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NIFL-ASSESSMENT 2005: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1172] RE: high-stakes te

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From: Pauline Mcnaughton (
Date: Thu Jul 28 2005 - 09:18:08 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1172] RE: high-stakes testing, state/federal accountability, and standardized tests
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Hi there,

Standardized testing is not a perfect solution - and let's be honest - there
are no perfect solutions.  No standardized test is ideal for every situation
in which it is used - nor are any of them really able to do justice to every
learner.  They are also expensive and time consuming.

But what standardized testing does provide is a reasonable measure of
fairness and some common shared understanding.  In Canada as publicly funded
ESL gets into higher levels of language proficiency, particularly targeting
highly skilled professionals - standardized testing is the only way to
ensure fairness in terms of allocating a limited number of placements with
set language entry requirements.  Even in more basic settlement language
training there can be wait lists and limited enrollments.

Canada is fortunate in having a national language standard upon which to
base the development not only standardized tests but also curriculum
development and materials development.  The Canadian Language Benchmarks - a
descriptive scale of communicative proficiency in ESL expressed as 12
benchmarks which include detailed statements of communicative comptencies
and performance tasks.  It essentially provides a framework of reference for
learning, teaching, programming and asssesing adult ESL in Canada.  It also
provides a common professional foundation of shared philosophical and
theoretical views on language education.  (For a free copy to download see

The CLB standard is being increasingly used to conduct occupational language
analyses so that we can benchmark specific occupations - as we did with the
nursing profession (see .  Providing benchmarked
"occupational language analysis" for specific occupations provides
everyone - ESL professionals, newcomers, employers, licensing bodies - with
common shared information about what the language requirements are.  This is
ultimately fair (at least more fair then the absence of such information
where employers and newcomers are left to determine for themselves what
seems to be adequate language proficiency).

Standardized testing may not always be the "sharpest knife" in the drawer
someone told me recently, but it is often the only knife in the drawer.

-----Original Message-----
From: []On
Behalf Of Howard Dooley
Sent: July 27, 2005 9:22 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1171] RE: high-stakes testing, state/federal
accountability, and standardized tests

"Help", he says, not quite desperately.  (I have procrastinated, so I am
just a "nonce" from desperation.)

As my program (staff and learners) and fellow practitioners move into
the 21st century of "no adult left behind", trying to meet the
accountability requirements of federal, state, and program parties,
trying to be evidence-based, standards-based, and so on in the jargon of
the moment, we are as you are trying to prepare our learners for
post-secondary training/education and for living-wage jobs, and, well,
frankly (as St Paul said) trying to be "all things to all people so that
some few can be saved".

In that context, I am interested in hearing and/or discussing with folks
the implementation of standardized assessments.  Are they always a
necessary evil?  The devil's due?  Have you found ways to make them
relevant, engaging?

Perhaps (whisper, wink) you are you a true-believer?  Is the TABE, the
BEST, the CASAS, the best thing since sliced bread?

Don't be shy.  Blast me.  Guide me.  Lurkers, come out and play.
Theorists, practicivists welcome to proselytize.

Do you reject standardization?  Are you are a naturalist?  Please, let
me know how to move down the "path not taken."

If your comments are "not ready for prime-time", you can reply privately
to  Thank you.

Howard L. Dooley, Jr.
Director of Accountability, Project RIRAL
Assessment Team, Governor's Taskforce on Adult Literacy

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