Blog


The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge - Who Won?

The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge - Who Won?

Mike and I have finished our three-month Spanish challenge. To find out who won, we both completed the STAMP assessment this week.


And the winner is ---- Mike Biglan!


We both grew more than one level, but Mike just eked out a victory. Mike grew an average of 1.5 levels per domain, while I grew by 1.25. We both started with an aggregate average level of Intermediate Low, and finished at Intermediate Mid.


It was interesting to see that the domains where we grew the most were directly connected to the way we approached the challenge. Mike has two children in Eugene's outstanding Buena Vista Spanish Immersion School so he spoke with them everyday in Spanish. Mike's Speaking and Writing scores each grew by two levels. I focused on reading the newspaper online and listening to Univision's "Despierta America" in the morning. Not surprisingly, my Reading and Listening scores grew by two levels.


This has been a wonderful adventure. It reminded me of both the challenge of learning a new language, and the tremendous excitement of accessing a different way of thinking and perceiving the world. I truly enjoyed being able to study the content and the domains that I was most interested in. This challenge convinced both Mike and me that this was the beginning, not the end of our Spanish learning adventure.


And finally, we are very happy to support the great work that the JNCL does to promote and support the language field. Here is a photo of me giving the $1,000 check from Avant to the Executive Director of the JNCL Dr. Bill Rivers. 

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


June 2017 Avant Newsletter #6

June 2017 Avant Newsletter #6

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Avant STAMP And The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines
  • The Avant Blog
  • News and Events






03036c16-ba05-419a-836d-4b0951c9bb06.jpg

Avant STAMP And The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

David Bong, Avant CEO

STAMP was originally developed by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon to meet the need for an online proficiency assessment that was based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The "STA" in STAMP stands for the "Standards" in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.

Why Avant STAMP Does Not Add Levels to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Avant STAMP continues to hold true to the main ACTFL Proficiency Guideline levels of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced and the three sublevels of Low, Mid, and High. The Proficiency Guidelines are the standards that are used to establish the World Language learning standards in virtually all of the states in the US. We believe it is important to maintain the integrity of the three sublevels as defined by ACTFL. Avant does not believe it is appropriate or psychometrically justifiable to create additional sublevels without substantially lengthening the assessment and publishing the specific criteria or details that would differentiate these micro-levels. However, the field has asked for a way of providing more granular levels than the three sublevels the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines define. In order to address this need, Avant has generated scaled scores of 200 to 800 for the Listening and Reading sections based on a psychometric analysis of testing data. We believe that this approach is more scientifically valid than artificially adding sublevels that do not exist in ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012(2012 publication), and that do not exist in any of the other major proficiency scales, ILR or CEFR. 

Read Avant STAMP And The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines



CATCH UP ON AVANT'S LATEST BLOG POSTS

AVANT STAMP RESULTS -- NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016FIXED FORM vs. ADAPTIVE TEST 

DESIGN IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING

WHY HERITAGE LANGUAGE LEARNING MATTERS

 Avant's Blog Page!



NEWS AND EVENTS

David Learns Spanish - Almost There

I am sitting in my office listening to Victor Manuelle on my headphones, closing in on the end of my three-month Spanish Learning Challenge. This has been a wonderful experience for so many reasons. Having a structure and a real challenge has pushed me to study every night, or more honestly, most nights. Now when I listen to Victor Manuelle's salsa songs I actually understand some of the lyrics and the meaning he is singing about. Even that limited insight gives me a feel for where he is coming from and the culture that he is singing about.

                                                                                                                         CONTINUE READING

Avant STAMP Results - National Averages 2016

Curious about how your Avant STAMP scores compare to others across the country?

The National Average Avant STAMP Results from the 2015-2016 academic year represent the nearly 65,000 test takers from schools across the United States and a number of international schools around the world for which we had adequate data on years of study to use in this report. The data for results in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking are included in this report and organized by level (Elementary, Secondary, and Higher Ed) and by language in alphabetical order. To view or download the full report click here: Avant STAMP Results - National Averages 2016.

WHERE YOU WILL FIND US!

Avant is an active partner in the World Language community. You will find us exhibiting/presenting at the following conferences:

AATSP - American Assoc. of Teachers of Spanish And Portugeuse 99th Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, July 6-9, 2017.

GADII - Georgia Dual Language Immersion Institute in Atlanta, GA, July 11-13, 2017.

CLTA - California Language Teachers' Association Summer Symposium  in Santa Barbara, CA, July 14-19, 2017.

You can now find Avant's full schedule of events for 2017 by visiting the Events tab on our website. Do you have an event, conference or workshop you would like Avant to attend? Send us a message with the details - info@avantassessment.com.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


Avant STAMP and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Avant STAMP and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

STAMP was originally developed by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon to meet the need for an online proficiency assessment that was based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The "STA" in STAMP stands for the "Standards" in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.


Why Avant STAMP Does Not Add Levels to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Avant STAMP continues to hold true to the main ACTFL Proficiency Guideline levels of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced and the three sublevels of Low, Mid, and High. The Proficiency Guidelines are the standards that are used to establish the World Language learning standards in virtually all of the states in the US. We believe it is important to maintain the integrity of the three sublevels as defined by ACTFL. Avant does not believe it is appropriate or psychometrically justifiable to create additional sublevels without substantially lengthening the assessment and publishing the specific criteria or details that would differentiate these micro-levels. However, the field has asked for a way of providing more granular levels than the three sublevels the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines define. In order to address this need, Avant has generated scaled scores of 200 to 800 for the Listening and Reading sections based on a psychometric analysis of testing data. We believe that this approach is more scientifically valid than artificially adding sublevels that do not exist in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012(2012 publication), and that do not exist in any of the other major proficiency scales, ILR or CEFR. 


Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Almost There

I am sitting in my office listening to Victor Manuelle on my headphones, closing in on the end of my three-month Spanish learning Challenge. This has been a wonderful experience for so many reasons. Having a structure and a real challenge has pushed me to study every night, or more honestly, most nights. Now when I listen to Victor Manuelle's salsa songs I actually understand some of the lyrics and the meaning he is singing about. Even that limited insight gives me a feel for where he is coming from and the culture that he is singing about.

 

I have settled into a bedtime routine of reading an article from either El Nuevo Herald of Miami or El Diario of New York and reviewing my vocabulary list on Google Translate. I find myself dreaming about some vocabulary words from time to time. That is probably not a coincidence.  A recent study featured in Physics Today magazine has shown that studying a language just before sleep improves the speed of memorizing new vocabulary. See: The benefit of studying language before sleep

 

In the morning I watch 15 minutes of Despierta America on Univision. I am gradually getting to understand more of what they are saying, and enjoying how they say it—lots of movement, hand gestures and genuine excitement. It is such an incredibly wholesome and positive show, and so unabashedly patriotic. It reminds me how our country is so reenergized and strengthened by immigrants who come to America to fulfill their dreams. Unlike China, Japan, South Korea, Russia or most of Europe with shrinking workforces, the American workforce is growing, thanks to our immigrants. See section III of this report from The Economist: profile-of-the-global-workforce-present-and-future.  Immigration is a source of strength for our country, not of weakness as some would have us believe.

 

The Challenge has given me reason to keep learning Spanish. Once again I have found that learning a language has begun to open a whole new world to me. Now I can't wait to get to point where I can more fully experience it.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Five Miles In

David Learns Spanish - Five Miles In

They say learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. Well, if that's true, and I believe it is, I just hit mile 5 in my marathon. No, I don't mean I'm almost 20% to perfect Spanish. Not even close. But it feels like I feel when I'm hitting the 5-mile marker in a 26.2-mile race - not that I do a lot of marathons - my count is 2. The adrenaline that surged through me at the start, the over-excitement and somewhat reckless speed have passed, as has the let down after the adrenaline drained away around mile 3 or 4.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Twenty

I have been reminded that learning a language is a humbling exercise. Once the euphoria about learning a lot of new words and expressions wore off, I was faced with the reality that this is work, and that I really need to have a cohesive plan that I stick to. So,  I confess, I took last week off. Yes, I was busy, but like everything else, if it's important to me I will make time for it. No more excuses.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Seven

David Learns Spanish - Day Seven

I've been in Los Angeles at the California Association of Bilingual Educators and am driving back to Oregon through a beautifully green California. Sheila is actually driving. Don't worry. It was a great conference. Such passion for true bilingual education! There does, however, seem to be a divide between the bilingual educators and the world language educators that is unnecessary and damaging to the common cause that we share of expanding the number of Americans who speak English and a second language. I want to help to change that.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Six

David Learns Spanish - Day Six

Thinking more about my crazy learning method of taking an article from a Spanish newspaper and just using that to learn from instead of building up sets of words and grammar. To me this makes the learning process fun. I take a real article and go through it and learn each and every word and repeat it out loud every day until I really understand it and can read it smoothly.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Five

David Learns Spanish - Day Five

Left Miami and there was no more Spanish talk radio. Bummer. So I started looking online for radio broadcasts. I found some but couldn't download them on my phone. I finally got one to download from Madrid radio, but I couldn't understand it at all. So I tried downloading a free Spanish learning program. I wasn't interested in studying short phrases spoken slowly with vocabulary I didn't care about. Maybe I'm crazy, but I want to learn from real language even if I barely understand it.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Four

David Learns Spanish - Day Four

More driving, more Spanish talk radio. Love it. I still don't understand it much, but I am enjoying the music of the language, and being able to figure out a word or a phrase now or then.


I am an occasional meditator. I know it is good for all kinds of things, but I don't regularly make time for it, and it takes effort. But I do it, and all in all, I like it. It struck me that my experience of listening to Spanish radio was a lot like sitting down and meditating. That probably sounds bizarre, but read on.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Three

David Learns Spanish - Day Three

Thank you, thank you Spanish talk radio. Listening to the talk show here in Miami I can hook into content that I already know about - politics and the snowstorm up north. Context is huge I remember from those teacher trainings again. I watched some Mexican police drama on TV last night and hardly understood anything, but politics I get, and I am interested. It was like this in Japan too, when I could follow the business and economic news on TV but was lost in the soap operas. The register is higher, the language more structured.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Two

David Learns Spanish - Day Two

After the end of work today is was panicked - How if the world am I going to find time to study 30 minutes every day? What is the world did I get myself into? 

Then I remembered I was in Miami. So I turned on the radio. Thanks to the traffic I got in a good hour of listening to Spanish talk radio.  It was interesting to recognize the change in my ears over the hour. What sounded like a random stream of sounds with an occasional word I recognized at first, started to actually sound like a language with patterns that I could catch and occasional phrase from.  I figured out "health insurance "seguro de salud, and "la prensa lo ignoro" the press ignores it.


Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day One

David Learns Spanish - Day One

The CEO of Avant's technology partner, Mike Biglan and I decided to take on the joint challenge to self-study Spanish 30 minutes a day for three months, and each write a blog about it.  So today I begin.


It's probably appropriate that today I'm flying to Miami for meetings before heading up to Orlando for the SCOLT Southern Conference Of Language Teachers. If I spoke Spanish I would have many opportunities to use it in Miami.


But I don't speak Spanish. Not really anyway. I have played around with Transparent Language's tools and the Duolingo app. Duolingo says I'm 3% fluent. Not sure what that means, but it's not zero. Way back in the 70's I spent a spring in San Juan working as a waiter and bartender in a classic restaurant in Old San Juan - El Patio de Sam. I don't think it's there anymore, but it was reviewed in the New York Times so it was a pretty good place for both locals and tourists. I mostly handled the tourists, but I learned enough Spanish to take orders from the locals and work with the kitchen, but it was pretty limited, and it was a long time ago.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge

The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge

It started as a simple wager. Two competitive guys challenging each other to see who would do better.  Study Spanish everyday for at least 30 minutes a day for three months. Who would show the most growth.


Mike Biglan, the CEO of Analytic Spot, and I, David Bong, Avant's CEO both have studied Spanish sporadically over the years, but neither of us can use it in real life. Mike studied it for two years in high school and I worked as a waiter/bartender in Old San Juan using Spanish for a couple of months in my long ago youth. We both studied French for 5+ years in school and I speak Japanese at a high level of proficiency. But Spanish - No.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHY PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT MATTERS

WHY PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT MATTERS

Proficiency is a much-discussed and frequently used word in the language education field. Our company and others deliver “proficiency” assessments. But which proficiency is most important to assess? Is it a student’s proficiency at conjugating verbs or reproducing dialogues memorized in the classroom? After all, this is the traditional way of teaching language in the U.S. and in Asia. A student who does these tasks well is probably proficient at memorizing grammar rules and set phrases. But do assessments of these skills tell us anything meaningful about the ability to use that language in the real world? Isn't that the real objective of learning a language?

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


March 2017 Avant Newsletter #5

March 2017 Avant Newsletter #5

News and Events

IN THIS ISSUE

Why Proficiency Assessment Matters

The Avant Blog

News and Events


03036c16-ba05-419a-836d-4b0951c9bb06.jpg


Why Proficiency Assessment Matters?

David Bong, Avant CEO

Proficiency is a much-discussed and frequently used word in the language education field. Our company and others deliver “proficiency” assessments. But which proficiency is most important to assess? Is it a student’s proficiency at conjugating verbs or reproducing dialogues memorized in the classroom? After all, this is the traditional way of teaching language in the U.S. and in Asia. A student who does these tasks well is probably proficient at memorizing grammar rules and set phrases. But do assessments of these skills tell us anything meaningful about the ability to use that language in the real world? Isn't that the real objective of learning a language?

Read WHY PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT MATTERS

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


HOW DOES AVANT RATE SPEAKING AND WRITING RESPONSES?

HOW DOES AVANT RATE SPEAKING AND WRITING RESPONSES?

Who rates the STAMP tests?

The human rated responses in the Avant STAMP, PLACE, Arabic Proficiency Test and the Spanish Heritage Language tests are rated by Certified Avant Raters who are language educators/speakers who meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. LANGUAGE SKILL: Raters must maintain advanced or higher level of language skills (determined by phone interview or test score from an approved assessment, i.e., STAMP4S, OPI, ILR Interview, MOPI, or Praxis/state teacher certification.)

  2. EDUCATION: Raters must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher

  3. TRAINING & CERTIFICATION: Raters must complete the language specific Avant Rater Training Program and score 90% agreement in the certification assessment

  4. AVAILABILITY: Raters must be available to score a specified number of items (student responses) each week (determined by the specific language Rating Manager and rater)

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


February 2017 Avant Newsletter #4

February 2017 Avant Newsletter #4

IN THIS ISSUE

How Does Avant Rate Speaking and Writing Responses? - White Paper

The Avant Blog

News and Events


03036c16-ba05-419a-836d-4b0951c9bb06.jpg



HOW DOES AVANT RATE SPEAKING AND WRITING RESPONSES?

David Bong, Avant CEO


Avant Assessment is proud of the quality of our assessments and the rigor and reliability of our system for rating them. In this White Paper we outline the processes that Avant utilizes for the human rating of student responses to both speaking and writing prompts on the Avant STAMP and PLACE tests:  who rates the tests; how they are trained and certified; how Avant ensures Inter-Rater Reliability; and how the final Avant STAMP and PLACE scores are determined. We have worked for many years to develop and refine our comprehensive online Rater Connection system and are happy to compare it with the rating system of any other language assessment organization. We welcome any questions that you have.

Read - How Does Avant Rate Speaking and Writing Responses?

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHY AVANT NOW RECOMMENDS AVANT STAMP 4Se BEGINNING WITH GRADE 2 STUDENTS

WHY AVANT NOW RECOMMENDS AVANT STAMP 4Se BEGINNING WITH GRADE 2 STUDENTS

Background Information

Avant STAMP 4Se was developed especially to assess the language proficiency of elementary students.


Although STAMP 4Se is a real world proficiency assessment, it uses only questions (items) and content based around daily school and home life for students who are attending an elementary school in the U.S. To make the assessment appropriate for elementary students, and in order to make sure that we are not assessing their English reading ability, written directions are very limited and are always provided aurally so test takers can listen to them. All critical instructions are given in English for all languages tested. For three languages that have a large number of test-takers who are heritage learners: Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, other instructions and tasks for speaking and writing in the target language are given in both English and the target language. All other languages receive the other instructions and tasks in English.


The STAMP 4Se project was initially developed through a Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant to the state of Wyoming, which assembled a consortium with five states (South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia).  The Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon (CASLS) and the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, D.C., developed content for the assessments and piloted the tests in collaboration with elementary schools in the cooperating states.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


January 2017 Avant Newsletter #3

January 2017 Avant Newsletter #3

IN THIS ISSUE

Avant STAMP 4Se Now Recommended for Grade 2 Students

The Avant Blog

News and Events



7d1c34b2-ad83-4799-8266-225613f8d92b.jpg

Why Avant Now Recommends Avant STAMP 4Se Beginning With Grade 2 Students

By: Kyle Ennis, Avant's VP of Education and Assessment

Background Information

Avant STAMP 4Se was developed especially to assess the language proficiency of elementary students. 

Although STAMP 4Se is a real world proficiency assessment, it uses only questions (items) and content based around daily school and home life for students who are attending an elementary school in the U.S. To make the assessment appropriate for elementary students, and in order to make sure that we are not assessing their English reading ability, written directions are very limited and are always provided aurally so test takers can listen to them. All critical instructions are given in English for all languages tested. For three languages that have a large number of test-takers who are heritage learners: Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, other instructions and tasks for speaking and writing in the target language are given in both English and the target language. All other languages receive the other instructions and tasks in English.


Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHY HERITAGE LANGUAGE LEARNING MATTERS

WHY HERITAGE LANGUAGE LEARNING MATTERS

The United States is a country of immigrants, but historically the second generation of these immigrants has lost their parents’ language – making our country poorer for it; economically, linguistically and culturally. Why has this happened repeatedly throughout our history? One reason could be the pressures of acculturation and the need to quickly fit into America's English speaking society. But in today’s interconnected world does it make sense to allow these valuable skills to just vanish? Fortunately, states across the country have finally begun to recognize the value of maintaining this treasure of linguistic and cultural heritage.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016

AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016

Avant is pleased to release the first report on National Avant STAMP Data since 2010. The report breaks down the data into individual languages and program type:  Elementary Immersion, Secondary, and Higher Ed. We welcome your feedback and questions.

 

AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


December 2017 Avant Newsletter #2

December 2017 Avant Newsletter #2

IN THIS ISSUE

Avant STAMP National Averages Data 2015/2016

The Avant Blog

News and Events


7d1c34b2-ad83-4799-8266-225613f8d92b.jpg

AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016 

By: Kyle Ennis, Avant's VP of Education and Assessment

Avant delivers language assessments with the objective of improving language learning and teaching through meaningful data and reports. We are very happy to release our 2016 Avant STAMP National Averages data. The report compiles data on elementary immersion, middle/high school, and higher ed. results from Avant STAMP 4Se and Avant STAMP 4S. The norms identify average proficiency levels of ability in each domain at the end of specific grades (Avant STAMP 4Se elementary) or years of study (Avant STAMP 4S middle school/high school and higher ed.).

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


THE CHICKEN OR THE DATA?

THE CHICKEN OR THE DATA?

Which comes first in your language classroom, the student, or the data tied to that student? Fortunately, the answer to that question is not an either/or response. In fact, do an Internet search for “Teachers and Data” and you will quickly find multiple approaches for gathering data about our students. You will see an increasing amount of literature about the need for teachers to not just have ‘assessment literacy’, but ‘data literacy’ as well. To highlight this point, the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards will unveil a new component this fall, which will ask teachers to show how they incorporate data about and from their students, families, and communities into their decision-making processes.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


THE CODING IS EQUIVALENT TO WORLD LANGUAGE MYTH – SHOULD WE LOOK IN THE MIRROR?

THE CODING IS EQUIVALENT TO WORLD LANGUAGE MYTH – SHOULD WE LOOK IN THE MIRROR?

Some state legislatures have proposed that students who learn to code should earn world language credits. Is learning to code equivalent to learning a world language? The very idea of this seems absurd to a language professional. Coding is certainly a valuable skill in today’s world. It is also understandable that legislators and school administrators need to find space in an already crowded curriculum to squeeze in more learning. However, we believe it is a mistake to replace world language, the one place in the curriculum where students can learn crucial skills for success in our increasingly connected global society and economy.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


November 2016 Avant Newsletter #1

November 2016 Avant Newsletter #1

IN THIS ISSUE

Message from Avant's CEO

The Avant Blog

News and Events



Please enjoy the first edition of the Avant Assessment monthly newsletter. If you'd like to continue receiving the newsletter please sign up here.


ACTFL 2016!

We hope you will be attending The 2016 ACTFL Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in Boston, November 18-20. Avant Assessment would like to invite you to stop by our booth, located not far from ACTFL Central, in booth #1615.


If you're looking for a new way to improve your language program through powerful assessment, we would love to speak with you! If you're already using our assessments, we want to hear your Avant story!

40d3241d-b7ff-4fe1-89f9-8cf7af8884aa.jpg


A MESSAGE FROM DAVID BONG,
CEO OF AVANT ASSESSMENT


Sheila and I founded Avant because we believe that learning a language can change lives and bring our world together. When we started in 2001, one thing the field said that it needed was a standards-based assessment of language proficiency that could shift language education from a grammar-based, rote-learning approach to a focus on developing real-world proficiency. The assessment needed to be accessible, affordable and scalable. So in partnership with the University of Oregon, we launched Avant STAMP, the world’s first online language proficiency assessment. 


Recently we have seen the rapid growth of immersion and heritage language programs, both bolstered by the spread of the Seal of Biliteracy.  At Avant we believe that it is critical for these movements to succeed and continue to grow. We are supporting these exciting movements in three ways:

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


TEST RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY

TEST RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY

These are two of the most misunderstood terms in language testing. Both are very important in determining whether a particular test is appropriate in a given situation.


Simply stated, reliability means that if you give the same test to the same student s/he will get the same score. This is not easy to accomplish. For computer scored questions (items) in reading and listening, a test developer needs to conduct a statistical analysis of the items. This process is called psychometric analysis. The analysis is conducted on data from a number of test-takers, who ideally have a wide range of skill levels. If the item is a good one, the analysis will confirm that it consistently discerns the accurate level of the test taker. In other words, if it is an intermediate-low item, novice-level test takers will consistently get it wrong, and intermediate and above test takers will get it correct. The more consistently an item performs this way the better it is at differentiating the test taker’s language skill. The analysis will put each item on a spectrum from easy to hard. The result of that effort will show that not all intermediate-low items are created equal with some items at the same level being harder than others. That degree of difficulty within a level needs to be taken into account when building the test. A computer scored test that consists of a well laid out set of items that have been psychometrically identified as good items should be a highly reliable test of those skills.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


FIXED FORM vs. ADAPTIVE TEST DESIGN IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING

FIXED FORM vs. ADAPTIVE TEST DESIGN IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING

There are two fundamental test designs in language testing: Fixed Form, and Adaptive. In a fixed form test, every test taker receives the same items (aka questions) and can be delivered on paper or computer. An adaptive test can only be delivered on a computer. The computer algorithm scores each item as the test taker answers it, then based on the score of that item or cluster of items, the computer algorithm adjusts the level of the next item or cluster of items to the next “challenge” level. Until the era of computers, it was not possible to do adaptive testing on a large scale. It is still not possible to apply computerized adaptive test design for speaking and writing tests on a large scale. But it is now quite easy and common to use adaptive testing for reading and listening tests.


There are many advantages to adaptive tests. Because the level of difficulty of the items adjusts to the level demonstrated by the test taker, s/he is consistently challenged by items without being overwhelmed by overly difficult items, or bored by easy ones. With an adaptive test, the test taker can rise to the top of the scale based on her/his performance. In an adaptive test, test takers will take various paths through the test so that cheating is much more difficult (yes, it does happen anywhere). Because the adaptive algorithm hones in on the actual level of the test taker quickly, it is able to deliver more items across a wide range of levels that are at or close to the test taker’s skill, increasing the confidence that the final score is accurate - all in a shorter amount of time than a fixed form test. In Avant STAMP, we also use the adaptive reading score to determine the level of prompts we deliver for the writing prompts, and the adaptive listening score in the same way for the speaking prompts, thus making the productive sections semi-adaptive and more appropriately leveled for each test taker.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


HOW STANDARDS ARE USED IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT

HOW STANDARDS ARE USED IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT

Language proficiency assessment can seem complex or even mysterious – a black box that just spits out a score. However, it isn’t that complicated once you get familiarized with a few basic concepts. I will be describing some of these basic concepts in the next few blog entries. Here is the first. 


Standards-Based (or Criterion-based) vs Norm-Based (or Norm-Referenced)


Today, most proficiency assessments are standards-based, meaning that the test measures what test-takers can do against a set of fixed standards. Avant STAMP (STAndards-based Measure of Proficiency) assessments use standards that are aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The world language standards for virtually all of the states in the US describe proficiency levels based on the ACTFL Guidelines. Often the standards are operationalized by testing organizations into benchmarks or rubrics. Avant has done this by adding some granularity to these standards to make it possible to use them to score learner responses to test questions. Here are the Benchmarks and Rubrics for Avant STAMP. Other standards-based language tests use a rubric as well to identify specific standards. Here for example, are the rubrics for the AP Spanish Language and Culture assessments.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHAT IS PROFICIENCY?

WHAT IS PROFICIENCY?

It is definitely NOT what I learned in my college Japanese courses. 


Proficiency is a much-discussed word in the language field. Our company delivers Avant STAMP and other “proficiency” tests. But what proficiency are we assessing? Proficiency at conjugating verbs or reproducing dialogues memorized in the classroom? After all, someone who does these well is probably proficient at memorizing grammar rules and set phrases. But do assessments of these skills tell us anything meaningful about the ability to function with that language in the real world? The problem with real language is that it is messy and unpredictable, not neat and orderly like a verb conjugation table or a classroom dialogue.


I studied Japanese for two years in college before heading off to Tokyo to study in earnest.  In college we learned the famous “Jordan Method”, rich in set phrases and constructions to memorize. If A then B. If B then C and so on. When I got to Japan I quickly realized that even when I remembered A, instead of B coming next, it was C or K or Z that I heard, and I was completely lost. 

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


PROFICIENCY vs. PERFORMANCE vs. ACHIEVEMENT

PROFICIENCY vs. PERFORMANCE vs. ACHIEVEMENT

Simply stated, Proficiency is the ability to use language in a real-world situation, Performance is the ability to use language in a limited and controlled situation such as a classroom or controlled situation-based exchange, and Achievement is the ability to repeat language elements that have been taught and mastered at some level. Each has a role in language learning, but only proficiency is what people use to communicate in the real world. 


Language learners at the novice level need to focus on memorizing vocabulary and the basic building blocks of language so achievement exercises/tests are particularly appropriate and important at this level. So you can just ignore those ads for some language learning programs that claim you won’t need to do any of that needless memorization. Memorization is important, but it is only part of the picture. Without beginning to apply those memorized words and phrases into an unscripted proficiency-based learning environment, learners will not learn how to improvise and respond to the unexpected and incompletely understood situations they will experience in the real world. Instead they risk becoming fearful of any situation in which they do not know every single word. This fear of the uncertain is the experience that many learners have sadly been given in traditional classrooms that focus on rote memorization and regurgitation. So, achievement assessments are important, but if used excessively, can produce learners who are incapable of real world use of the language elements they have learned in class.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email

Contributors

David Bong

David Bong

Co-Founder & CEO

Avant STAMP and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Avant STAMP and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

STAMP was originally developed by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon to meet the need for an online proficiency assessment that was based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The "STA" in STAMP stands for the "Standards" in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.


Why Avant STAMP Does Not Add Levels to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Avant STAMP continues to hold true to the main ACTFL Proficiency Guideline levels of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced and the three sublevels of Low, Mid, and High. The Proficiency Guidelines are the standards that are used to establish the World Language learning standards in virtually all of the states in the US. We believe it is important to maintain the integrity of the three sublevels as defined by ACTFL. Avant does not believe it is appropriate or psychometrically justifiable to create additional sublevels without substantially lengthening the assessment and publishing the specific criteria or details that would differentiate these micro-levels. However, the field has asked for a way of providing more granular levels than the three sublevels the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines define. In order to address this need, Avant has generated scaled scores of 200 to 800 for the Listening and Reading sections based on a psychometric analysis of testing data. We believe that this approach is more scientifically valid than artificially adding sublevels that do not exist in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012(2012 publication), and that do not exist in any of the other major proficiency scales, ILR or CEFR. 


Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHY PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT MATTERS

WHY PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT MATTERS

Proficiency is a much-discussed and frequently used word in the language education field. Our company and others deliver “proficiency” assessments. But which proficiency is most important to assess? Is it a student’s proficiency at conjugating verbs or reproducing dialogues memorized in the classroom? After all, this is the traditional way of teaching language in the U.S. and in Asia. A student who does these tasks well is probably proficient at memorizing grammar rules and set phrases. But do assessments of these skills tell us anything meaningful about the ability to use that language in the real world? Isn't that the real objective of learning a language?

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


HOW DOES AVANT RATE SPEAKING AND WRITING RESPONSES?

HOW DOES AVANT RATE SPEAKING AND WRITING RESPONSES?

Who rates the STAMP tests?

The human rated responses in the Avant STAMP, PLACE, Arabic Proficiency Test and the Spanish Heritage Language tests are rated by Certified Avant Raters who are language educators/speakers who meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. LANGUAGE SKILL: Raters must maintain advanced or higher level of language skills (determined by phone interview or test score from an approved assessment, i.e., STAMP4S, OPI, ILR Interview, MOPI, or Praxis/state teacher certification.)

  2. EDUCATION: Raters must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher

  3. TRAINING & CERTIFICATION: Raters must complete the language specific Avant Rater Training Program and score 90% agreement in the certification assessment

  4. AVAILABILITY: Raters must be available to score a specified number of items (student responses) each week (determined by the specific language Rating Manager and rater)

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHY AVANT NOW RECOMMENDS AVANT STAMP 4Se BEGINNING WITH GRADE 2 STUDENTS

WHY AVANT NOW RECOMMENDS AVANT STAMP 4Se BEGINNING WITH GRADE 2 STUDENTS

Background Information

Avant STAMP 4Se was developed especially to assess the language proficiency of elementary students.


Although STAMP 4Se is a real world proficiency assessment, it uses only questions (items) and content based around daily school and home life for students who are attending an elementary school in the U.S. To make the assessment appropriate for elementary students, and in order to make sure that we are not assessing their English reading ability, written directions are very limited and are always provided aurally so test takers can listen to them. All critical instructions are given in English for all languages tested. For three languages that have a large number of test-takers who are heritage learners: Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, other instructions and tasks for speaking and writing in the target language are given in both English and the target language. All other languages receive the other instructions and tasks in English.


The STAMP 4Se project was initially developed through a Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant to the state of Wyoming, which assembled a consortium with five states (South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia).  The Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon (CASLS) and the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, D.C., developed content for the assessments and piloted the tests in collaboration with elementary schools in the cooperating states.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHY HERITAGE LANGUAGE LEARNING MATTERS

WHY HERITAGE LANGUAGE LEARNING MATTERS

The United States is a country of immigrants, but historically the second generation of these immigrants has lost their parents’ language – making our country poorer for it; economically, linguistically and culturally. Why has this happened repeatedly throughout our history? One reason could be the pressures of acculturation and the need to quickly fit into America's English speaking society. But in today’s interconnected world does it make sense to allow these valuable skills to just vanish? Fortunately, states across the country have finally begun to recognize the value of maintaining this treasure of linguistic and cultural heritage.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016

AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016

Avant is pleased to release the first report on National Avant STAMP Data since 2010. The report breaks down the data into individual languages and program type:  Elementary Immersion, Secondary, and Higher Ed. We welcome your feedback and questions.

 

AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


THE CHICKEN OR THE DATA?

THE CHICKEN OR THE DATA?

Which comes first in your language classroom, the student, or the data tied to that student? Fortunately, the answer to that question is not an either/or response. In fact, do an Internet search for “Teachers and Data” and you will quickly find multiple approaches for gathering data about our students. You will see an increasing amount of literature about the need for teachers to not just have ‘assessment literacy’, but ‘data literacy’ as well. To highlight this point, the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards will unveil a new component this fall, which will ask teachers to show how they incorporate data about and from their students, families, and communities into their decision-making processes.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


THE CODING IS EQUIVALENT TO WORLD LANGUAGE MYTH – SHOULD WE LOOK IN THE MIRROR?

THE CODING IS EQUIVALENT TO WORLD LANGUAGE MYTH – SHOULD WE LOOK IN THE MIRROR?

Some state legislatures have proposed that students who learn to code should earn world language credits. Is learning to code equivalent to learning a world language? The very idea of this seems absurd to a language professional. Coding is certainly a valuable skill in today’s world. It is also understandable that legislators and school administrators need to find space in an already crowded curriculum to squeeze in more learning. However, we believe it is a mistake to replace world language, the one place in the curriculum where students can learn crucial skills for success in our increasingly connected global society and economy.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


TEST RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY

TEST RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY

These are two of the most misunderstood terms in language testing. Both are very important in determining whether a particular test is appropriate in a given situation.


Simply stated, reliability means that if you give the same test to the same student s/he will get the same score. This is not easy to accomplish. For computer scored questions (items) in reading and listening, a test developer needs to conduct a statistical analysis of the items. This process is called psychometric analysis. The analysis is conducted on data from a number of test-takers, who ideally have a wide range of skill levels. If the item is a good one, the analysis will confirm that it consistently discerns the accurate level of the test taker. In other words, if it is an intermediate-low item, novice-level test takers will consistently get it wrong, and intermediate and above test takers will get it correct. The more consistently an item performs this way the better it is at differentiating the test taker’s language skill. The analysis will put each item on a spectrum from easy to hard. The result of that effort will show that not all intermediate-low items are created equal with some items at the same level being harder than others. That degree of difficulty within a level needs to be taken into account when building the test. A computer scored test that consists of a well laid out set of items that have been psychometrically identified as good items should be a highly reliable test of those skills.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


FIXED FORM vs. ADAPTIVE TEST DESIGN IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING

FIXED FORM vs. ADAPTIVE TEST DESIGN IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING

There are two fundamental test designs in language testing: Fixed Form, and Adaptive. In a fixed form test, every test taker receives the same items (aka questions) and can be delivered on paper or computer. An adaptive test can only be delivered on a computer. The computer algorithm scores each item as the test taker answers it, then based on the score of that item or cluster of items, the computer algorithm adjusts the level of the next item or cluster of items to the next “challenge” level. Until the era of computers, it was not possible to do adaptive testing on a large scale. It is still not possible to apply computerized adaptive test design for speaking and writing tests on a large scale. But it is now quite easy and common to use adaptive testing for reading and listening tests.


There are many advantages to adaptive tests. Because the level of difficulty of the items adjusts to the level demonstrated by the test taker, s/he is consistently challenged by items without being overwhelmed by overly difficult items, or bored by easy ones. With an adaptive test, the test taker can rise to the top of the scale based on her/his performance. In an adaptive test, test takers will take various paths through the test so that cheating is much more difficult (yes, it does happen anywhere). Because the adaptive algorithm hones in on the actual level of the test taker quickly, it is able to deliver more items across a wide range of levels that are at or close to the test taker’s skill, increasing the confidence that the final score is accurate - all in a shorter amount of time than a fixed form test. In Avant STAMP, we also use the adaptive reading score to determine the level of prompts we deliver for the writing prompts, and the adaptive listening score in the same way for the speaking prompts, thus making the productive sections semi-adaptive and more appropriately leveled for each test taker.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


HOW STANDARDS ARE USED IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT

HOW STANDARDS ARE USED IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT

Language proficiency assessment can seem complex or even mysterious – a black box that just spits out a score. However, it isn’t that complicated once you get familiarized with a few basic concepts. I will be describing some of these basic concepts in the next few blog entries. Here is the first. 


Standards-Based (or Criterion-based) vs Norm-Based (or Norm-Referenced)


Today, most proficiency assessments are standards-based, meaning that the test measures what test-takers can do against a set of fixed standards. Avant STAMP (STAndards-based Measure of Proficiency) assessments use standards that are aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The world language standards for virtually all of the states in the US describe proficiency levels based on the ACTFL Guidelines. Often the standards are operationalized by testing organizations into benchmarks or rubrics. Avant has done this by adding some granularity to these standards to make it possible to use them to score learner responses to test questions. Here are the Benchmarks and Rubrics for Avant STAMP. Other standards-based language tests use a rubric as well to identify specific standards. Here for example, are the rubrics for the AP Spanish Language and Culture assessments.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


WHAT IS PROFICIENCY?

WHAT IS PROFICIENCY?

It is definitely NOT what I learned in my college Japanese courses. 


Proficiency is a much-discussed word in the language field. Our company delivers Avant STAMP and other “proficiency” tests. But what proficiency are we assessing? Proficiency at conjugating verbs or reproducing dialogues memorized in the classroom? After all, someone who does these well is probably proficient at memorizing grammar rules and set phrases. But do assessments of these skills tell us anything meaningful about the ability to function with that language in the real world? The problem with real language is that it is messy and unpredictable, not neat and orderly like a verb conjugation table or a classroom dialogue.


I studied Japanese for two years in college before heading off to Tokyo to study in earnest.  In college we learned the famous “Jordan Method”, rich in set phrases and constructions to memorize. If A then B. If B then C and so on. When I got to Japan I quickly realized that even when I remembered A, instead of B coming next, it was C or K or Z that I heard, and I was completely lost. 

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


PROFICIENCY vs. PERFORMANCE vs. ACHIEVEMENT

PROFICIENCY vs. PERFORMANCE vs. ACHIEVEMENT

Simply stated, Proficiency is the ability to use language in a real-world situation, Performance is the ability to use language in a limited and controlled situation such as a classroom or controlled situation-based exchange, and Achievement is the ability to repeat language elements that have been taught and mastered at some level. Each has a role in language learning, but only proficiency is what people use to communicate in the real world. 


Language learners at the novice level need to focus on memorizing vocabulary and the basic building blocks of language so achievement exercises/tests are particularly appropriate and important at this level. So you can just ignore those ads for some language learning programs that claim you won’t need to do any of that needless memorization. Memorization is important, but it is only part of the picture. Without beginning to apply those memorized words and phrases into an unscripted proficiency-based learning environment, learners will not learn how to improvise and respond to the unexpected and incompletely understood situations they will experience in the real world. Instead they risk becoming fearful of any situation in which they do not know every single word. This fear of the uncertain is the experience that many learners have sadly been given in traditional classrooms that focus on rote memorization and regurgitation. So, achievement assessments are important, but if used excessively, can produce learners who are incapable of real world use of the language elements they have learned in class.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


Contributors

David Bong

David Bong

Co-Founder & CEO

Contributors

David Bong

David Bong

Co-Founder & CEO

Contributors

David Bong

David Bong

Co-Founder & CEO

June 2017 Avant Newsletter #6

June 2017 Avant Newsletter #6

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Avant STAMP And The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines
  • The Avant Blog
  • News and Events






03036c16-ba05-419a-836d-4b0951c9bb06.jpg

Avant STAMP And The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

David Bong, Avant CEO

STAMP was originally developed by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon to meet the need for an online proficiency assessment that was based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The "STA" in STAMP stands for the "Standards" in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.

Why Avant STAMP Does Not Add Levels to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines

Avant STAMP continues to hold true to the main ACTFL Proficiency Guideline levels of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced and the three sublevels of Low, Mid, and High. The Proficiency Guidelines are the standards that are used to establish the World Language learning standards in virtually all of the states in the US. We believe it is important to maintain the integrity of the three sublevels as defined by ACTFL. Avant does not believe it is appropriate or psychometrically justifiable to create additional sublevels without substantially lengthening the assessment and publishing the specific criteria or details that would differentiate these micro-levels. However, the field has asked for a way of providing more granular levels than the three sublevels the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines define. In order to address this need, Avant has generated scaled scores of 200 to 800 for the Listening and Reading sections based on a psychometric analysis of testing data. We believe that this approach is more scientifically valid than artificially adding sublevels that do not exist in ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012(2012 publication), and that do not exist in any of the other major proficiency scales, ILR or CEFR. 

Read Avant STAMP And The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines



CATCH UP ON AVANT'S LATEST BLOG POSTS

AVANT STAMP RESULTS -- NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016FIXED FORM vs. ADAPTIVE TEST 

DESIGN IN LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING

WHY HERITAGE LANGUAGE LEARNING MATTERS

 Avant's Blog Page!



NEWS AND EVENTS

David Learns Spanish - Almost There

I am sitting in my office listening to Victor Manuelle on my headphones, closing in on the end of my three-month Spanish Learning Challenge. This has been a wonderful experience for so many reasons. Having a structure and a real challenge has pushed me to study every night, or more honestly, most nights. Now when I listen to Victor Manuelle's salsa songs I actually understand some of the lyrics and the meaning he is singing about. Even that limited insight gives me a feel for where he is coming from and the culture that he is singing about.

                                                                                                                         CONTINUE READING

Avant STAMP Results - National Averages 2016

Curious about how your Avant STAMP scores compare to others across the country?

The National Average Avant STAMP Results from the 2015-2016 academic year represent the nearly 65,000 test takers from schools across the United States and a number of international schools around the world for which we had adequate data on years of study to use in this report. The data for results in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking are included in this report and organized by level (Elementary, Secondary, and Higher Ed) and by language in alphabetical order. To view or download the full report click here: Avant STAMP Results - National Averages 2016.

WHERE YOU WILL FIND US!

Avant is an active partner in the World Language community. You will find us exhibiting/presenting at the following conferences:

AATSP - American Assoc. of Teachers of Spanish And Portugeuse 99th Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, July 6-9, 2017.

GADII - Georgia Dual Language Immersion Institute in Atlanta, GA, July 11-13, 2017.

CLTA - California Language Teachers' Association Summer Symposium  in Santa Barbara, CA, July 14-19, 2017.

You can now find Avant's full schedule of events for 2017 by visiting the Events tab on our website. Do you have an event, conference or workshop you would like Avant to attend? Send us a message with the details - info@avantassessment.com.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


March 2017 Avant Newsletter #5

March 2017 Avant Newsletter #5

News and Events

IN THIS ISSUE

Why Proficiency Assessment Matters

The Avant Blog

News and Events


03036c16-ba05-419a-836d-4b0951c9bb06.jpg


Why Proficiency Assessment Matters?

David Bong, Avant CEO

Proficiency is a much-discussed and frequently used word in the language education field. Our company and others deliver “proficiency” assessments. But which proficiency is most important to assess? Is it a student’s proficiency at conjugating verbs or reproducing dialogues memorized in the classroom? After all, this is the traditional way of teaching language in the U.S. and in Asia. A student who does these tasks well is probably proficient at memorizing grammar rules and set phrases. But do assessments of these skills tell us anything meaningful about the ability to use that language in the real world? Isn't that the real objective of learning a language?

Read WHY PROFICIENCY ASSESSMENT MATTERS

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


February 2017 Avant Newsletter #4

February 2017 Avant Newsletter #4

IN THIS ISSUE

How Does Avant Rate Speaking and Writing Responses? - White Paper

The Avant Blog

News and Events


03036c16-ba05-419a-836d-4b0951c9bb06.jpg



HOW DOES AVANT RATE SPEAKING AND WRITING RESPONSES?

David Bong, Avant CEO


Avant Assessment is proud of the quality of our assessments and the rigor and reliability of our system for rating them. In this White Paper we outline the processes that Avant utilizes for the human rating of student responses to both speaking and writing prompts on the Avant STAMP and PLACE tests:  who rates the tests; how they are trained and certified; how Avant ensures Inter-Rater Reliability; and how the final Avant STAMP and PLACE scores are determined. We have worked for many years to develop and refine our comprehensive online Rater Connection system and are happy to compare it with the rating system of any other language assessment organization. We welcome any questions that you have.

Read - How Does Avant Rate Speaking and Writing Responses?

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


January 2017 Avant Newsletter #3

January 2017 Avant Newsletter #3

IN THIS ISSUE

Avant STAMP 4Se Now Recommended for Grade 2 Students

The Avant Blog

News and Events



7d1c34b2-ad83-4799-8266-225613f8d92b.jpg

Why Avant Now Recommends Avant STAMP 4Se Beginning With Grade 2 Students

By: Kyle Ennis, Avant's VP of Education and Assessment

Background Information

Avant STAMP 4Se was developed especially to assess the language proficiency of elementary students. 

Although STAMP 4Se is a real world proficiency assessment, it uses only questions (items) and content based around daily school and home life for students who are attending an elementary school in the U.S. To make the assessment appropriate for elementary students, and in order to make sure that we are not assessing their English reading ability, written directions are very limited and are always provided aurally so test takers can listen to them. All critical instructions are given in English for all languages tested. For three languages that have a large number of test-takers who are heritage learners: Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, other instructions and tasks for speaking and writing in the target language are given in both English and the target language. All other languages receive the other instructions and tasks in English.


Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


December 2017 Avant Newsletter #2

December 2017 Avant Newsletter #2

IN THIS ISSUE

Avant STAMP National Averages Data 2015/2016

The Avant Blog

News and Events


7d1c34b2-ad83-4799-8266-225613f8d92b.jpg

AVANT STAMP RESULTS - NATIONAL AVERAGES 2016 

By: Kyle Ennis, Avant's VP of Education and Assessment

Avant delivers language assessments with the objective of improving language learning and teaching through meaningful data and reports. We are very happy to release our 2016 Avant STAMP National Averages data. The report compiles data on elementary immersion, middle/high school, and higher ed. results from Avant STAMP 4Se and Avant STAMP 4S. The norms identify average proficiency levels of ability in each domain at the end of specific grades (Avant STAMP 4Se elementary) or years of study (Avant STAMP 4S middle school/high school and higher ed.).

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


November 2016 Avant Newsletter #1

November 2016 Avant Newsletter #1

IN THIS ISSUE

Message from Avant's CEO

The Avant Blog

News and Events



Please enjoy the first edition of the Avant Assessment monthly newsletter. If you'd like to continue receiving the newsletter please sign up here.


ACTFL 2016!

We hope you will be attending The 2016 ACTFL Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in Boston, November 18-20. Avant Assessment would like to invite you to stop by our booth, located not far from ACTFL Central, in booth #1615.


If you're looking for a new way to improve your language program through powerful assessment, we would love to speak with you! If you're already using our assessments, we want to hear your Avant story!

40d3241d-b7ff-4fe1-89f9-8cf7af8884aa.jpg


A MESSAGE FROM DAVID BONG,
CEO OF AVANT ASSESSMENT


Sheila and I founded Avant because we believe that learning a language can change lives and bring our world together. When we started in 2001, one thing the field said that it needed was a standards-based assessment of language proficiency that could shift language education from a grammar-based, rote-learning approach to a focus on developing real-world proficiency. The assessment needed to be accessible, affordable and scalable. So in partnership with the University of Oregon, we launched Avant STAMP, the world’s first online language proficiency assessment. 


Recently we have seen the rapid growth of immersion and heritage language programs, both bolstered by the spread of the Seal of Biliteracy.  At Avant we believe that it is critical for these movements to succeed and continue to grow. We are supporting these exciting movements in three ways:

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


Contributors

David Bong

David Bong

Co-Founder & CEO

The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge - Who Won?

The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge - Who Won?

Mike and I have finished our three-month Spanish challenge. To find out who won, we both completed the STAMP assessment this week.


And the winner is ---- Mike Biglan!


We both grew more than one level, but Mike just eked out a victory. Mike grew an average of 1.5 levels per domain, while I grew by 1.25. We both started with an aggregate average level of Intermediate Low, and finished at Intermediate Mid.


It was interesting to see that the domains where we grew the most were directly connected to the way we approached the challenge. Mike has two children in Eugene's outstanding Buena Vista Spanish Immersion School so he spoke with them everyday in Spanish. Mike's Speaking and Writing scores each grew by two levels. I focused on reading the newspaper online and listening to Univision's "Despierta America" in the morning. Not surprisingly, my Reading and Listening scores grew by two levels.


This has been a wonderful adventure. It reminded me of both the challenge of learning a new language, and the tremendous excitement of accessing a different way of thinking and perceiving the world. I truly enjoyed being able to study the content and the domains that I was most interested in. This challenge convinced both Mike and me that this was the beginning, not the end of our Spanish learning adventure.


And finally, we are very happy to support the great work that the JNCL does to promote and support the language field. Here is a photo of me giving the $1,000 check from Avant to the Executive Director of the JNCL Dr. Bill Rivers. 

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Almost There

I am sitting in my office listening to Victor Manuelle on my headphones, closing in on the end of my three-month Spanish learning Challenge. This has been a wonderful experience for so many reasons. Having a structure and a real challenge has pushed me to study every night, or more honestly, most nights. Now when I listen to Victor Manuelle's salsa songs I actually understand some of the lyrics and the meaning he is singing about. Even that limited insight gives me a feel for where he is coming from and the culture that he is singing about.

 

I have settled into a bedtime routine of reading an article from either El Nuevo Herald of Miami or El Diario of New York and reviewing my vocabulary list on Google Translate. I find myself dreaming about some vocabulary words from time to time. That is probably not a coincidence.  A recent study featured in Physics Today magazine has shown that studying a language just before sleep improves the speed of memorizing new vocabulary. See: The benefit of studying language before sleep

 

In the morning I watch 15 minutes of Despierta America on Univision. I am gradually getting to understand more of what they are saying, and enjoying how they say it—lots of movement, hand gestures and genuine excitement. It is such an incredibly wholesome and positive show, and so unabashedly patriotic. It reminds me how our country is so reenergized and strengthened by immigrants who come to America to fulfill their dreams. Unlike China, Japan, South Korea, Russia or most of Europe with shrinking workforces, the American workforce is growing, thanks to our immigrants. See section III of this report from The Economist: profile-of-the-global-workforce-present-and-future.  Immigration is a source of strength for our country, not of weakness as some would have us believe.

 

The Challenge has given me reason to keep learning Spanish. Once again I have found that learning a language has begun to open a whole new world to me. Now I can't wait to get to point where I can more fully experience it.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Five Miles In

David Learns Spanish - Five Miles In

They say learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. Well, if that's true, and I believe it is, I just hit mile 5 in my marathon. No, I don't mean I'm almost 20% to perfect Spanish. Not even close. But it feels like I feel when I'm hitting the 5-mile marker in a 26.2-mile race - not that I do a lot of marathons - my count is 2. The adrenaline that surged through me at the start, the over-excitement and somewhat reckless speed have passed, as has the let down after the adrenaline drained away around mile 3 or 4.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Twenty

I have been reminded that learning a language is a humbling exercise. Once the euphoria about learning a lot of new words and expressions wore off, I was faced with the reality that this is work, and that I really need to have a cohesive plan that I stick to. So,  I confess, I took last week off. Yes, I was busy, but like everything else, if it's important to me I will make time for it. No more excuses.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Seven

David Learns Spanish - Day Seven

I've been in Los Angeles at the California Association of Bilingual Educators and am driving back to Oregon through a beautifully green California. Sheila is actually driving. Don't worry. It was a great conference. Such passion for true bilingual education! There does, however, seem to be a divide between the bilingual educators and the world language educators that is unnecessary and damaging to the common cause that we share of expanding the number of Americans who speak English and a second language. I want to help to change that.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Six

David Learns Spanish - Day Six

Thinking more about my crazy learning method of taking an article from a Spanish newspaper and just using that to learn from instead of building up sets of words and grammar. To me this makes the learning process fun. I take a real article and go through it and learn each and every word and repeat it out loud every day until I really understand it and can read it smoothly.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Five

David Learns Spanish - Day Five

Left Miami and there was no more Spanish talk radio. Bummer. So I started looking online for radio broadcasts. I found some but couldn't download them on my phone. I finally got one to download from Madrid radio, but I couldn't understand it at all. So I tried downloading a free Spanish learning program. I wasn't interested in studying short phrases spoken slowly with vocabulary I didn't care about. Maybe I'm crazy, but I want to learn from real language even if I barely understand it.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Four

David Learns Spanish - Day Four

More driving, more Spanish talk radio. Love it. I still don't understand it much, but I am enjoying the music of the language, and being able to figure out a word or a phrase now or then.


I am an occasional meditator. I know it is good for all kinds of things, but I don't regularly make time for it, and it takes effort. But I do it, and all in all, I like it. It struck me that my experience of listening to Spanish radio was a lot like sitting down and meditating. That probably sounds bizarre, but read on.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Three

David Learns Spanish - Day Three

Thank you, thank you Spanish talk radio. Listening to the talk show here in Miami I can hook into content that I already know about - politics and the snowstorm up north. Context is huge I remember from those teacher trainings again. I watched some Mexican police drama on TV last night and hardly understood anything, but politics I get, and I am interested. It was like this in Japan too, when I could follow the business and economic news on TV but was lost in the soap operas. The register is higher, the language more structured.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day Two

David Learns Spanish - Day Two

After the end of work today is was panicked - How if the world am I going to find time to study 30 minutes every day? What is the world did I get myself into? 

Then I remembered I was in Miami. So I turned on the radio. Thanks to the traffic I got in a good hour of listening to Spanish talk radio.  It was interesting to recognize the change in my ears over the hour. What sounded like a random stream of sounds with an occasional word I recognized at first, started to actually sound like a language with patterns that I could catch and occasional phrase from.  I figured out "health insurance "seguro de salud, and "la prensa lo ignoro" the press ignores it.


Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


David Learns Spanish - Day One

David Learns Spanish - Day One

The CEO of Avant's technology partner, Mike Biglan and I decided to take on the joint challenge to self-study Spanish 30 minutes a day for three months, and each write a blog about it.  So today I begin.


It's probably appropriate that today I'm flying to Miami for meetings before heading up to Orlando for the SCOLT Southern Conference Of Language Teachers. If I spoke Spanish I would have many opportunities to use it in Miami.


But I don't speak Spanish. Not really anyway. I have played around with Transparent Language's tools and the Duolingo app. Duolingo says I'm 3% fluent. Not sure what that means, but it's not zero. Way back in the 70's I spent a spring in San Juan working as a waiter and bartender in a classic restaurant in Old San Juan - El Patio de Sam. I don't think it's there anymore, but it was reviewed in the New York Times so it was a pretty good place for both locals and tourists. I mostly handled the tourists, but I learned enough Spanish to take orders from the locals and work with the kitchen, but it was pretty limited, and it was a long time ago.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge

The $1000 JNCL Spanish Challenge

It started as a simple wager. Two competitive guys challenging each other to see who would do better.  Study Spanish everyday for at least 30 minutes a day for three months. Who would show the most growth.


Mike Biglan, the CEO of Analytic Spot, and I, David Bong, Avant's CEO both have studied Spanish sporadically over the years, but neither of us can use it in real life. Mike studied it for two years in high school and I worked as a waiter/bartender in Old San Juan using Spanish for a couple of months in my long ago youth. We both studied French for 5+ years in school and I speak Japanese at a high level of proficiency. But Spanish - No.

Continue reading

Share: Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email


Contributors

David Bong

David Bong

Co-Founder & CEO

Stay Up To Date

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter.