary is used throughout the ELA exam;
students would have to have a firm understanding of the English language in order
to fully understand these questions and passages. For example in passage one, the
question asks what momentous means (pg. 3). The answers the students can
choose from also include intermediate 8
grade vocabulary such as disturbance,
and historically. This use of vocabulary will make it essentially impossible for an
ELL to get this answer correctly.
This exam also requires students to use text evidence to support their
answers. The questions found on the ELA exam have the students focusing on verbal
details, whereas the students on the NYSESLAT are focused more on responding to
visual detail. Common Core wants to see that all students are able to reach the
grade-mandated standards; regardless of students language proficiency they are all
scored with the same expectations.

The 8
grade math exam states that it is designed to assess students on their
understanding of mathematics. Through out the exam they are asked to complete
multiple step problems that demonstrate an understanding of the application of
mathematics skills, and real-world applications. However, it does not mention it is
measuring a students content specific vocabulary first. Immediately after looking at
this exam it is clear that a student must have a firm understanding of sophisticated
vocabulary, and of the English language. Question 2 (pg. 2) is assessing the students
on how well they can determine if an equilateral triangle could be congruent to that
of a triangle, even if transformations were used. The question is extremely wordy,
and even something I myself had to read out loud a few times to understand the
process in which the question was asking me to go through. The amount of content
vocabulary used in the question alone is enough to send an ELLs anxiety through
the roof. Words such as equilateral, transformation, rotations, reflections,
translations, scalene, and obtuse are words that even English speaking students
may have a hard time with. The questions presented on this exam are wordy and
thick in language.
When comparing the 8
grade NYSESLAT exam to the 8
grade math exam,
the language demands and expectations are on two extremely different ends. If
presented with the two exams and having no background knowledge I would never
believe that the same student was being asked to take both. The language demands
of the NYSESLAT are basic English functions that demonstrate a students
understanding and application of the language. The 8
grade math exam is designed
for the English speaker who has a firm understanding of vocabulary, specific content
vocabulary, and math concepts. When comparing the two exams I believe the
NYSESLAT exam is a better assessor (of the two) for how the ELLs understand
language to an extent, however, it is by no means an adequate assessment of an
ELLs ability to do well in mainstream content classes at the secondary level. The
language demands of the mainstream classroom are far too sophisticated for ELLs at
this point; they will never be able to learn concepts in a mainstream classroom if
they are still learning the basic functions of the English language.