ASSESSMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY IN TUCSON BILINGUALS: ADDRESSING AN UNMET NEED

Julia Leclerc , Alycia Boggs, Mary Alt, Adelaida Restrepo

ASSESSMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY IN TUCSON BILINGUALS: ADDRESSING AN UNMET NEED

The purpose of this study is to develop a quick, effective screening measure to determine language proficiency.  Bilingual students are often mistakenly placed into special education services or denied necessary treatment.  As a direct result of incorrect placement, many of these students never reach their full academic potential.  This happens because there is currently no efficient standardized measure to separate brain-based impairment from English language ability.   An accurate determination of language proficiency is the first step to obtaining an appropriate diagnosis.  Current measures take hours to complete.  Researchers at Arizona State University created the Spanish English Language Proficiency Scale for children ages 4 to 8.  We modified this scale for bilinguals aged 7 to 9 and to reflect the language community of Tucson.  We used more than forty language samples that were verified for language proficiency by more extensive, lengthy measures and distilled these to identify the hallmarks of different levels of language proficiency.  We streamlined the scale by introducing a decision tree and a detailed, objective training for raters.  Inter-rater reliability was 100% for the decision tree.  We are currently gathering reliability data for the full scale which requires raters to assess production, grammatically, fluency, and vocabulary on a scale of one to five.  Children will be deemed proficient if their average score is four or above.  Given that a language other than English is spoken in more than a third of Tucson homes, a scale like this has the potential to affect many people in the community.  This research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant #52006942, the Vice President of Research and the National Institutes of Health.

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