Assessing students who have English as an additional language

Assessment of any student who has limited proficiency in spoken English is always difficult (Cline and Shamsi, 2000). However, CoPS is less problematic than conventional methods of assessment, due to its strongly visual format and minimal reliance on spoken instructions. The demonstration and practice items enable most students, even those with very little English, to understand the tasks, and where there is uncertainty a teacher or assistant who speaks the student’s first language can help with instructions. Administering the visual tests in CoPS (Crayons, Toybox, Rabbits and Letters), as well as Clown and Letter names, to students who have little or no English is quite straightforward, provided a teacher or classroom assistant can explain to the student in their own language what they have to do. The tasks will be essentially the same as for English- speaking students: only the instructions will be translated. Under most assessment circumstances, CoPS is perfectly adequate for testing students with limited English.

Many students from other language backgrounds who have only limited English can still do Rhymes and Wock perfectly satisfactorily. In fact, those with the least experience of English do not inevitably perform less well on Rhymes and Wock than those with more experience of English (they may be somewhat better because of their bilingual or multilingual experience). What is most important is that the students understand the tasks confronting them and listen carefully to the items. Races, however, creates a special problem for students with limited experience of English (especially young children), and that is knowing the names of the animals. Details of all the animals that appear in Races is given in About the subtests. If the teacher is unsure whether students know the names of all these animals, the most obvious solution is to familiarise all students with the animals, perhaps playing recognition games (e.g. bingo) using the pictures of the animals. Translation of the animal names into the student’s first language is not necessarily a solution, because the names of some animals might not exist (or be familiar) in their first language. Even if straight translation of the names of the animals were to be possible, this would inevitably introduce an uncontrolled factor into the subtest, because in different languages the numbers of syllables in the animal names is likely to differ. (In Races syllable length has been controlled and the subtest has been standardised in this format.)

Case studies of four bilingual (EAL) students, together with their CoPS results are discussed in Interpreting profiles of students who have English as an additional language. These show that it is possible to obtain extremely valuable information from CoPS assessment of such children.

For further information on assessment of learning difficulties in literacy (including dyslexia) in EAL pupils and other multilingual children, see Cline (2000), Cline and Frederickson (1999), Cline and Shamsi (2000), Durkin (2000), Mortimore et al. (2012), Peer and Reid (2016) and Tsagari and Spanoudis (2013).