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MIAA 330 Article

By Amy Schmerer
Research Report ETS RR-14-23 (ebscothost)
Improving Content Assessment for English Language Learners:
Studies of the Linguistic Modification of Test Items
John W. Young, Teresa C. King, Maurice Cogan Hauck, Mitchell Ginsburgh,
Lauren Kotloff, Julio Cabrera & Carlos Cavalie
This article was not an aha moment article for me yet I found it very
interesting. It seems to me common sense that making the linguistic
modifications they recommended and implemented would aid in
accessibility for ELL students on math assessments. Teachers that I work
with have always said that if math tests include too much verbiage and must
be read on their own at the primary level, it becomes a reading test for
children. I came from teaching second grade where the standardized tests
were read aloud to students and moved to third grade where they read them
on their own. There was a noticeable drop in achievement on both the CST
and the MAP assessments for most children. I believe the superfluous
nature of many questions makes them more of a logical reasoning
assessment and should be separated from assessing math content knowledge.
It seems to me that linguistic modifications would not only improve ELLs
outcomes but would result in a positive impact on all students outcomes.
The modifications the ETS implemented to see if resulted in improved
outcomes in ELLs:

Remove Empty Context

Refine Context
Simplify Vocabulary
Make Item Stem Concise
Make Options Concise
Reduce If Clause
Simplify Verb Forms
Reduce Wordiness

Add Emphasis to Key Words

Graphic Representation
An example of Simplified Vocabulary was of a question given to fourth
graders using different objects in the stem of the question. They changed the
word from kites to balls. The ELL student did not know what kites were but
was familiar with the word ball.
An example of Making Stem Concise in a sixth grade mathematics test
item was that the original item asked the question, Tina used 1 liter of
chicken broth to make her special rice dish. This amount of chicken broth is
closest to The modified item removed the empty context and made the
stem concise by asking, One liter is closest to An ELL student did not
know what the term chicken broth meant but he understood enough about
the concept of 1liter to pick an answer.
The bottom line of the article was to develop content assessments that are of
greater accessibility to ELL students. As far as Im concerned and what I
will be taking into account, is greater accessibility to all students. I believe
that the goal of assessment should be to see if the students comprehend the
content, not to trick them with the language in which it is presented.