Assessing students who have limited English

Assessment of any student who has limited proficiency in spoken English is often problematic. However, Rapid is less problematic than many conventional methods of assessment due to its strongly visual format and minimal reliance on spoken instructions. Because Rapid does not include any direct measures of reading and spelling – skills which would be expected to be significantly affected by limited proficiency in spoken English – it is usually an ideal test for this type of student. In order to tackle the subtest of auditory sequential memory (Races / Mobile phone), however, the student will need to know the English animal names (for 4-7-year olds) or the digits 1–9 in spoken and written form (for 8-15-year olds). The 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 explaining instructions.

As explained in What is dyslexia and How were the tests in Rapid selected, the subtests in Rapid are attempting to identify students who display deficits in various aspects of phonological processing, because the principal weight of research evidence on dyslexia supports this approach. There is also good evidence to support the use of such tests with students speaking English as an additional language, with research studies finding that:

● Students speaking a minority language typically exhibit similar phonological processing skills to students speaking a majority language, when tested in the majority language (Bruck and Genesee, 1995; Frederickson and Frith, 1998; Everatt et al., 2000; Miller Guron and Lundberg, 2003)

● Bilingual students show similar phonological processing skills in both languages (Harrison and Krol, 2007; Branum-Martin, Tao and Garnaat, 2015)

For students speaking English as a second language, poor phonological skills are predictive of reading ability in English (Gottardo, 2002; Manis et al., 2004; Gottardo et al., 2006; Swanson et al., 2006; Harrison and Krol, 2007; Swanson et al., 2011; Chung et al., 2013)

Hence the evidence indicates that assessment of phonological ability (such as Rhymes/Word chopping/Segments) and phonic skills (Funny words/Non-words) in English can reveal difficulties of a dyslexic nature even in students for whom English is an additional language, although obviously teachers have to exercise caution when interpreting the test results of such students.

A case study where a student for whom English is an additional language (EAL) was assessed using Rapid is given in Case studies. Like most students with limited English, this student responded well to the assessment and extremely valuable information was obtained. For further information on assessment of learning difficulties in literacy (including dyslexia) in EAL students and other multilingual students, see Cline (2000), Cline and Frederickson (1999), Cline and Shamsi (2000), Durkin (2000), Gunderson, D’Silva and Chen (2011), Mortimore et al. (2012), Peer and Reid (2016) and Tsagari and Spanoudis (2013).