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Trend Watch: Formative Assessments for Secondary ELLs

Increasingly, researchers seem to be developing teaching and learning tools for English-language learners at the secondary level. For years, we've had researchers from the Center for Applied Linguistics helping ELL specialists and mainstream secondary teachers to use the strategies of Sheltered Instruction Observational Protocol, or SIOP, for language development in their classrooms. Margarita Calderón, who is a retired professor from Johns Hopkins school of education, also did some important work in creating a reading-intervention program called RIGOR, or Reading Instructional Goals for Older Readers. She developed materials for adolescent ELLs who are learning to read for the first time.

But now we also have Aida Walqui from WestEd working with school districts to carry out Quality Teaching for English Learners, or QTEL, a professional development model for whole school reform at the secondary level. In addition, we have H. Gary Cook, the research director for the the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium leading a team of researchers to develop formative assessment for secondary ELLs. Of course, that project has a fancy name like the others. It's called Formative Assessment Records for ELLs, or FLARE.

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research has just published an article describing these new formative tests for secondary ELLs. The tests support educators to gather, interpret, and evaluate data and then take action based on the results, according to the article. The formative assessments particularly focus on helping students to develop academic English, it says. The assessments are now being field-tested in three school districts.

I've noticed that during the 11 years I've been writing about ELLs, educational tools for such students in the primary grades have been much more prevalent than tools for secondary ELLs. So I'll keep an eye on WIDA's work with formative assessments and see if they're something that school districts find to be effective.

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