College of Education & Human Services

Lesson 2: Performance Definitions for Classroom Assessment

CAN DO Descriptors

Reread page ii and iii of the Introduction to the English Language Proficiency Standards you have been working from in Lesson 1. Notice in particular this information found on page 2:
 " . . . the use of the standards and corresponding MPIs (Model Performance Indicators) must be in conjunction with the Performance Definitions.
“The MPIs, delineated by language proficiency level, give expectations for what students should be able to process and produce at a given proficiency level.

“The Performance Definitions describe how well the student can or should be expected to do so."
“For example, the language function “describe” appears in MPIs at levels 1-4.

• What language does a student at language proficiency level 2 need to produce in order to “describe”?
• What can he or she reasonably be expected to process to understand a description?
How does this compare with a student at language proficiency level 4?

“The language function “describe” for a level 2 student may mean producing or comprehending phrases or short sentences using common adjectives and modifiers, whereas a level 4 student may be expected to process or use extended discourse incorporating relative clauses, similes or metaphors."  

Now, Download the CAN DO Descriptors at the following link:    CAN DO Descriptors.pdf

The CAN DO Descriptors build upon the Performance Definitions by describing what students can do at each proficiency level by domain but do not distinguish among students in different grade levels.

While not part of the standards, these two resources are essential foundations to understanding and using the five proficiency levels exemplified in the MPIs.

The MPIs are the building blocks of the standards’ matrices. Like the Performance Definitions, their strands are assembled according to the progressive levels of English language proficiency. Along with the CAN DO Descriptors, they are divided into the four domains, but they are also structured around example topics and genres by grade level cluster. Thus, they are the most detailed representations of the ELP standards.

In Lesson 1, we noted that the Performance Definitions incorporate THREE linguistic criteria. Read this excerpt from the Understanding the WIDA English Language Proficiency Standards: A Resource Guide, also available for download at:
Linguistic Complexity 
Linguistic complexity refers to the amount of discourse (oral or written), the types and variety of grammatical structures, the organization and cohesion of ideas and, at the higher levels of language proficiency, the use of text structures in specific genres. For example, expository essays often include the use of language to foreshadow, argue and summarize (Schleppegrell, 2004). As ELLs gain proficiency in English, their processing abilities and use of complex structures increase accordingly.
Vocabulary Usage  
The role of vocabulary, in particular, the use of academic language associated with content-based instruction, has been documented as critical in the literacy development of second language learners. In fact, “mastery of academic language is arguably the single most important determinant of academic success; to be successful academically, students need to develop the specialized language of academic discourse that is distinct from conversational language” (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, & Rivera, 2006, p.7). In the Performance Definitions, as students progress from the Entering to Reaching levels of proficiency, we witness change in vocabulary use from general language to specific language to specialized or technical language that is required in processing or responding to a task.

Using the words below, complete the following table with examples of General, Specific, and Technical language: Click here to download a copy of the table activity.       PDF      WORD

in all
Click here to check your answers in a PDF. 

Language Control

Language control reflects the extent to which a communication is comprehensible. Comprehensibility is measured by the number and types of errors committed in oral or written discourse that affect the meaning or intent of the message. These errors involve lapses in fluency, grammatical usage, phonology (the sounds used by a particular language), and semantic choice (the selection of words to convey meaning).

Read a selection of text to be used in your classroom. Rewrite the selection for a Level 2 proficiency student at your grade level.

Tips for revising text:

1. Reduce the AMOUNT of language.

2. Reduce the VARIETY of sentences, and SHORTEN the sentences.

3. Replace SPECIFIC and TECHNICAL vocabulary with GENERAL vocabulary OR provide an “in text glossary” that gives the general word related to the specific or technical word being used.

Finding time to revise grade level texts for ELLs enrolled in their classes is a significant challenge facing many mainstream teachers. Brainstorm ideas for how you and your school might address this very real dilemma.

Some ideas others have used:

1. Involve your ESL resource teacher or tutor in the process.

2. Ask for help from support personnel in your building: Title I teachers, Reading Intervention staff, Special Education teachers, etc.

3. Look for alternative or parallel texts that focus on the same content objectives but with more supports already built in.

4. If the student is literate in their home language, look for a native language translation of the text – or a native language text focusing on the same content.

5. Assign high level, native English speaking students in the class to modify the text.

6. Keep modified materials on file to share with others and to prepare for ELLs
who may enroll in the future.

Download the WIDA Speaking and Writing rubrics:

Read this excerpt from the WIDA Resource Guide, p. RG-54:

The Speaking and Writing Rubrics were originally created to score the productive tasks in ACCESS for ELLs® and also for its screener, the WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT)™. These scoring rubrics are equally useful for classroom use. These rubrics reflect and elaborate the Performance Definitions for the levels of English language proficiency. The three criteria represented are linguistic complexity, vocabulary usage and language control.

The Speaking Rubric does not include level 6 but note that it is reserved for students whose oral English is comparable to that of their English-proficient peers.
These rubrics may be used in conjunction with the Performance Definitions and also the speaking and writing domains of the CAN DO Descriptors.
Teachers are welcome to incorporate these rubrics into their classroom assessment throughout the school year. We also encourage teachers to gather and discuss student samples of speaking and writing for the varying grade levels or grade level clusters to share with one another. These anchor papers may then serve to help teachers become more consistent raters for writing samples on both a formative and summative basis.