[Assessment 1457] Re: TABE CLAS-E

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Forrest Chisman forrest at crosslink.net
Tue Nov 4 16:08:49 EST 2008

Dear Karen,

I think we agree. But I think there are three different assessment issues,
and I also think that they sometimes get confused. The first is the NRS. We
all know that this does a poor job of measuring what programs teach and
students learn - especially in ESL. We can either live with it and ignore
it, or (better) try to get DOE in the next administration to improve it.
Where I think we get into trouble is when we start designing programs to
meet its requirements in any serious way - and that does happen, as you
know. The second issue consists of state level assessments. Because all of
AE is primarily a state-based system, they matter more than the NRS. And I
think states need to know how well students are doing on all 4 core ESL
skills - as well as math (which is too seldom discussed or measured) - to
know how best to allocate resources. For these purposes, I don't think they
have to adopt the NRS levels or use the nationally standardized tests. That
is, they should not be slaves to the NRS. I'm encouraged that a growing
number of states are publishing curricular frameworks. Assessments based on
THOSE seem to me the best way to go. But I agree with you about the dangers
of over-testing. The third issue consists of program level assessments. I
agree with you that teachers - ideally teachers working collegially within a
program to reach common understandings - are the key to these. I only wish
there was a greater investment in helping ALL teachers to do this as well as
possible, and in giving them the time to work on these and other program
issues as a team.


From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On
Behalf Of Burger, Karen
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 11:15 AM
To: 'The Assessment Discussion List'
Subject: [Assessment 1456] Re: TABE CLAS-E

Hello everyone,

Forrest, you make a good point, but let's not mistake assessment for good
instructional practices. Any ESL teacher would or should agree that you
don't isolate skills day after day in the classroom. Although we assess in
one or two areas for reporting purposes, we teach all four components of
language, and a fifth - cultural literacy. My concern is that a mandate to
assess all areas with a standardized test will frustrate learners and hurt
our programs. A learner can only be nationally reported for one level gain
in one area per program year anyway, so let's not over do it with the
testing during the intake process, but rather, use other assessment tools
during the instructional process to determine what our students' strengths
and weaknesses are.

I fully agree that we are doing our learners a disservice if we only teach
to one skill area and then send them on their way. Language is
communication and requires all components, reading, writing, listening and
speaking, to be effective. Merely administering another test has never
resulted in more learning taking place. And tests don't always give the
full picture. They are just one measure of what the learner has achieved.
Teachers, good teachers are the experts when it comes to really
understanding what their learners know. They need to be able to continually
assess their learners and customized their instruction to meet individual
and classroom needs. I hope we don't get so focused on standardized testing
that we forget that.

Karen Burger

Professional Development Consultant

Adult Education Professional Development Project

John Beard Learning Center

1601 East College St.
Crawfordsville, IN 47933

(765) 362-8158

(866) 977-9902

kburger at cville.k12.in.us


From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On
Behalf Of Howard Dooley
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2008 3:45 PM
To: The Assessment Discussion List
Subject: [Assessment 1455] Re: TABE CLAS-E

Well said, Forrest.

Howard D.



From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On
Behalf Of Forrest Chisman
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2008 1:35 PM
To: 'The Assessment Discussion List'
Subject: [Assessment 1454] Re: TABE CLAS-E

Dear all,

Bureaucratic considerations aside, if a state is concerned with the welfare
of both students and its economy why would it NOT want to place equal value
on all 4 ESL skills? "Levels" are inherently arbitrary. It distresses me
that standardized tests (and the NRS) may be debasing both curricula and
learning. For operational and accountability purposes, why not test each of
the 4 skills and report rates of progress in them separately? If you must
have promotion by levels, why not set the promotional scores for each level
at a point students in your mainstream programs can be expected to achieve
after a certain number of instructional hours? This would require some
restructuring at the curricular and program levels, but that is overdue in
any event. Thus, if students are strong on reading and weak on listening,
programs would devote more time to listening than reading. Alternatively,
some programs have developed supplementary short courses at each level for
students who are behind in each skill.

Forrest Chisman


From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On
Behalf Of Anderson, Philip
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2008 8:45 AM
To: The Assessment Discussion List
Subject: [Assessment 1451] Re: TABE CLAS-E


I really appreciate your helpful thoughts. Your voice is one that I will
share with our ad hoc committee, so they can hear from someone with similar
issues. I heartily agree with you about trying to meet student goals
instead of state mandates. Thank you for pointing out the need for
flexibility in testing and not to test students too much. That is exactly
what we are grappling with now, and the purpose of convening an ad hoc
committee of practitioners is to sort this out and make a recommendation to
the state. We are considering the recommendations from the publisher of
TABE CLAS-E and we are trying to determine whether their recommendations
will fit our programs, and if so, how they can fit best.

We currently have in place a state assessment policy that requires programs
that offer federally funded ESL courses to assess students in both reading
and listening with the CASAS. There are exceptions to this with students in
the lowest level of the NRS levels.

The state assessment policy also allows programs that offer the federally
funded ESL course to use BEST Plus and/or BEST Literacy. We do not require
that programs assess students with both BEST Plus (listening and speaking)
and BEST Literacy (reading and writing).

I hesitate to speak on behalf of the publishers of CASAS, TABE CLAS-E or
BEST to say what their viewpoints are on this question of how many skill
areas the state should require programs to test students in, but they are
well aware of our policy and we have had many conversations about it that
have been very helpful.

The primary reason we think it is important to test students who are
enrolled in the main ESL course we offer (federally funded) in both reading
and listening is that we have found that the majority of the ESOL population
we serve has more difficulty with their listening skill than their reading
skill. The reading test scores among our students across the state are
consistently higher than the listening scores. There are exceptions, yes.
But overall, the trend points to a strong need for the ESOL population in
Florida to be able to understand spoken English. If we were to put in place
a policy that advanced and reported students based solely on a reading
score, we would be seeing students exit the 6 ESL levels faster. In
addition, we would be seeing students who are still weak in the listening
skill, but we would be unable to serve them with our federal funds because
they had exited out of the 6 ESL levels. We believe that by having a policy
that requires programs to report student scores and to move them from one
NRS level to the next based on the lower of the two scores, we are ensuring
that students are able to get the most comprehensive education possible.

Maybe I should have expanded by saying that Florida has several other types
of courses for ESL that do not need to use tests that are approved for
reporting to the NRS. Testing for these courses is handled differently.
These are courses that are funded with state dollars only, and they are:
Literacy Skills for Adult ESOL Learners (for non-literate students),
Academic Skills for Adult ESOL Learners (for students that are above
Advanced ESL), Workplace Readiness Skills for Adult ESOL Learners (for
employed students with classes held at a place provided by the employer),
and Citizenship (to prepare for taking the USCIS Naturalization test). The
Adult Education Workplace Readiness course allows the school and the
employer to choose the method of assessment that best fits the employer's
needs. A contract between the student, school and employer is drawn up, and
when the terms of the contract are met, the state pays an established amount
to the school for the expenditure of its resources. Of course, there are
other types of workplace educational services provided through schools that
are funded entirely by the employer, and these are not funded through adult

Bottom line is that while we provide flexibility in assessment policy for
state-funded courses, for the main course that is federally funded and which
moves students through 6 levels with cut off scores at different points, we
have required that programs that use CASAS must test students in both
reading and listening to report a placement level and to show progression.
There are exceptions to this with students in the lowest level of the NRS

You can find our assessment Technical Assistance Paper and the additional
ESL courses we offer at our adult education
<http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adult_ed.asp> web page,

By the way, I know the Crawfordsville, IN, area well - I grew up in Illinois
but my grandmother was from Indiana so I had lots of relatives there. I
think you have lots of covered bridges, right? There is a Crawfordville in
Florida (no s), about 20 minutes from Tallahassee. I got my first exposure
to teaching ESOL in the US in a small rural area of IL (Kankakee Community
College), with migrant farmworkers, in 1988. What an experience!


(850) 245-9450


From: Burger, Karen [mailto:kburger at cville.k12.in.us]
Sent: Saturday, November 01, 2008 3:26 AM
To: The Assessment Discussion List
Subject: [Assessment 1449] Re: TABE CLAS-E


Although I have not yet looked into the TABE CLAS-E, I find it interesting
that your state is looking at ESOL testing with regard to how to level
learners and which skill areas must be assessed. Our state policy allows
for some flexibility in this for the following reasons. First, if it is a
workplace project, and the employer is requesting instruction in a specific
skill area, then that is the area assessed and used for leveling the
learner. Also, some of our programs are very small, have limit resources,
staff, space and materials. This can make it difficult to assess learners
in all areas. Particularly in listening because of the type of testing
environment that it requires. Further, there are times that a learner may
have the goal to improve skills in a certain area. Again, the goal would be
set and the learner would only need to be assessed in that area. I hate to
see too much restriction that gets in the way of providing classes that suit
our learners needs. Sometimes it would seem that we test our people to
death, don't you think?

We are thankful that our state leaders have chosen to provide us with good
structure and flexibility in the assessment policy. Otherwise, there are
some programs that would find it difficult to comply with and would not be
able to report, or could not afford to serve some of our ESL poplulation.
Good luck!

Karen Burger

Professional Development Consultant

Adult Education Professional Development Project

John Beard Learning Center

1601 East College Street

Crawfordsville, IN 47933

(765) 362-8158

Toll free (866) 977-9902

kburger at cville.k12.in.us


From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of
Anderson, Philip [Philip.Anderson at fldoe.org]
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2008 1:03 PM
To: The Assessment Discussion List
Subject: [Assessment 1448] Re: TABE CLAS-E


I'm glad to see your posting, since we at the state adult education office
in Florida are asking similar questions. Florida has an ad hoc committee on
assessment that is working on a set of recommendations to the state office
on the adoption of TABE CLAS-E.

Local programs may purchase and use the test if they choose to do so for
informational purposes, such as to guide instruction, and for purposes that
are not related to documentation for state and federal adult education
grants. But until the FL Department of Education State Board approves TABE
CLAS-E to be used for reporting any placement or progression based on test
results to the state or the federal National Reporting System (NRS).

At our statewide conference in September, we had a session on how to select
tests for adult education programs that was well attended. I developed an
in-house guide and checklist on test selection, which we provided to the
participants. I would be glad to send it offline to any one that requests

CTB McGraw Hill also provided us a planning/test selection tool they
developed. You may wish to request a copy of it from Dan Gall,
Dan_Gall at ctb.com, or Stephanie Seemann, Stephanie_Seemann at ctb.com. They
have been very responsive to our queries.

The primary issue we are grappling with as a committee is whether to
recommend that the state assessment policy mandate that programs must assess
adult ESOL students in more than one skill area, and to report on the lowest
score of the skill areas tested.

You can see our current state assessment technical assistance paper online
at the adult <http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adult_ed.asp> education
webpage of the Florida Department of Education,



Philip Anderson

Adult ESOL Program

Florida Department of Education

Tel (850) 245-9450

philip.anderson at fldoe.org

Please take a few minutes to provide feedback on the quality of service you
received from our staff. The Department of Education values your feedback as
a customer. Commissioner of Education Dr. Eric J. Smith is committed to
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provided to you. Simply click on the link to the "DOE Customer Survey."
Thank you in advance for completing the survey.

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From: Bryant, Kimberlee [mailto:kbryant at tcsg.edu]
Sent: Thursday, October 30, 2008 1:17 PM
To: assessment at nifl.gov
Cc: Marie Cora
Subject: [Assessment 1446] TABE CLAS-E

Hello Everyone,

I'll keep this short.

Since TABE CLAS-E was recently approved for use by OVAE, have any states
adopted it for use in FY09? Or are planning to in FY10?

If so, would you be willing to share the issues/concerns that came up during
this process (crafting the state assessment policy, training local program
staff members, etc.)?

Based on this experience, what advice could you give to other states?

Kimberlee Bryant

Regional Education Coordinator

Instructional Services/Office of Adult Education

Technical College System of Georgia


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