Standardized Tests Have Been Criticized Education Essay

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In California, assessment of ELLs regularly occurs in order to ensure that ongoing educational practices are meeting the students' needs. Both state and local testing are important because they not only provide accountability, but also show student achievement. When assessment portfolios are included, schools can identify and meet the needs of a diverse student population that includes ELLs (O'Malley & Pierce, 1996).

The purpose of the portfolio program must be well established prior to its implementation because the portfolio's purpose will determine what type of work should be included. For example, if portfolios are to be used only for classroom assessment, they may then concentrate in only one area of language development, such as vocabulary. If, however, the portfolios are meant to show an ELL's growth in both English and the subject matter areas, then the portfolio should include examples of how well an ELL can use English in these areas rather than the content itself. For example, material gathered should show how well an ELL has learned the science vocabulary and semantics needed to understand science books, not how well the student can perform a specific experiment (Gomez, 1999).

Both the teacher and the students should decide what types of material to include in the portfolio. Including the ELL student in the decision-making process will offer more of a "buy-in" by the student. Moreover, this will make the whole process more student-centered, which will prompt the student to take more responsibility for his or her learning.

Reading - the assessment of reading includes a wide variety of components. Both the teacher and the student will want a variety of pieces of student work included. The teacher may want to include:

1.) Running records

2.) Reading inventories, and

3.) Similar measures using ELL text.

Cloze exercises may also be included that focus on vocabulary and grammar. Cloze exercises are especially important because they can demonstrate how well a student can predict the next word when reading parallels levels of proficiency (Gomez, 1999).

A student might want to choose reading logs, book reports, and reading responses. Both the teacher and the student may want to include storytelling that includes testing.

Students must fully understand that the teacher will be looking for improvement and higher reading proficiency to occur, and this must be evident in the portfolio from the beginning to the end of the assessment.

The use of rubrics and checklists will assist both the student and the teacher. The student will benefit when he or she understands the criteria needed to fulfill a task, while the teacher will be able to provide more consistent grading within the classroom.

Writing - Of all the language conventions combined, writing is probably one of the easiest to document in a portfolio setting. All types of writing, including those that demonstrate grade level proficiency, can be included in an assessment portfolio. Moreover, standards established through published state frameworks can include not only drawings and simple language exercises for the early primary grades but also journals, essays, and more advanced research papers at the junior and senior high school levels.

Portfolios can be used to show students' growth in writing as their vocabulary matures. In addition, many cultures use different methods and forms of logic while providing information and describing things or situations. This is easily recognized in a student's writing. This is especially true for ELLs who are literate in their L1. Portfolios can also assess an ELL's proficiency and understanding of writing conventions when grammar exercises, spelling tests, and self-made dictionaries are included (Gomez, 1999).

In order to demonstrate growth, teachers must include writing samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the term or school year.

Again, rubrics and checklists should be included to assist both the student and the teacher. As mentioned earlier, both rubrics and checklists will make expectations clear for the student, while allowing the teacher to assess and grade more consistently within the overall classroom environment.

Speaking - Speaking is rarely included in portfolios because many teachers find it difficult to enumerate speaking qualities. In addition, many might argue that only qualitative data, rather than quantitative data can be gathered to appraise speech. Nonetheless, it is still possible to recognize growth in speaking skills if the teacher has identified speaking/speech goals.

The teacher can assess a student's speech during either a report or presentation given before the class while students are working in pairs or in a cooperative learning environment. Again, both rubrics and checklists should be used by the teacher in order to demonstrate speaking skills and growth.

Listening - For the same reasons as speaking, many teachers exclude listening as an assessable component within a portfolio. However, with more ease than is required for speaking, a teacher can appraise listening skills through more various means. For example, students can be called upon to respond to an oral presentation or story. Here students would write the response after having carefully listened to either a story or presentation. In this scenario, a "whole language" approach would be employed to describe the key points heard and understood from a presentation or story. Transcripts of discussions between other students could also be included in a student's portfolio.

The Content Areas - Aside from the inclusion of the language arts, teachers can also benefit by including work from the content areas. Teachers can take two approaches for the assessment and the inclusion of the content areas in a portfolio.

First, teachers may be concerned that their ELL students are able to apply their language skills in the content areas. If this were the case, then teachers should include examples that show how well any ELL student can use English in these areas. Here, teachers would concentrate on how well English is applied across the curriculum rather than the content area itself.

While many teachers have played down the inclusion of listening skills within a language arts portfolio, they would, on the other hand, be concerned their ELL students are able to understand oral instructions and explanations of math in English. To foster this approach, an ELL teacher should instruct his or her ELL students to take notes during a math teacher's oral presentation/explanation of a math problem. These notes would be gathered in intervals over time from the beginning to the end of the term or school year.

On the other hand, and especially in the upper grades, teachers may want to focus on how well their ELL students are able to master concepts in science, math, and social studies. Grading and assessment of a portfolio can be much easier in the content areas because there is often only one correct answer in the sciences and math.

Although multiple-choice questions frequently appear on a social studies test, often a richer understanding of the subject's content will be required, and accordingly, must be displayed in either a short answer or paragraph length response. In this scenario, an ELL student will be required to not only function well in English, but also acquire competency in the content areas. Again, this divide between language proficiency and subject matter competency narrows as ELL students matriculate toward the upper grades.

In a math portfolio, students can include daily work and projects separated over time. Ideally, daily work should also show how word problems have enhanced problem-solving skills. It is important that self-assessment be included in a math portfolio.

In a science portfolio, an ELL student should include examples of his or her experiments, reports, and projects. A picture accompanied with a brief explanation can be substituted whenever a project or experiment is either too cumbersome or two lengthy for inclusion in a portfolio. Self-assessment should be used to show the student how they have experienced growth and gained knowledge in science. Daily work separated overtime should be gathered that demonstrates how knowledge has been obtained through a science textbook.

In a social studies portfolio, ELL students could follow the same format as they would for both a math and science portfolio. They would, however, provide more written responses to information gathered from text and related articles.

Reports and projects could also be included in a social studies portfolio. Keep in mind, however, that it is important that the work be separated into intervals spaced over time, from the beginning to the end of the term or school year. By doing this, an ELL teacher could better assess his or her students' progress in both the content areas as well as in English.

As can be seen in a language arts portfolio, the use of rubrics and checklists are equally important for use with content area portfolios.

Whether or not an ELL student is schooled in a homeroom ELL class or a "pull-out" environment, it is still the responsibility of the ELL teacher to "shepherd" his or her students in both the language arts and the content areas. For this reason, it's imperative that ELL teachers retain an open dialogue and coordinate often with the content area teachers.

Guidelines for using portfolios.

1.) Determine the goals- ELL teachers and other faculty members must decide what types of information needs assessment. Accordingly, the teachers must recognize how the information can be provided.

2.) Design the portfolio - ELL teachers and other faculty must decide what types of products to be included in the portfolio.

3.) Establish scoring and grading criteria - Both rubrics and checklists must be developed that support the standards of performance, as well as promote learning and growth.

4.) Establish and identify tasks that support standards and curriculum - The ELL teacher and other faculty must align assessment tasks to their state's framework for content standards.

5.) Establish explicit criteria that is student-centered - All material within a portfolio must contain student work that allows for self-assessment and self-reflection.

6.) Elevate the importance of the portfolio - Students must recognize that portfolios represent the embodiment of their studies. Portfolios should be contained in an attractive, yet durable folder/binder. Portfolios should be housed in one distinct area of the classroom, surrounded by attractive, yet formal trim.

7.) The gathering and inclusion of material - The ELL teacher must designate certain works for inclusion in the portfolio. One must keep in mind that material should be included in intervals beginning from the beginning to the end of the term or school year.

8.) Self-assessment - Students should be able to reflect upon their work in order to identify what they have learned, as well as what needs remediation. Self-assessment should occur upon the completion of a task, as well as in intervals in order to reveal growth.

9.) Parental involvement - Parents must be kept well informed of portfolio assignments. In addition, parents need to have full access to the portfolios contents, as well as to the progress/growth that each portfolio displays. Allowing the students to take their portfolios home could be risky due to potential loss and/or damage. For this reason, the teacher must designate certain days within the term or school year for parents to physically view their child's portfolio. An alternate means for portfolio review must occur when a parent's schedule conflicts with a class visit.

10.) Portfolios benefits toward learning and growth -

A.) A table of contents must be included for organizational purposes.

B.) A description of student progress as it relates to each assignment's criteria, rubrics, and checklists, and this should occur throughout the term or school year, marked at regular intervals that reflect the students' ongoing stages of learning/growth.

(O'Malley & Pierce, 1996; Gomez, 1999)

Classroom time and space for portfolios

Teachers must recognize that portfolios follow students work, not vice versa. That is, one should not schedule portfolio work every week on of any particular day. This is obvious for a number of reasons. First, portfolios are intended to show growth of learning over a longer period of time (term to term, or beginning to end of school year). Second, by adding material weekly, both the teacher and the student will find it difficult to highlight growth. Third, often, blocks of instructions can extend over time. If a particular day has been designated for portfolio work, both the teacher and the students might find themselves midway through a project, hence making it difficult to include that project or distinguish a breaking point. On the other hand, the portfolio would become meaningless if the material were gathered randomly.

If the portfolios are meant to display work from only one class, then both the teacher and the students can have more leeway deciding how to separate and include student work. In this type of scenario, adding material to the portfolio monthly or quarterly would allow growth to be observed.

Aside from ongoing tests, monthly and/or quarterly inclusions would demonstrate how a student is improving his or her grammatics, vocabulary, and fluency.

A teacher will have to adjust his or her teaching calendar in order to conform to external timelines if the school or district has mandated portfolios (Gomez, 1999).

As mentioned earlier, portfolios should be housed in a particular area of the classroom, surrounded by attractive, yet formal trim. Attention should be made to restrict access to portfolios. Students will better appreciate and work more responsibly when importance has been added to the portfolios. The location and design of the portfolio's position should include an aspect of formality. Thus, elevating the portfolio's importance in the eyes of the student.

Parental involvement with portfolios

Parental support and participation is tantamount to any student's learning. In regards to parents, all too often they are left unaware of the portfolios purpose, contents, goals, and ways for providing assessment. For this reason, it is imperative that the parents be included in the portfolio process (Hill & Ruptic, 1994).

Schools or teachers should designate particular nights within a weeklong timeframe for informal presentations. Only one night would be necessary to attend, yet schools could better accommodate the parents' schedule when offering a presentation on various nights within the week. The presentation should center on the purpose and goals of the portfolio. Teachers can also include the advantages, projected outcomes, format, and characteristics of a portfolio. By doing this, parents will be better informed of the portfolios purpose and process.

By including parents, students will be better able to demonstrate the positive effects of their schooling. Parents will also develop a deeper understanding of how language proficiency and subject matter competence develop over time through various means of instruction and material. Furthermore, parents will appreciate how their children have developed, and will be more willing to support a teacher's means for instruction and assessment (Tierney, Carter, & Desai, 1991).

Student assessment of personal portfolios

One of the main advantages of assessment Portfolios is that it promotes student self-evaluation, critical thinking, and reflection.

Students, whether general or ELL understand their capabilities, as well as what challenges them. Sadly, all too often, they are left out in the development of procedures and practices for the assessment of their learning. Often, the practices and procedures that are employed to rate their learning rely directly on prescribed information or instant recall. Seldom do they rate what students understand about themselves and their learning. Seldom are students able to reflect on their learning and growth, and seldom are students called upon to use what they know by demonstrating that growth and understanding (AMLE, 1999).

Allowing students to take an active part in the planning, formulation, and assessment of the portfolio changes all of the above.

Through student assessment, students will have the opportunity to connect and make sense of their work and their learning. Students must be able to use their skills and knowledge, while demonstrating their understanding of issues and ideas (AMLE, 1999).

In a student led portfolio conference, both the teacher and the parents should sit-back and allow the student to explain their learning and how the material that has been included demonstrates their growth. Both teachers and parents can ask questions, and of course offer guidance to the portfolios organization, they would, however, want the student to assume full responsibility and ownership for the portfolio and its contents.

Checklists, which will be described later, offer yet another way for students to manage not only their learning but also their inclusion of material into a portfolio.

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