College of Education & Human Services

Lesson 3: What About Standardized Testing of English Language Learners?

      It's Easier to Mingle When You're Bilingual

Remember, what seems like a “disability” now, is an advantage in the future. Bilingualism, trilingualism and multilingualism are strengths and highly valued the world-over. Why would we erase our students’ gifts?


While many of us have not had experience learning a second language, we have all had the experience of observing children learn their first language. We can apply the process of learning a first language to understanding the process of learning a second. The process includes predictable, sequential stages through which learners progress at varied, individualized rates. By understanding the stages of language acquisition, we can better instruct and educate our ELL students. These levels have been clearly defined and standardized by the WIDA Consortium. (See Lesson 2)

Continued use of native language by ELLs and their families should be respected and encouraged. We recognize that in many school districts, it is not possible to utilize native language support at school. However, whenever possible, providing text or oral support to students and families should be encouraged.


Are You Smarter Than a Third Grader?

orangeMany educators believe that one academic area in which ELLs should have little difficulty working with their peer group is mathematics. (It's symbols are universal; aren’t they?) Often new ELLs are immediately placed in mathematics classes and expected to achieve at grade level without the CALP necessary for achievement in mathematics.

The following math problem was translated into Japanese from a third grade practice ISAT problem. (Marion Friebus-Flaman , 2008)

Put yourself in the position of an English language learner being tested for achievement in math and see how you do. No math terms are translated as that might give you an “unfair advantage".

To make the problem “easier” make use of the following accommodations: extended time and a glossary of words used in the problem.

Glossary of Words


Use this story problem to complete the questions that follow.


After reading the story problem, answer the following questions. You may refer to the glossary of words as needed.





Now Let's Try it in English

Darin earns $5 per hour babysitting on weekdays. On weekends, he earns $7 per hour. The chart shows the number of hours Darin worked and his earnings for each day he babysat.  Use the following story problem to complete the questions that follow. 

Use this story problem to complete the questions that follow.

Key Points to Consider After Completing This Exercise    

  1. Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is necessary for achievement in the content areas.

  2. Many ELLs may have knowledge that they cannot express due to lack of CALP.  This in turn can lead to excess stress and self-esteem issues.  (Just because you struggled with Japanese doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to do third-grade math, does it?)

3. Math is not “universal.”