Assessing English Language Proficiency
A Training Module
Department of P-16 Initiatives
Texas Education Agency
In collaboration with
The Institute for Second Language Achievement
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
JoAnn Canales, Ph.D.
Professor, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
Workshop Focus
Review Assessment Standard and Competency for
Becoming an ESL Certified Teacher in Texas
English as a Second Language (ESL) Standards (Standard
TExES – Texas Examinations of Educator Standards
(Competency 007)
Define Language and Language Proficiency
Examine Requirements
State Requirements
LPAC – Language Proficiency Assessment Committee
HLS - Home Language Survey
OLPT - Oral Language Proficiency Test
NRT - Norm Referenced Test
Federal (NCLB) Requirements - TELPAS – Texas
English Language Proficiency Assessment
TOP – Texas Observation Protocols
RPTE – Reading Proficiency Tests in English
Assessment is addressed by Standard VI
of the English as a
Second Language (ESL) Standards
Assessment is also Competency 007
on the TExES for ESL Certification
How English Proficient Are you?
To FAT32
You can use the FAT32 conversion tool to easily convert your hard
disk to the FAT32 file system. However, before you convert file
systems, you should read the following information carefully:
If you didn’t make a Windows 98 Startup Disk, before you convert to
FAT32, you should create one by following the steps in the ”Using
the Startup Disk” section earlier in this chapter.
You shouldn’t convert any drives on which you also want to run an
operating system that doesn’t support FAT32. Also, if you’re
running Windows 98 and another operating system in a dual-boot
environment, converting your primary disk drive to FAT32 may
cause the other operating system to be unusable. This is true even
if the other operating system is installed on a different drive.
If anti-virus software is running, it may detect the request to update
the partition table and book record and prompt you to allow the
updates. If this occurs, instruct the anti-virus software to allow
the updates.
Once you convert to FAT32, you can’t compress stored information or
convert back to FAT16 unless you use a third-party partition
management utility designed for that purpose.
Language and Language Proficiency Defined
Linguistic Structures
– Graphophonemics
– Lexicon
– Morphology
– Semantics
Communication Skills
Language and Language Proficiency Defined
Sociolinguistic Variables
Social domains
Knowledge of the language
Stages of Language Learning
Grade 2-6 Level
Communication Development Stage
Child learns difficult phonemes/complex
grammar. “If I were you. I would have
Grade 1 Level
Creative Stage
Child is able to create his/her own
language. “Mommy, I love you 1,000
Kindergarten Level
Automatic Stage
Child can generate original language.
“When I get big, I’m gonna be an
60 Months
Structural Awareness Stage
Child makes errors by overgeneralizing.
“I goed to the store today.”
48 Months
Expansion & Delimiting Stage
Language has features of adult
language. “I want to go outside with
24 Months
Unitary Stage
12 Months
Infant Stage
Speech is abbreviated. Child uses 2 –
word utterances. “Baby, go?”
Child vocalizes. Babbles “ma-ma-ma”.
More Than Meets the Eye!
• Customs
•Religious beliefs
Texas Education Agency Requirements
- Home Language Survey
OLPT - Oral Language
- Norm Referenced Test
LPAC – Language Proficiency
Assessment Committee
Home Language Survey
Administered, only once, at time of
Sample survey questions:
– What language is spoken in your home
most of the time?"
– What language does your child (do you)
speak most of the time?"
Oral Language Proficiency Test
Examples: IDEA, LAS
Example of Linguistic Structures Measured
by the LAS
Norm Referenced Test
– CTBS – Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills
– SAT – Stanford Achievement Test
– CAT – California Achievement Test
Bilingual or ESL Program Placement Criteria
– Score below the 40th percentile or
– Unable to take the test due to limited English proficiency
Issues with SATs
– Assess reading skills, not writing
– Challenging for students with
 Poor reading skills
 Learning disabilities
 Limited attention span
Texas Education Agency
LPAC – Language Proficiency
Assessment Committee
Some Decision Making Points
Federal (NCLB) Requirements
– Texas English Language Proficiency
Assessment System
– Meets NCLB federal requirements
– Assesses ELLs in Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing
– Parent brochure available
– Uses 4 proficiency ratings – Beginning, Intermediate,
Advanced, and Advanced High
– Has two parts:
TOP (Texas Observation Protocols) – Grades K-12
RPTE (Reading proficiency Tests in English) – Grades 3-12
TOP – Texas Observation Protocols
(READING - Grades K – 2)
Reading (K-2) – Formative assessment, using
grade level rubrics found in the TOP Rater
Manual, based on the following types of
Paired reading
Sing-alongs and read-a-longs, including
chants and poems;
Shared reading with big books, etc.
Guided reading with leveled readers/texts
Reading subject-area texts and related
Independent reading
Literature circles
Cooperative group work
Reading response journals
Sustained silent reading
TOP Proficiency Level Descriptors Grades K-1 Reading
TOP Proficiency Level Descriptors Grade 2 Reading
RPTE – Reading Proficiency Tests in English
Grades 3 – 12
Designed especially for ELLs
Variety of reading selections and questions
Span range of English reading ability
Different RPTE test for grade groups (3, 4-5, 6-8,
RPTE – Reading Proficiency Tests in English
ELL students in special
education may be
exempted by ARD
2nd semester nonEnglish speaking
immigrants may be
exempted by LPAC
ELLs with parental
denials may not be
TOP – Texas Observation Protocols (WRITING - Grades K – 12)
Writing (K-12) – Formative assessment, using grade
level rubrics found in the TOP Rater Manual, of 3-5
writing samples, including academic and nonacademic work, taken at time of rating. Examples of
writing taken from TEA website may include:
Journal writing for personal reflections
Shared writing and language experience dictation
Organization of thoughts and ideas through prewriting
Writing assignments in various subject areas
Publishing and presenting
Labeling pictures, objects, and items from projects
Cooperative group work
Learning logs for content-area concept attainment
First drafts
Revising and editing skill application
TOP Proficiency Level Descriptors Grades K-1 Writing
TOP Proficiency Level Descriptors Grades 2-12 Writing
Grade 4 Writing Example
Grade 8 Writing Example
GRADE 4 Writing Example (High Level)
Other ideas for assessing writing:
Develop essay questions from text material
Be directive, e.g., compare, critique, define,
Allow students adequate time for a full
Content Area Examples –
Science Example 1: (6th – 8th grade)
Scientists tell us that there are hundreds of asteroids
that could collide with the earth anytime. One such
asteroid did in fact collide with the earth millions of
years ago during the time of the dinosaurs. Describe
where you think this asteroid might have hit the earth
and what kinds of physical changes took place
Imagine that you have just heard on the news that an
asteroid is going to hit the earth in a few days.
Describe ways that scientists will try and keep the
asteroid from hitting the earth. How will people react
and what will you do?
Science Example 2: (9th-12th grade)
You are given two test tubes, one labeled Protein Q, the
other labeled Protein Z. How could you tell if these
tubes really contained different proteins? Outline the
experimental procedure you would follow.
Content Area Examples – Social Studies
Social Studies Example 1: (6th – 8th grade)
Step back into time to the 1600’s. You are a woman with lots
of intelligence, lots of ideas and lots to offer the world.
Write an entry in your diary explaining your frustration
because you are about to get married to a man you don’t
even know. Your marriage has been arranged by your
parents and you have no choice but to marry this man. He
is quite a bit older than you. You are much more interested
in using your intelligence and education for something.
Write in your diary about what you want to do, and why
your society probably won’t let you.
Social Studies Example 2: (9th – 12th grade)
An important function of the United Nations is to help settle
disputes between nations. Describe how one dispute was
handled successfully, point out how the settlement
illustrates a general strength of the United Nations.
Describe also how one dispute was handled unsuccessfully,
pointing out how this illustrates a general weakness of the
United Nations.
Social Studies Example 3
(9th – 12th grade)
Describe the characteristics of the party system in the U.S. illustrated in
the cartoon below.
Content Area Examples –
Language Arts
Language Arts Example 1: (6th – 8th grade)
The main character in this story is an eighth grade girl
who overhears her teachers arguing about her. She
is a straight A student and seems to do well in class.
Describe what you think the teachers are discussing
and what it might have to do with the green and gold
“Scholarship Jacket”.
Language Arts Example 2: (9th – 12 grade)
Use a picture or a cartoon and ask students to create a story
depicting what they see.
Content Area Examples – Math
Grouping: Assign students to groups of 2
– 2 sheets of paper
– 1 pencil
– 2 patterns per group
Each of you has a pattern that you are going to ask your
partner to draw. BE SURE that your partner does
not/cannot see the pattern. Sit back to back and take
turns describing your particular pattern to your
partner. Be sure to call each shape by its name, e.g.,
Draw a triangle in the upper right hand corner. Be
specific and remember to use the terms we have
learned in math class. Each of you has 10 minutes to
describe your pattern to your partner.
Scoring: Use the TOP rubrics for listening and speaking
TOP – Texas Observation Protocols
(LISTENING -- Grades K – 12)
Listening (K-12) – Assess formatively, using
a rubric, during informal and formal academic
tasks. A rubric is provided on p. 23 of the TOP
Rater Manual found on the TEA website.
Examples of activities provided on the TEA
website include:
Reacting to oral presentations
Responding to text read aloud
Following directions
Cooperative group work
Informal, social discourse with peers
Large-group and small group interactions in
academic settings
One-on-One Interviews
Individual student conferences
TOP Proficiency Level Descriptors Grade K-12 Listening
TOP – Texas Observation Protocols
(SPEAKING -- Grades K – 12)
Speaking (K-12) -- Assess formatively, using
a rubric, during informal and formal
academic tasks. A rubric is provided on p.
24 of the TOP Rater Manual found on the
TEA website. Examples of activities
provided on the TEA website include:
Cooperative group work
 Oral presentations
 Informal, social discourse with peers
 Large-group and small group interactions in
academic settings
 One-on-One Interviews
 Classroom discussions
 Articulation of problem-solving strategies
 Individual Student Conferences
TOP PROFICIENCY Level Descriptions Grades K-12 Speaking
FORM for Documenting Listening and Speaking Activities
FORM for Documenting Reading and Writing Activities
FORM for Capturing Proficiency in Communications Skills
More To Assessing Language
Proficiency Than Meets the Eye!
• Reading Rubrics
• Writing Rubrics
• Speaking Rubrics
• Listening Rubrics
• Reading Proficiency
One-shot Snapshots May not Capture True Capabilities
Recommending a Student for Exit?
Ask yourself . . .
Does the oral language proficiency test used by your school
district measure, not only the kind of language needed in
your class, but also that which will be needed at the next
higher grade level?
Has the student sufficiently mastered the basic language
skills that will prepare him/her to deal successfully with the
shifting emphasis of language skills at the next level of
Are you familiar with the textbooks that the student will be
expected to use during the next school year? Are you sure
s/he can handle both the language and content demands of
these books with a minimum of help?
Have you challenged the student in terms of vocabulary
development, a variety of thinking and problem solving
skills, and on a wide range of topics?
Recommending a Student for Exit?
Ask yourself . . . (Continued)
How is the student’s reading rate in English? How is
his/her comprehension, not only of materials in the
reading text, but in the content-area materials as well?
What are the student’s scores in language arts and
reading on the most recently-administered achievement
test? Are his/her scores at least as high as the average
student in the school (i.e., the student’s scores compare
favorably with the school or district expectations?
Has the student mastered the district standards in math,
science, and social studies? Is the progress that s/he has
made toward achieving the content standards what you
would expect compared to other students in the same
How high is the student’s anxiety level in your class? Is
school stressful for the student or is s/he self confident
and able to handle frustration or failure?
Adapted from B. Mace-Matluck, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL)
Getting Started
Identify a cross section of grade representatives and
select a “chief worrier”
Access all of the available resources from the TEA and
ISLA websites
Determine the assessment activities to be used campus
Organize the assessments in a notebook to be
disseminated to every classroom teacher
Schedule “reliability training” to ensure that everyone is
utilizing the rubrics in similar fashion – use student work
samples including voice recordings for this training
Develop a district-wide consistent record keeping
Reasons Why the English Language is Hard to
1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
2. The farm was used to produce produce.
3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more
4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the
7. Since there is no time like the present, he
thought it was time to present the present.
8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass
9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10. I did not object to the object.
Reasons Why the English Language is Hard to Learn
11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12. There was a row among the oarsmen about
how to row.
13. They were too close to the door to close it.
14. The buck does funny things when the does are
15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a
sewer line.
16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his
sow to sow.
17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18. After a number of injections, my jaw got
19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a
20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate
Reasons Why the English Language is Hard to
Learn (Continued)
Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in
eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in
pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or
French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while
sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take
English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we
find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are
square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a
pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth
beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One
index, 2 indices?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one
amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a
single annal?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but
one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why
didn't preachers praught?
Reasons Why the English Language is Hard to
Learn (Continued)
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by
truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man
and a wise guy are opposites?
Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are
absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown?
Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into
someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And
where are all those people who are spring chickens or who would
actually hurt a fly?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your
house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by
filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the
creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all). That
is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights
are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start
it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?
Sample TExES Item:
A fifth-grade student arrived from his home country, El
Salvador, last year with no prior formal education. He is
now in his second year in a Texas school and is receiving
bilingual and ESL services. He is still at the beginning
stages of Spanish literacy development, English language
development, and academic development.
What would be the state policy with regard to the assessment
of academic skills in this student’s case?
The language proficiency assessment committee (LPAC)
may recommend that the assessment of English language
skills be waived; however, an assessment of academic
skills must be administered in either English or Spanish.
Since he is enrolled in the bilingual program, assessment
of academic skills must be administered in either English
or Spanish.
The LPAC may determine that neither English nor Spanish
proficiency tests would be an appropriate measure for
school accountability.
Since he is now in his second year of enrollment in a U.s.
school, the school must administer an assessment of
academic skills in English.
Sample TExES Item:
A middle school ESL teacher is working with a group of ESL
students whose English-language abilities vary. Which of
the following would be the most appropriate strategy for
evaluating the progress of students who are at different
proficiency levels in English.
a. Using multiple measures, such as observations, test
scores, and samples of daily work
b. Selecting language achievement tests that have been
normed on a similar student population.
c. Establishing a grading curve and distributing students’
test results along the curve
d. Assessing students only in those areas of English in
which they have achieved competence.
Canales, J. (Fall, 1988). “Assessment of language proficiency: Informing
policy and practice.” Position paper prepared for Southwest Educational
Development Laboratory (SEDL) to assist state education agencies in
defining language assessment policy and practices.
Canales, J. (1993) Innovative assessment in traditional settings. The power
of two languages: Literacy & biliteracy for Spanish speaking students. New
York: MacMillan-McGraw Hill Publishing Company, pp. 132-142.
Canales, J. (1994) Linking language assessment to classroom practices.
TABE Compendium. San Antonio, Texas: Texas Association for Bilingual
Education, Fall, pp. 59-73.
Peregoy, S.F. & Boyle, O.B. (1997). Reading, writing, and learning in ESL: A
resource book for K-8 teachers (3rd ed.). White Plains, New York: Longman
Publishing Group.

ESL Certification Summer Institute Assessing English