Table of Contents

Limited English Proficiency Affects Learning and Assessment

While ELL students are struggling to learn English, learning content-based knowledge cannot occur at the same rate as for a native speaker of English when that instruction is offered only in English. Limited English proficiency may also make it difficult for ELL students to benefit fully from the teacher's instructions and to understand assessment questions. Therefore, limited English proficiency affects both learning and assessment. To help close the performance gap between ELL and non-ELL students both learning and assessment conditions must be addressed" (Abedi 2007).

The quote above emphasizes the key question in deciding when to use linguistic accommodations in creating tests: Is the learning target in ELA or another content area?|

If the learning target is not in language, assessment-literate educators use strategies to reduce the interference of unnecessarily complex language in test directions and test items. However, even when language is the learning target, assessment-literate educators make test directions clearer and simpler.

Time to Try

Download a table of interferences and accommodation strategies through the link below. Then complete the steps that follow:

Interferences and Accommodation Strategies Template

  1. Look at the Examples of Interferences below. If an example matches an “Interference” in Column 1, type the letter of the problem into the adjacent cell in Column 2 on your downloaded document. Some examples will be used more than once.
  2. In Column 4, use the corresponding “Accommodation Strategy” from Column 3 and write in your idea to fix the Interference.
  3. Select the document titled, “Completed Table” below the Examples of Interferences. Compare your fixes to the expert’s response.

Examples of Interferences: 

  1. Alba needed to know about how much the sum of 19.6, 23.8, and 38.4 is. She correctly rounded each of these numbers to the nearest whole number. What three numbers did she use?
  2. Ted can no longer drive over 40 mph in his truck.
  3. The weights of two objects were measured.
  4. As long as you bring your own bedding, you can stay with us.
  5. According to the article, what role did some Navajo speakers play during World War II?  

Compare your responses to the Completed Table

Important note: Linguistic accommodation is not in conflict with the CCSS’ emphasis on text complexity and academic language because it is NOT about “dumbing down” texts. It IS about access to the CCSS for ALL students. The challenges for assessment-literate educators are:

  1. To be clear about when language is the learning target and when it is not;
  2. To recognize and eliminate unnecessarily complex language. By using linguistic accommodation strategies to develop and improve their assessments, assessment-literate educators allow students to dedicate their attention to show what they know instead of translating text (Abedi, Lord, & Plummer 1997).
Time to Extend

To explore accommodations options for your own classroom, download the Interferences and Accommodations document, ensure a workspace for analyzing assessment, and try the activities provided through the link below:

Accommodations Options