[Assessment 1458] Re: TABE CLAS-E

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Burger, Karen kburger at cville.k12.in.us
Tue Nov 4 17:08:01 EST 2008

Hello Forrest,

Absolutely, you are correct, sir. We do agree. If I sounded a bit excited it's probably because I am a little sensitive about standardized assessments at this point. Our professional development team just completed an addendum for the state assessment policy. I never like to see us get so focused on the "big picture" that we forget our learners' needs and goals. Too many are slaves to the NRS. We do see the need for a good accountability system, at the same time we recognize that there are regional differences in our populations and delivery systems, not to mention funding. Right now we are working on content standards for adult education and hope this will be a good framework for sound curriculum at the program level. There are so many good teachers out there. I too would like to see a more vested interest in helping teachers do their jobs, rather than imposing more requirements on them.

Thank you for your comments, Forrest.


From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Forrest Chisman
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 4:09 PM
To: 'The Assessment Discussion List'
Subject: [Assessment 1457] Re: TABE CLAS-E

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 education.

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 levels.

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, http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adult_ed.asp.

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<mailto: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 it.

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<mailto:Dan_Gall at ctb.com>, or Stephanie Seemann, Stephanie_Seemann at ctb.com<mailto: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 education webpage<http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adult_ed.asp> of the Florida Department of Education, http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adult_ed.asp.


Philip Anderson
Adult ESOL Program
Florida Department of Education
Tel (850) 245-9450
philip.anderson at fldoe.org

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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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