Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Tracking the Progress of English Language Learners: Educators Must Be Methodical in Identifying Students' Abilities to Read, Write, Speak, and Listen in Order to Ensure That Students Are Improving Their Language Skills

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Tracking the Progress of English Language Learners: Educators Must Be Methodical in Identifying Students' Abilities to Read, Write, Speak, and Listen in Order to Ensure That Students Are Improving Their Language Skills

Article excerpt

Although No Child Left Behind requires schools to track the progress of all students and subgroups, documenting the advancement of English Language Learners (ELLs) has been particularly challenging. ELLs come to us with different language abilities and educational backgrounds, and they leave the subgroup when they no longer require services. How can educators know that English Language Learners are making progress?

Educators will want to begin by establishing a baseline of a student's ability in each of the four strands of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Looking at proficiency in each of the four strands is essential because students may progress more rapidly in one language strand than another. By establishing a baseline, teachers can adapt instruction in each strand to provide the support where it's needed and track a student's progress.

Develop rubrics based on performance expectations from your state's ESL proficiency standards. Create a rubric for each language strand. Use dates to indicate when various behavior is observed. This will document the student's proficiency level as well as inform the next steps for instruction in that strand. Conduct a schoolwide assessment in each language strand at strategic points throughout the school year. See Table 1 for an example of a rubric used to assess speaking, modified to record three language proficiency levels (beginning, intermediate, and advanced).

TABLE 1. Assessment of language proficiency level in the speaking
strand. In space indicated, record date when behavior is observed.

Beginning            Intermediate                    Advanced

--Student         --Student's speech         --Student can communicate
demonstrates      demonstrates a range of    effectively in most daily
little or no      common words and some      social and school
communicative     low-frequency vocabulary,  situations.
ability in        though they may avoid
English.          topics with unfamiliar
                  vocabulary.

--Pronunciation   --Student occasionally     --Grammar and
significantly     expresses original ideas   pronunciation errors still
impedes           with limited grammatical   arise but rarely impede
communication.    structure.                 communication.

--Student         --Student begins to        --Speech is reasonably
frequently needs  communicate on familiar    fluent and student is
assistance and    topics of personal         easily understood by
is often          relevance.                 native English speakers.
misunderstood.

--Student is      --Use of academic          --Student can effectively
beginning to      vocabulary may be          engage in extended
describe          characterized by           discussion in most social
situations using  inappropriate word choice  and academic situations.
a variety of      and awkward phrasing.
short
sentences.

--Student can     --Grammar and              --Student demonstrates
ask and answer    pronunciation errors are   mastery of almost all
simple sentences  relatively frequent, but   grammatical structures.
and respond to    do not impede
simple            communication.
statements.

--Student is      --Student demonstrates
beginning to      control over basic and
demonstrate some  many complex grammatical
control of basic  structures and has a
grammar.          growing inventory of
                  common idiomatic
                  language.

Listening

Use checklists, rubrics, or anecdotal records to document progress in listening comprehension. Gottlieb (2006) illustrates how to adapt a listening strand from state standards to the five levels of language proficiency:

* Level 1: Student matches oral commands to learning strategies represented visually. (Write a word in the blank.)

* Level 2: Student follows oral directions involving learning strategies that are represented visually. …

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