Donna Price is Associate Professor of ESL and Vocational ESL/Technology Resource Instructor for the Continuing Educational ESL program at San Diego Community College. She has taught all levels of ESL for 20 years and is the author of Skills for Success.
VENTURES IN ADULT EDUCATION:
Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1998, programs that provide instruction to adults must be accountable for the outcomes of that instruction and must use standardized procedures to document outcomes. Each state determines which assessment tools they allow, and they are written into their state plan. Many states use CASAS or BEST; others use their own state tests. Federal adult education funding is allocated according to how our students score on these standardized tests.
CHALLENGES AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CLASSROOM MATERIALS
Challenges for the classroom:
"What learners, instructors, and program staff count as success may differ from what is measured by state-mandated assessment procedures. Level gain is just one possible outcome of instruction. Equally important to learner success may be an increase in literacy practices (reading to children); achievement of a personal goal (getting a job promotion); or an increase in confidence and self-esteem." (Van Duzer, 2002)
How do we measure student progress? What evidence do we use to show outcomes have been demonstrated?
Implications for classroom materials:
Include lifeskills reading to prepare students for reading on standardized tests
Include listening exercises that correlate with listening on standardized tests
Use standardized test-type exercises (displays) with teacher content.
Use multiple choice questions
Use checklists and progress graphs so that students can monitor their own progress.
Give students opportunities to reflect on what they know and what they need to learn.
Standardized tests are correlated with NRS (National Reporting System) levels. Implications: Books published for a specific level should include materials that support the outcomes of that level.
Example for High Intermediate:
National Reporting System (NRS) ESL functioning level descriptors
High Intermediate ESL Test benchmark: CASAS 211-220
Oral BEST: 51-57
BEST Plus: 473-506
Literacy BEST: 54-64
Speaking & Listening
Individual can understand learned phrases and short new phrases containing familiar vocabulary spoken slowly with some repetition; can communicate basic survival needs with some help; can participate in conversation in limited social situations and use new phrases with hesitation; relies on description and concrete terms. There is inconsistent control of more complex grammar.
Reading & Writing
Individual can read text on familiar subjects that have a simple and clear underlying structure(e.g., clear main idea, chronological order); can use context to determine meaning; can interpret actions required in specific written directions, can write simple paragraphs with main idea and supporting detail on familiar topics (e.g. daily activities, personal issues) by recombining learned vocabulary and structures; can self and peer edit for spelling and punctuation errors.
Functional & Workplace Skills
Individual can meet basic survival and social needs; can follow some simple oral and written instruction and has some ability to communicate on the telephone on familiar subjects; can write messages and notes related to basic needs; complete basic medical forms and job applications; can handle jobs that involve basic oral instruction and written communication in tasks that can be clarified orally. The individual can work with or learn basic computer software, such as word processing; can follow simple instructions for using technology.
From Practitioner Toolkit: Working with Adult English Language Learners
Assessment and Accountability in Programs for Adult English Language Learners.
National Center for Family Literacy and Center for Applied Linguistics. (2004). Practitioner Toolkit: Working with Adult English Language Learners.
Price-Machado, D. (1998). Skills for Success. Cambridge University Press.
TESOL Standards Task Force. (2003). Standards for Adult Education ESL Programs, TESOL
Van Duzer, C. (2002, February). Issues in Accountability and Assessment for Adult ESL Instruction.
Weinstein, G. (2001). Developing Adult Literacies. In Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 3rd Edition. Heinle and Heinle.
Wrigley, H.S. (1998, Winter). Assessment and accountability: a modest proposal.