March 2017 Avant Newsletter #5
Wednesday, March 01, 2017 by David Bong
Why Proficiency Assessment Matters
The Avant Blog
News and Events
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?
The $1000 Bet Is On!
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 me, 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.
The more we talked about it, the more we thought it would be a great way to get a first hand understanding of what language learners are going through when they learn a language. As a language assessment company, that is pretty important. So here's what we are doing. We will both take the Avant STAMP assessment before and after our three months. The one showing less growth will contribute $1000 to the JNCL-NCLIS, our national language lobbying organization to support their fight to keep funding for language education and international programs alive. We will blog and Tweet/Facebook regularly to share our experiences and ask for advice.
We hope you enjoy sharing this adventure with us.
Recap of Bonnie Flint's SWCOLT Presentation - Forecast Success! Assessment Ideas to Support Teachers, Grow Programs & Build Student Proficiency
Bonnie Flint, the World Language Supervisor in Davis School District, Utah shared the role that assessment plays in supporting the outstanding language program she and her colleagues have built over the years. It starts with gathering data and setting goals. "What elements of your program do you need to be able to forecast, why, and for whom?" She told a story from Greg Duncan that described a teacher who taught collaborative language performance exercises in class, but assessed specific grammar and vocabulary. This story shows how important it is to measure language skills that are consistent with program goals. Here is what she said about assessment, "Assessment, then, serves the function of a mirror for the student—to let him (and his learning coach, the teacher) see how well he is doing in reaching the learning goals, what he still might need to work on to reach those goals, or to what degree he is already exceeding the goals." She described the WHAT as, performance, proficiency and growth, the WHY as, curriculum, alignment, professional development, SLOs, progress, AP / IB / high-stakes tests, demonstrated competency, and seal of biliteracy, and the WHO as, administrators, counselors, parents, program supervisor, and students.
Each level has a proficiency goal that at least 80% of the students should meet. For example, year two Spanish students should reach Novice High. Bonnie uses Avant STAMP "to enable teachers to be effective in improving proficiency outcomes, and empowering the program to make better informed decisions about curriculum and teacher training by delivering accurate data on students’ proficiency levels." She also uses Avant STAMP to provide an accurate prediction for AP scores, enabling intervention to address areas that need shoring up.
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:
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org.