Assessments of Students in Bilingual Education
Key Words: Information, Deafness Related Issues, Deaf Education
Amy L. Pack
Arias, M., & Casanova, U. (1993). Assessment of students in bilingual
education. Bilingual Education: Politics, Practice and Research, 92(2), 144-167.
Kent State University
The reason to consider bilingual education is an approach to educating
youngsters, who for reasons of language, are at a disadvantage in English-speaking
classrooms. These students are entitled to receive a specialized form of instruction that
takes into account their language differences. The intent is to enable them to learn
academic content in their native language as they acquire sufficient language skills to
enter the English-speaking classroom.
To satisfy federal regulations, school districts are required to determine who is
mandated to receive special instructional services. School districts receiving funding
from federal and state governments must demonstrate that students are learning English
and that they are performing competently on tests of academic achievement in other
subjects. Because performance on standardized tests has been tied to promotional
policies, many bilingual students have been retained, some as many as two to three times.
Those students that are held back are typically subjected to the type of curriculum that
duplicates the content, format, and language of tests. Worse yet, many students are tested
and placed inappropriately in remedial or special education programs on the basis of such
Assessment in bilingual education traditionally serves both administrative and
instructional functions. Included among the administrative functions are determining the
students' rights to services, placing students in appropriate classes within existing
programs, and evaluating program effectiveness. Once students are identified and
placed, assessment moves into the domain of instruction. Two types of instruments used
in assessment are the home language survey and the language rating scale.
Overall, dominance testing for placements tells educators very little about the
specific linguistic or instructional needs of individual students. While formal measures
provide more standardized and reliable information than home language surveys and
scales, all focus heavily on linguistic competence and knowledge of language isolation
rather than on competence in the context of learning academic content. The focus on
linguistic competence to the exclusion of sociolinguistic competence gives one
information on what students know about a language or what they can do with language
in an artificial context. Oral language proficiency tests and language assessment batteries
usually cannot tell us what students are able to do with language in face-to-face
communication in the classrooms when academic content is the focus of instruction.
Although there may be a battery of tests designed to be context-sensitive, such tests
cannot fully replicate a natural communicative context.
In summary, the major problem with assessment as it has evolved in bilingual
education is that it has responded to legal concerns and political pressures rather than to
the real needs of students. Because of the emphasis on the acquisition of English,
summative forms of assessment of English language skills have dominated the field. In
addition, traditional testing of both language proficiency and academic achievement has
yielded very little information about bilingual students as learners.
- Although students are being identified as needing additional services, the
quality of service is still under debate.
Uploaded by: Jessica Soltesz, Kent State University, Deaf Education Major