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Core academic language skills: An expanded operational construct and a novel instrument to chart school-relevant language proficiency in preadolescent and adolescent learners

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2014

Harvard Graduate School of Education
University of Houston
Boston University
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Universidad de Salamanca
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Paola Uccelli, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Larson 320, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail:


Beyond academic vocabulary, the constellation of skills that comprise academic language proficiency has remained imprecisely defined. This study proposes an expanded operationalization of this construct referred to as core academic language skills (CALS). CALS refers to the knowledge and deployment of a repertoire of language forms and functions that co-occur with school learning tasks across disciplines. Using an innovative instrument, we explored CALS in a cross-sectional sample of 235 students in Grades 4–8. The results revealed between- and within-grade variability in CALS. Psychometric analyses yielded strong reliability and supported the presence of a single CALS factor, which was found to be predictive of reading comprehension. Our findings suggest that the CALS construct and instrument appear promising for exploring students’ school-relevant language skills.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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