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From: Phil Cackley (
Date: Sun Jul 31 2005 - 17:17:10 EDT

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From: "Phil Cackley" <>
To: Multiple recipients of list <>
Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1182] RE: Q&A for Teachers
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I'm an adult ESL teacher and can give one teacher's perspective of the 
issues surrounding testing in our program in Virginia. Marie asked if 
teachers use performance levels in their classrooms.  I certainly do, on a 
weekly basis. I'm required by my program to assess students three times 
during a 12-week "cycle" -- at the beginning, in mid-cycle and at the end 
(to determine promotion/retention for the upcoming cycle). I follow an 
extensive set of performance levels for R/W/S/L geared to our adult ESL 
learners. (On our website, if anybody's intersted.)  It's very helpful in 
determining what kind of progress learners have made in their 12 weeks and I 
usually have little difficulty in placing the continuing students in a class 
that meets their needs.
Overlaid on this classroom assessment is our high-stakes testing program. We 
test a certain number of federally financed students -- those receiving 
scholarships, funded through federal dollars. We test them within the first 
week of class and again before the end of the 12-week cycle. (Having used 
*other* assessments at in-take to determine their initial placement.) 
Learners are somewhat apprehensive about these tests, but I perceive that 
they usually feel more comfortable when I, as the teacher they've seen for 
at least a couple days, can reassure them that they *don't* need to worry 
about the test, do the best they can. They come back into the classroom 
saying, that wasn't so bad.
My other comment on high-stakes testing is that, as an adult ESL teacher, I 
feel it makes a lot more sense to have assessments that are *performance 
assessments* rather than a multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil test.  In my 
experience, the BEST Plus accomplishes that requirement of being a 
performance assessment that measures the language the student *has* rather 
than seeing if they can answer a standard list of questions right or wrong.  
In addition, the REEP Writing Assessment also meets that requirement (and, 
yes, I'm biased in favor of the RWA since I've been using it for going on 10 
years now) because it gives learners the chance to show how much language 
they have and can *use* rather than seeing what's wrong or right.
I have limited experience with CASAS and extremely limited experience with 
TABE and didn't like what I saw with either of them.  I'm aware that there 
are other reasons to use either of them (esp. in terms of cost and ease of 
administration from a program perspective) rather than BEST Plus or the REEP 
One final thing that I have never heard in discussions of high-stakes 
testing is anything from the USDOE folks or other funders -- do *they* see 
program quality improving as a result of requiring these tests? Do they feel 
that the learners are being better served now?

Phil Cackley
Arlington, VA

>To: Multiple recipients of list <>
>Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1179] Q&A for Teachers
>Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 13:38:09 -0400 (EDT)
>Hi Nancy and everyone,
>I hope that you were able to locate the Special Collection in Assessment
>(thanks, David, for proving the links - folks see below for them).  The
>entire discussion from the National Academy of Sciences report,
>including the summary, is indeed at the WIKI.  The Discussion has not
>yet been posted to the Collection Discussion page.  I'll let you know
>when it's there, but know you can get it at the wiki.
>So how 'bout it teachers?  Do you use performance levels in your
>classroom?  Or do they just confound you?  Help you?  Perhaps you shove
>them under the rug?  Or perhaps they are your "guide of all guides"?
>And Nancy poses this interesting question - one that I didn't make any
>connection with because she's talking about the K12 system (and shame
>on me for not keeping that someplace in my mind):
>I am interested in whether
> > anything
> > > has changed in the high schools around the country
> > > related to determining skill levels.  Does it mean
> > > adapting study and lessonwork according to their
> > > learning styles in order to meet the needs of the
> > > lowest level learners?
>We would love to hear some thoughts from you all.
>marie cora
>Moderator, NIFL Assessment Discussion List, and Coordinator/Developer
>LINCS Assessment Special Collection at
>-----Original Message-----
>From: [] On
>Behalf Of Nancy Hansen
>Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:46 PM
>To: Multiple recipients of list
>Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1170] Re: Q&A for Teachers
>Well Hi DAVid!
>Thanks for spotting my need and replying.  Since
>there's the possibility it isn't updated yet, I'm
>going to wait a couple days and go back to try again
>using your information here.
>Thanks a MILlion!
>Nancy Hansen
>--- David Rosen <> wrote:
> > Hi Nancy,
> >
> > I think you'll find what Marie was referring to at:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > The Special Collection she referred to, I think, is
> > the NIFL
> > Assessment Special Collection at
> >
> >
> >
> > i am not sure that this material is up there yet.
> >
> > David
> >
> > David J. Rosen
> >
> > On Jul 21, 2005, at 5:09 PM, Nancy Hansen wrote:
> >
> > >
> > > Hi everybody,
> > >
> > > I think Marie is on vacation this week, but I
> > wanted
> > > to see if anyone used the website she listed below
> > in
> > > her email to read about performance levels.  I
> > didn't
> > > locate a "special collection" tab so perhaps
> > that's
> > > why there didn't appear to be the data I was
> > > expecting.
> > >
> > > Marie also wrote:
> > > << I was hoping to hear even more - perhaps from
> > > classroom teachers who may have followed the
> > > discussion.  I'm wondering how all of that broad
> > and
> > > intense subject matter affects you and your
> > students?
> > > We see how it affects things like policy and
> > funding,
> > > but what about for the practitioner in the
> > classroom?
> > > How do you work with performance levels within
> > your
> > > classroom? >>
> > >
> > > I would ALSO really like to hear from the teachers
> > in
> > > the junior and senior high school levels.  I'm
> > > interested in hearing what they are finding as far
> > as
> > > "work(ing) with performance levels within your
> > > classrooms" says Marie.  Anyone out there?  Or are
> > you
> > > all "on vacation" also?
> > >
> > > I am an adult literacy provider who serves the
> > very
> > > lowest of the literacy level 1 and 2 learners.  We
> > > also have the higher end of the English Speakers
> > of
> > > Other Languages. I am interested in whether
> > anything
> > > has changed in the high schools around the country
> > > related to determining skill levels.  Does it mean
> > > adapting study and lessonwork according to their
> > > learning styles in order to meet the needs of the
> > > lowest level learners?
> > >
> > > Your replies will be appreciated.
> > >
> > > Nancy Hansen
> > >

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