Washington students are not required to take any statewide tests in world languages, but the World Languages Program can provide technical assistance to schools and districts that would like to assess their students’ language proficiency.
What is Language Proficiency?
Language proficiency refers to a person’s ability to use a language for a variety of purposes, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Proficiency is commonly measured using guidelines developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines measure proficiency on a scale of ten levels: Novice Low, Mid, and High; Intermediate Low, Mid, and High; Advanced Low, Mid, and High; and Superior. Review the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 for descriptions and multimedia exemplars of each proficiency level.
Why Assess Language Proficiency?
A student’s ability to engage in conversation, understand written or spoken text, and present information orally or in writing is developed over a number of years of learning a language. Each person is unique, and even in immersion programs, not all students attain the same level of proficiency in the same period of time. However, all students should be able to increase their proficiency each year if they are in a high-quality language program taught by a fluent and capable teacher. So, assessing language proficiency is a critical component of program evaluation. An even more important reason to assess language proficiency is to provide students with accurate feedback on their developing abilities in the language. While grades may be based on many non-linguistic factors, such as attendance, mastery of specific grammar points, or completion of homework, language proficiency focuses only on what a student is actually able to do with the language.
How Can We Assess Language Proficiency?
There are a number of valid instruments available now for assessing language proficiency. The Center for Applied Linguistics maintains a Foreign Language Assessment Database of over 200 assessments in 90 languages that you can search.
There are several assessment instruments that are being used in Washington schools at this time and are aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The World Languages Program Supervisor can provide technical assistance to districts and schools interested in making use of these assessments.
- Oral Proficiency Assessments from the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, D.C., that use an interview protocol to assess oral fluency, grammar, vocabulary, and listening comprehension of students PK-8. See ELLOPA/SOPA/COPE Assessments. These include:
- Early Language Listening and Oral Proficiency Assessment (ELLOPA) grades PK-2
- Student Oral Proficiency Assessment (SOPA) grades 2-8
- CAL Oral Proficiency Exam (COPE) grades 5-8
- Online assessments for Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Listening developed at the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon
ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), OPIc (computer-based) and Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) offered through Language Testing International (LTI). These are the assessments that are required of all future teachers seeking a World Languages Endorsement as of 1/1/2010.
In addition to these on-demand assessments, there is an array of Integrated Performance Assessments similar to Classroom-Based Assessments in the Social Studies or Classroom-Based Performance Assessments in the Arts that allow teachers to assess their students’ developing language proficiency all year long in the classroom. To learn more, download the presentation handouts on Integrated Performance Assessments from the Mapping and Enhancing Language Learning Events web page.