May 2009

This month we are focusing on assessment and English language learners. Be sure to check out all of the great resources listed in the newsletter, as well as our updated <a href="" title="Colorín Colorado: Assessment and Placement" target="_blank">Assessment and Placement</a> section!

Type of Newsletter: TELLEGRAM
Date: May, 2009

Dear Subscribers,

This month we are focusing on assessment and English language learners. Be sure to check out all of the great resources listed in the newsletter, as well as our updated Assessment and Placement section!

As always, please keep in touch with questions, concerns or suggestions.


The Colorín Colorado Team

This month's highlights

Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Colorín Colorado celebrates family traditions and the rich diversity of Asian and Pacific Americans with lesson plans, activities, and a variety of resources and ideas for ELL educators.

Also, don't miss our Asian Pacific American Heritage booklist!

Show your appreciation for teachers!

Colorín Colorado and Reading Rockets salute teachers with these Teacher Appreciation resources, as well as some ideas from the National PTA on ways to express appreciation for teachers (also available in Spanish).

Featured Articles

Informal assessments, also called authentic or performance-based assessments, provide continual snapshots of students' progress throughout the school year, allowing teachers to target students' specific problem areas, adapt instruction, and provide early intervention. To find out how you can use informal assessments effectively with the English language learners in your classroom, see Using Informal Assessments for English Language Learners. You'll find descriptions of many different types of performance-based assessments, as well as suggestions for using rubrics and other progress monitoring forms to evaluate student progress.

For more information on assessment and ELLs, take a look at Colorín Colorado's updated Assessment section, which includes resources related to accommodations and evaluation, standards-based writing, bilingual parent tips about testing, recommended guides and research, and a webcast.

Also, explore the Recommended Resources section of Colorín Colorado's Assessment and Placement page for more valuable resources on assessment and English language learners.

Teaching Diverse Learners, a project of The Education Alliance at Brown University, has a wealth of resources for teachers of English language learners, including an excellent discussion of the role of assessment in ELL instruction. Assessment is discussed in terms of three phases: initial assessment (for placement into instructional programs and designing instruction), ongoing assessment (classroom-based assessment conducted throughout the year), and high-stakes testing (designed to hold schools and school divisions accountable for their students' progress).

Research has demonstrated the importance of early literacy screening to identify students at risk for developing reading problems, and ELLs are no exception. Early assessment of English language learners' skills in phonological awareness and print knowledge can determine whether they are making good progress toward developing the foundational skills for learning to read or whether they need additional support. Best Practice for ELLs: Screening (U.S. Department of Education, 2007) summarizes the research that supports early literacy screening for ELLs and gives specific recommendations for implementing an effective screening program.

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Research and Reports

Guidelines for the Assessment of English Language Learners* (2009), a new report by the Educational Testing Service, provides an excellent discussion of a wide range of topics related to assessment for ELLs. The report begins by examining factors that influence ELL assessment, including students' language, educational background, and culture. There is also a discussion of the steps that should go into designing an appropriate assessment, as well as a description of testing accommodations that can help ensure that ELLs are treated equitably and that test results are valid.

A recent report prepared for The National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force looks specifically at assessment for three- and four-year-old English language learners in early education programs. Assessment Considerations for Young English Language Learners Across Different Levels of Accountability* (Espinosa & López, 2007) examines the unique role of assessment in early childhood education in the context of young English language learners' diverse backgrounds and needs. The authors discuss assessment at four levels of accountability: assessment for instructional improvement, assessment for identification of special needs, assessment for program accountability, and assessment for research and accountability. The report also includes an overview of current ELL assessment measures and current ELL assessment strategies.

For English language learners, all tests are English proficiency tests, whether that's their intended purpose or not. In an article for the September 2007 issue of Language Magazine, Amy H. Greene and Glennon Doyle Melton remind us that It's How You Ask That Counts*. Doyle Melton and Greene, both teachers in Fairfax County, Virginia, have designed an effective strategy for preparing their ELLs for standardized tests by focusing on what they call "test talk." Their premise is "that a standardized test is its own genre, complete with its own unique format and vocabulary, and that the test genre needs to be taught, explored, and practiced just like any other genre" (p. 26). For this reason, the authors include "test talk" lessons as part of genre study in their reading workshops. These lessons are designed to teach students how to "translate" the unique language of tests into language they can understand. Doyle Melton and Green are the authors of Test Talk: Integrating Test Preparation into Reading Workshop (Stenhouse, 2007).

* To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed. If yours does not, you can download it now.

Book Review

Assessing English Language Learners
By Lorraine Valdez-Pierce

This useful guide to ELL assessment, commissioned by the National Education Association, is an excellent resource for teachers who want a quick overview of issues related to second language acquisition, standardized testing, and performance-based assessment. The book includes a chapter on professional development, which outlines recommendations for creating a team of teachers to evaluate assessment needs within the school and to review existing assessments. Also see the Colorín Colorado webcast featuring Dr. Valdez-Pierce, entitled Assessment of English Language Learners, in which she discusses effective assessment strategies for the ELL classroom.

Valdez-Pierce, L. (2003). Assessing English language learners. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

Purchase book from* >>

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at help support Colorín Colorado.

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In the Classroom

Bright Ideas that Work

Successful Field Trips with English Language Learners

English language learners can benefit from field trips that enhance classroom learning. While it can be overwhelming for a teacher to organize such a trip, some planning beforehand and a few extra steps can make a big difference! This article offers some ideas for planning a successful trip for ELLs and providing students with a meaningful academic experience, as well as ways to get parents involved as chaperones.

Achieving Success: From the Heart

Larry Ferlazzo teaches English language learners at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, CA. He also writes regularly about ideas for the ELL classroom in his blog, Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day. In this interview with Colorín Colorado, Larry discusses the way he uses technology in his classroom, how he finds new resources for his blog, and how he has helped to create a "community of learners" at his school.

Frequently Asked Questions

Assessment is an important part of effective classroom instruction, and it sometimes poses particular challenges for teachers of English language learners. If you are interested in learning more about valid and equitable assessment practices for ELLs, you may want to explore the following FAQ:

Find the answers to these and many other Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching ELLs on Colorín Colorado.

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Beyond the Classroom

Book of the Month

My Name Is Yoon
By Helen Recorvits

Yoon experiences many difficulties when her family moves to the United States from Korea, like learning to write her name in English. With the support of a kind teacher and patient parents, however, Yoon begins to find things to like about her new home and realizes, "Maybe different is good, too."

ELLs in the News

Here are a few of this month's featured stories about English language learners and their families in the headlines. If you are interested in following ELL stories on a daily or weekly basis, sign up for an RSS feed or weekly email!

Large Districts to Use Stimulus for ELL Support

As part of Education Week's ongoing coverage of educational spending resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Schools and the Stimulus), Mary Ann Zehr discusses the ways in which a group of urban school districts — Boston, New York City, St. Paul, Minn., and Seattle — are planning to use stimulus money to "support or improve programs" for for English language learners.

College-Bound Students Run into Financial Wall

This article from The Los Angeles Times explores the challenges and difficult decisions that many students and parents, struggling in the wake of the recession, are facing as they take a hard look at the kind of tuition bills their families can afford: "The Rodriguez family's discussion echoed a number of painful conversations this spring as recession-battered parents delivered some variation of the same message: Congratulations, you got in, but we can't afford it."

'Scratch' Gives Students Tools to Create Interactive Media

Two years ago, computer software engineers at The Media Lab, MIT's innovative technology research center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, launched a new and easy-to-use programming language they called Scratch. Since its launch, Scratch has quickly found its way over the Internet into classrooms and homes around the world, putting the creative power of software design into the hands of everyday users, young and old. In this article, Voice of America explores how the program is being used in different kinds of classrooms, including a high school ESL class in Virginia.

In a Word: Academic Content Standards

This month's glossary term refers to standards developed by state departments of education to demonstrate what they expect all students to know and be able to do in the core content areas. According to NCLB, ELL students "will meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards as all children are expected to meet."

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