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Science Assessment Modification for EL Students in the Mainstream Classroom Rachel Lee University of La Verne

Running head: SCIENCE ASSESSMENT MODIFICATION FOR ELS During my observation at Golden Elementary School of Mrs. Styles first grade classroom, I learned quite a bit about student assessment and modifications of assessments that are used for EL students. Mrs. Styles has been a

teacher for eighteen years and has been teaching in the Etiwanda School District for the last twelve years. She has been at Golden Elementary for the last five years and was teaching at a different school (also in Etiwanda) before that with a much larger population of EL students. We discussed classroom assessment and its challenges at length and I found out just how difficult it is to assess students whose basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) may be high, leading teachers and parents alike to believe that their students may only require little help with the language found in the classroom and on assessment. Many people do not take into account the fact that a students BICS will develop much more quickly and proficiently than their cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) and may not see the need for assessment modification in the mainstream classroom. Much research has been done on EL students performance on standardized testing being affected by their limited cognitive academic language. Unfortunately, there is limited research that has been extended into the classroom to measure EL students performance in the mainstream classroom on typical classroom assessment and modifications that may be required. Jamal Abedi teaches us that limited proficiency in that language [the language of the test] can masquerade as limited content knowledge(as cited in Guler, 2013, p. 126). My master teacher, Mrs. Styles, has encountered this challenge in her teaching. Students that may display an age appropriate BICS level may score low on assessments where age and grade-level

Running head: SCIENCE ASSESSMENT MODIFICATION FOR ELS appropriate CALP is used. Teachers may know that their students know the information and are not able to properly read and comprehend the CALP used in assessments from textbook publishers or other prewritten assessment authors.

Teachers experienced in working with EL students will know that assessments may need to be modified to the needs of the individual EL student. I witnessed Mrs. Styles cutting and pasting an assessment for her Science rotation for her students. She used a CD that came with the textbook she is currently using and printed the unit tests that were associated with the unit she was teaching. Mrs. Styles cut and pasted several unit tests to make an assessment that measured what she had taught as well as created a separate assessment that would also work for her EL student that required modification. She informed me that while this students BICS was close to age appropriate, that his CALP was still in progress. The modifications she used for this science test included the student drawing and labeling a picture of a plant and what it needs to live as well as a drawing that showed what animals need to live (air, water, food). Mrs. Styles also included a word bank for this student to use when labeling his pictures. She informed me that she has used a glossary in the past with other students, but that this particular student did not need that specific modification. This was interesting to me, because, I was unaware that generalized modification was not appropriate for all students. I believed that the standard modifications of, let an EL student draw a picture, offer an EL student additional time to complete the assessment, were adequate modification. I did not stop to think that all students are different and may require different modification the way different students whose strengths lie in different

Running head: SCIENCE ASSESSMENT MODIFICATION FOR ELS modalities require differentiated lessons. Not having had much experience with reviewing assessments for EL students, I had not given this topic much thought. As educators, we know that there is a need for assessment modification for students with limited cognitive academic language but we often generalize the

modifications to fit all ELs. Research by Willner, Rivera, and Acosta (2009) supports that providing accommodations that are based on consideration of each students unique background and linguistic needs will be more effective for EL students. The criteria for assigning accommodations for EL students should include ELP level, literacy levels in English and the native language, age/grade level, and language of instruction in the content to be tested, (Willner et al., 2009). Willner, Rivera, and Acosta (2009) also suggest providing the opportunity for EL students to use their assigned accommodations in the classroom prior to using them on assessments. I found that Mrs. Styles, does, in fact, consider her students ELP level, literacy level in their native language and English, and the language being used in her lessons when creating lessons and assessments. Mrs. Styles also allows her EL students to use accommodations during classroom assignments and has an alphabetized glossary of terms that the students write when they learn a new vocabulary word. Science assessments are sometimes thought to be more difficult to assign accommodations for EL students and research has been done showing how integrating writing, science, and drawing in an assessment can be beneficial for EL students and their teachers so that a teacher can better assess the students knowledge. Research shows that by integrating science, literacy, and art, [a teacher] provides multiple ways for students to communicate understandings and

Running head: SCIENCE ASSESSMENT MODIFICATION FOR ELS collects rich, ongoing assessment, (Armon & Morris, 2008). An assessment that consists of multiple choice questions, fill in questions, and essays cannot accurately measure what an emerging EL student knows and has learned. Having a student

draw and label a picture about a certain topic at the beginning of a lesson, and again throughout the lesson and after the lesson can show what the student has learned and can show progress that teachers can measure. Mrs. Styles does accommodate assessment to include this type of questions, but is only doing so during the Unit Test. While the assessment she is administering to her current EL student may measure his knowledge of the content of the test, it would be beneficial for him to draw and label a picture at the beginning of the lesson and then again at the end of the lesson to help her to see the students progress and more accurately assess his learning. Doing so would help Mrs. Styles accurately assess whether or not her student understands the concepts she is teaching or if his grasp of the English language (or lack of) is affecting his performance on classroom assessments. Research shows that strengths of using student drawings as an assessment tool is that teachers can compare and contrast understanding over time, (Cox-Petersen & Olson, 2007). This accommodation would work well for a variety of students and would be one I would like to include in my future classroom in addition to assessments, not necessarily as an accommodation of assessment. I learned so much about science assessment modification in my master teacher, Mrs. Styles classroom. I learned that each EL student has different literacy and language needs and that modifications should be based upon those needs. I also learned, through my research, that not all students require the same modifications

Running head: SCIENCE ASSESSMENT MODIFICATION FOR ELS and that using the same modifications for all EL students will not have accurate validity or results. During my research I learned that integrating literacy, art, and

science could be an effective assessment tool for use with EL students as we are able to accurately assess a students knowledge of a particular topic over a period of time as they add to and change their illustrations. I also learned that considering a students ELP level, literacy level of their native language and English, age/grade level, and language of the content being assessed is imperative when creating and assigning modifications for assessment. It was interesting to work with a teacher that was knowledgeable about assessment modifications for EL students and was able to give me specific examples of modifications she currently makes and has made in the past for her students. I am excited that I was able to learn about EL science assessment modification from a teacher who actually performs it in her classroom and am anxious to be able to do so myself in the near future.

Running head: SCIENCE ASSESSMENT MODIFICATION FOR ELS References Armon, Joan & Morris, Linda J. (2008). Integrated assessments for ELL. Science and Children, 45(8), 49-53. Cox-Petersen, Anne (Amy) & Olson, Joanne K. (2007). Alternate assessments for english language learners. Science and Children, 44(6), 46-48. Guler, N. (2013). Assessing ELL students in mainstream classes: A new dilemma for the teachers. English Journal, 102(3), 126-129. Willner, L.S., Rivera, C., & Acosta, B.D. (2009). Ensuring accommodations used in content assessments are responsive to english-language learners. The Reading Teacher, 62(8), 696-698.