As a certified teacher in Special Education and capable to teach English to English Language Learners, I plan to create an assessment plan to measure abilities of students in high need areas in my school to read and write. Since I am equipped with a robust background and the essential skills to teach in these areas and to assess the needs of students who fall under this category, I will appear more subject specific and the overall improvement plan should be easier as I strive to develop and implement the correct assessment-instruction process. My focus during the first part of the project will revolve around the creation of a range of assessments in order to gather background information about my learners and instructional contexts in which we teach them. This information will then help me design my instructional plan, which I will motivate the other teachers to adopt. I plan to expound on this during the second part of the paper. The data that I collect will be essential for the development of a comprehensive school wide plan for assessment for our school for both students with special needs and those learning the English language. Our school is a K-3 private school in the suburbs of Virginia. The total number of special needs and English language students is 30 students, while the total number of students in the school is 120. We adhere to the Virginia state curriculum and standards of learning for K-3.
In our quest for a detailed assessment plan for data collection, teachers include information on different aspects. Valencia et al. (2010) state that continuous improvement plans should have accurate, up-to-date, and timely records as the first pillar of the plan's success. Demographics of the student include previous enrollments, attendance records, ethnicity, gender, and grade level. They also gather information on the perceptions and attitudes of students based on their learning environment, cultural values and beliefs through formal observations and informal interactions. As stated by Newell et al. (2011), in improving education delivery, it is important to incorporate student views on the policies and procedures suggested in order to continuously assess and evaluate the program as a whole. Teachers also gather data on student's academic record, which includes information from both standardized and non-standardized tests, criterion-referenced tests, observations and other authentic assessments. Information on the school's previous programs is also important as it shows the programs that the school has engaged students in. The teachers collect this information as background information in preprinted forms and document this on each student's current record. Teachers also use other instruments detailed in subsequent paragraphs. The tentative plan is to use informal assessments and authentic assessments performed within the assigned range of time.
Assessing the learner
As special educator, collectively, we assess each child on an individual basis. This provides us with accurate data on the student's academic growth, which we compare to their background information. In implementing this plan, the teachers strive to use the same assessment framework as they assess both students with special needs and English language learners. Assessments may take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. Michael and Trezek (2006) states that optimally timed assessments for learning growth ensure they provide the student with ample time to apply the principles they learnt and provide impressive results.
Assessing an English language learner
As the first step, the teachers collect background information on their students. This includes basic demographic information, which includes academic records such as grade reports, informal classroom assessments, and results of standardized tests. These tests help to highlight the strengths and areas for improvement. Lesaux (2012) argues that the role of teachers is to ensure the gains in achievement are sustainable for a long period. Therefore, an iterative process of 'check and coach' is important to highlight areas that the teacher should focus on. Teachers use a similar approach for students with special needs since as suggested by Bernhardt (2006) when students are given individual attention it is sensible to measure their achievement using a mandatory standardized test. The policy requirement of English-language teachers is to test the student in their native language first. This requirement is crucial especially for English as a Second Language (ESL) students because if they show a strong mastery of literacy in their first language, it becomes much easier for them to learn English as their second language (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen, 2005).
The teachers also gather first-hand information through interviews with parents on their child's English language experience. In this aspect, the teachers gather information on the perceptions of parents on their culture, processes, values, and beliefs that may affect the learning processes of the child. This allows the teachers to be culturally competent in the conduct of their assessments and ensure that no assessment is culturally biased (Brooks, 2007). Once this data is available, the teachers have informal sessions with the students that consist of informal pieces of writing as samples. The student interview session also includes a questionnaire with prompts in the English language. For students who are incapable of speaking or reading English, the teachers place a request for a translator. They then plan to implement Dr. Jennings' IRA. The other forms of assessment they concentrate on are memory flashcards, word matching and cloze sentences. These assessments remain at a level that relates to the student's individual performance. Teachers focus more on paragraph writing for students who fall within stages of late beginner, intermediate levels, and beyond. This session also includes listening exercises where the students listen to tape recordings and the teachers prompt them on what they heard. The reading session comprises of phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, and word recognition. If the student falls in the category of immediate learners, the teachers also assess the student's fluency, comprehension, and instructional level of reading.
According to Bernhardt (2006), the use of authentic and informal assessment techniques should reveal sufficient amounts of information on where to place the ESL student. As part of the assessment plan, the teachers, however, do not conduct standardized tests on the students rather they use previous test scores. The advantage of this is that the implementation plan fits into the current practice setting. This is important for consistency, accuracy, and meaningfulness of the grade summary reports as stated by (Bernhardt, 2006). This holds true towards all English language students and those with special needs. The teachers also argue that informal assessments provide them with greater control to modify instruction and design a more structured instructional plan tailored to individual student needs.
Teachers gather this information to enable them to categorize the students as emergent learners, beginner, intermediate, or advanced learners of the English language. Based on the data collected, they plan an instructional agenda for the individual child in the classroom. This information also helps the teachers to screen, diagnose, and categorize the students in the correct instructional setting in the classroom. As posited by Hudson et al. (2005), the advantage of individualizing student learning is that it fosters continued learning since teachers can avoid practices that distort and discourage achievement. Teachers are also able to build clear and quality assessment for the students based on their needs.
Assessing the student with special needs
An appreciation of the best practice is important for teachers to assess students with special needs (Lesaux, 2012). The teachers strive to get the individualized education plan (IEP) for each student, after they gather background information on the student. This help them understand the needs of each student, their set goals and objectives, goals and objectives that the student has met, and expand further on the academic abilities of the student. If the student does not have an IEP, the teachers make an effort to prepare one for the student. The IEP serves as the basis of assessment of the student's disability, growth, and potential. Teachers often regard it as the most important document for the student. Once the IEP is in effect, teachers engage in efforts to gather previous literacy information on the student. This includes all previous standardized and non-standardized tests, class performance, teacher notes, and other related material.
To engage parents into the plan, teachers hold meetings with parents and discuss the needs, abilities and concerns of their child in case the student requires any specific care or accommodations not mentioned in their IEP. This information helps the teacher to triangulate their assessment of the student with parent expectations. The teachers conduct similar informal interviews with the student and use a pragmatic approach to understand how the student speaks. Support for this comes from research that shows that the way a child speaks is often reflective of their reading abilities (Michael & Trezek, 2006). This understanding helps the teachers to gather insights on the basic vocabulary development of the student and the pace at which the student is able to organize words in a sentence. Research shows that informal interviews also help to…
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