Four focus areas that support the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy in dual language education: The Language First Standards – progress monitoring
Assess in the minority language – or bad things can happen . . .
By: Stacey VandenBosch
In my last three posts, we covered the focus areas of program fidelity, dual language development, and biliteracy and counterbalanced instruction. In this post, we’re going to discuss progress monitoring, the flipside of the instructional coin. In a nutshell, the Language First Progress Monitoring Standards guide schools in making assessment decisions that place as much value on academic progress in the minority language (Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Arabic, etc.) as in the majority language (English).
So, before I share three things you can do to place value on academic progress in the minority language, let me explain WHY this is so important.
NOT assessing in the minority language can lead to increasing instructional time in English. But increasing instructional time in English does NOT improve academic outcomes in English. In fact, it leads to lower levels of bilingual proficiency. According to research, dual language students who receive less instruction in English perform just as well as their peers who receive more. But the students who receive MORE instructional time in Spanish reach higher levels of bilingual proficiency (Lindholm-Leary & Genesee, 2014).
With that in mind, let me give you a scenario of what can happen. We’ve seen it take place in districts across the country.
Imagine we teach our students that triangles have three edges and three vertices in Spanish. And being the great educators we are, the majority of our students demonstrate that they can easily identify triangles on their end of unit test in Spanish.
The problem comes in when our students then participate in a state standardized math assessment in English. The same students that identified triangles in Spanish fail to do so in English. So when the district is reviewing data, it appears that the mainstream students are outperforming the dual language students. Though WE might understand that our students are not able to recognize “triangle” as the cognate of tríangulo because they haven’t yet received formal English instruction, the district does not. So, due to what appears to be low performance, the district determines students need more math instructional time in English. We can not overemphasize this reality enough:
“Without assessment data in the minority language, programs may have difficulty convincing district leaders that the program is effective. They may be pressured to introduce more English…or to eliminate the ImDL program altogether (Lindholm-Leary, 2012) (Tedick & Lyster, p. 67, 2020).”
And just a final note, I am NOT saying, “Don’t ever assess students in English.” I’m simply suggesting that it’s important to assess students in the language they’re learning in.
So, what can you do right now to start placing more value on assessing in the minority language?
First, make sure any assessments you are using in the minority language are valid and reliable. MANY assessments are simply translations from English. It’s not valid and reliable to assess a kindergarten student in Spanish on translations. While “bat” might be a one syllable word many kindergarten students can read in English. The direct translation in Spanish, “murciélago”, is not.
Second, consider creating and implementing integrated performance assessments designed for dual language programs to monitor students’ language development in relationship to academic expectations. You can use this tool to get started. (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qVNjrbkpGyuWe8Yn3VMaxfdTsXP8_D1f/view?usp=sharing)
Third, explain to students how important their minority language proficiency development is and begin monitoring language accuracy. During small group time or when conferring with students one-on-one, jot down their grammatical errors. Notice trends and design mini-lessons that target these errors. Then provide corrective feedback and monitor improvement. You can use this tool to get started. (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1djaHAy7Pvj0GA7cgupbOel8Ksrs9795Y/view?usp=sharing)
If you and you want more context and learning around these tools and countless others, simply click here to download the level one syllabus. Then, show it your school leader and ask to enroll in our Language First certification courses.
Lindholm-Leary, K., & Genesee, F. (2014). Student outcomes in one-way, two-way, and indigenous language immersion education. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education 2(2), 165-180. Tedick, D.J. & Lyster, Roy. 2020.
Scaffolding Language Development in Immersion and Dual Language Classrooms. Editors: Lin, Angel & Dalton-Puffer, Christiane. Routledge Series in Language and Content Integrated Teaching and Plurilingual Education. London & New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.