Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2011 Volume 7, Number 1 - PDF

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Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number A Developmental English Proficiency Test (ADEPT): A Study In The Effectiveness Of The ADEPT Assessment On Teacher Candidate
Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number A Developmental English Proficiency Test (ADEPT): A Study In The Effectiveness Of The ADEPT Assessment On Teacher Candidate Instructional Planning For English Language Learners Nancy Myers, Director for the California Reading and Literature Project, USA Janice Tucker, California Lutheran University, USA ABSTRACT English Language Learners (ELLs) are a dynamic and rapidly growing population within the California school system. In this age of greater accountability, teachers need access to the tools necessary for effectively reaching this growing subpopulation of students. In this study, A Developmental English Proficiency Test (ADEPT), a language assessment tool, is examined with regards to its effectiveness in assisting teacher candidates in their instructional planning for ELLs. Results from qualitative and quantitative data show that the ADEPT was effective in helping teacher candidates to plan and differentiate instruction for ELLs. Additionally, the ADEPT provided concrete data to report to school administrators and parents on students progress. Keywords: English Language Learners; ADEPT; California Reading and Literature Project; Assessment; CRLP; Accountability; Differentiation; Instructional Planning INTRODUCTION T he California Reading and Literature Project (CRLP) is one of nine California Subject Matter Projects working in California and is governed through the University of California s Office of the President. CRLP is a program that provides professional development for K-2 teachers to facilitate the development of student literacy and support English Language Learners (ELLs). One of the goals of the CRLP is to create a bridge between the academic world of the university and the world of the classroom and its students. This relationship allows teachers to develop and improve their teaching practices and improve their students achievement by concretely linking the theory and research of the academic world to their classrooms. The ADEPT assesses a student s ability to understand and generate English language conventions according to the levels of English Proficiency. The ADEPT 2 adaptation that is currently in use has undergone validity and reliability studies through the University of California, Santa Cruz, and was found to be a valid and reliable assessment instrument, aligned with the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). The ADEPT assessment was designed to assist teachers in effectively and efficiently planning and delivering their instruction to meet the needs of students at varying levels of English language proficiency. This research study has been designed to further examine teacher knowledge of effective teaching practices gained as a result of the ADEPT assessor certification training. Use of the ADEPT assessment is required for the reading methods course s culminating assignment. Teacher candidates use the ADEPT assessment to identify ELL students strengths and needs, to help them plan 2 The Clute Institute Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number instructional activities, and to describe how these instructional activities meet standards and help students succeed. This training is typically given to teachers and other paraprofessionals working with students full time. This study has been designed to examine the impact of this training on pre-service teacher knowledge and practices. LITERATURE REVIEW The focus on ELLs in research has increased over the years in large part due to the increase in ELLs impact on the educational system. Gándara, Rumberger, Maxwell-Jolly, and Callahan (23) report, The fact that the United States remains an immigrant nation is nowhere more apparent than in our public schools where an increasing percentage of students are English learners. In 2- these students represented ten percent of all students in the United States, and 25 percent of California s public school population. (p. 2 ) Ventura County, where California Lutheran University (CLU) is located, is no exception to this trend. In 2-29, ELLs accounted for 4% of kindergarten students and 23% of total student enrollment for Ventura County s K-2 schools (Ed Data, 2). The following graph (Figure ) represents the total number of ELLs in Ventura County and depicts a steady growth in that population from Ventura County has been selected as the example for this literature review because this research study will take place in Ventura County. Figure. Number of English Learners for Ventura County (California Department of Education, 2) Unfortunately, the statistics about ELLs do not end with their population growth. Gándara, et al. (23) report, A persistent gap in test scores is a major factor in the school experience of English learners. As a group they continue to perform more poorly than English-speaking students throughout their entire school career (p. 4). In 29, of the 2 school districts in Ventura County, 4 did not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress goals for ELLs in English Language Arts (California Department of Education, 29). Indeed, the increase in population of ELLs has required teachers to evaluate their teaching practices and explore new methods in reaching this population of students. In addition, ELLs typically account for the lowest test scores and often have the most difficult time succeeding academically. Thus, increased pressure from local authorities to raise test scores for the ELL population has also provided the impetus for reform. The purpose of this literature review is to examine the significance of best practices for teaching ELLs and provide justification for the 2 2 The Clute Institute Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number use of the ADEPT assessment as a helpful tool in lesson planning geared to meet the specific needs of ELLs in the classroom. Research shows that finding the best practices to meet the needs of ELLs is a multifaceted issue. Current literature suggests that it can take up to 3 to 5 years for ELLs to gain oral proficiency in English, and up to 4 to 7 years to gain academic English proficiency (Hakuta, 2). These statistics are true even for districts where instruction for ELLs is considered successful. Kenji Hakuta s research on the development of English proficiency among ELLs suggests that established policy that includes short term rigorous instruction with yearly assessment may not be adequate to meet the needs of ELLs. Therefore, there must be a paradigm shift in educating these unique learners. Researcher James Cummins (995) has advocated for a paradigm shift in the educational system s response to ELLs. Cummins argues that there must be significant change in personal and community attitude toward ELLs, and moreover, that individual teachers must become advocates for ELLs linguistic talents and work toward a framework that encourages student independence. Educators must not use new policies and programs to replace dayto-day interaction and intervention with ELLs. Interventions must be based upon the individual needs of each student in order to be most effective in addressing areas of need and promoting areas of strength. Building upon the research of both Hakuta (2) and Cummins (995), Garcia and Beltran (25) propose the theory that most successful projects are successful because they are planned (p. 97 ). Similarly, instruction is successful when it is planned to meet the specific needs of the variety of students in the classroom. This is especially true of ELLs where instruction must be carefully planned to meet their needs within time, content, and policy constraints. Recognition of the linguistic differences between ELLs and native speakers is key, and understanding the timeline of language acquisition assists teachers in preparing appropriate instruction. Similarly, researchers Ruddell and Unrau (997) state that educators must be responsive and reflective in order to be effective. Influential teachers show excitement and care for students, differentiate instruction based on student ability and motivation, engage students in a process of intellectual discovery, and help students to understand problems. Students note these characteristics in teachers whether the students are high achieving or low achieving. Influential teachers are always striving to redesign their instructional program to meet the diverse needs of the students in their classroom. Teachers must reflect on the development of self, instructional orientation, and task engagement resources. Although not explicitly mentioned, this research has clear implications for how a teacher must relate to ELLs in meeting the diverse needs of their classroom. As a part of the paradigm shift for teaching ELLs, Gonzalez and Darling-Hammond (997) argue that professional development must be reconsidered in light of the demographic changes in American classrooms. Gonzalez and Darling-Hammond assert that professional development related to teaching ELLs should begin in preservice teaching, in beginning teaching, and throughout the rest of a teacher s career. Support must be given to new teachers to facilitate understanding of the ELLs in their classrooms and prepare them to work collaboratively with other staff members to strategize. Widening the scope of Gonzalez and Darling-Hammond s (997) findings to pre-service teachers and any other individual involved in the education of students, Grant and Wong (23) advocate for educators, pre-service teachers, and paraprofessionals to be actively engaged in developing best practices for reaching ELLs. This means that emphasis must be placed at all stages of teacher education in supporting the development of consciousness about the challenges ELLs face and to close the achievement gap between native speakers and ELLs. The authors argue that reading specialists and teachers must shift to a paradigm where the belief that academic success for language minority learners can be achieved through culturally inclusive theoretical frameworks for research methods and literacy assessment as well as literacy instruction (p. 39). Recent research from Lucas, Villegas, and Freedson-Gonzalez (2) supports the idea that pre-service teachers must receive education in best practices for ELLs during their higher education preparation for the classroom. More experienced teachers have struggled as a result of a lack of preparation for this new population in their classrooms. Lucas et al. assert that through professional development, we can learn about resources to which 2 The Clute Institute 3 Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number we can direct future teachers for information on teaching ELLs, and perhaps most important, we can develop our understandings about the education of ELLs (p. 37). A final, significant point has been made by Laurie Olson (2) in a recent and groundbreaking research and policy report regarding the classification of long term ELLs. Olson estimates that there are more than 33, California students in grades -2 who are classified as Long Term English Learners, struggling academically, with little or no progress toward English proficiency. As many other researchers have noted, Olson states that many ELLs become stuck at the intermediate level and continue through the educational system without receiving the extra academic assistance necessary to progress to a higher level of English proficiency. This group of ELLs functions well socially and speaks with confidence despite lacking the necessary academic language to be successful in school. Olson s report reminds educators of the legal mandate in California that English learners cannot be permitted to incur irreparable academic deficits during the time in which they are mastering English School districts are obligated to address deficits as soon as possible, and to ensure that their schooling does not become a permanent dead end. (p. 3) Such students progress must be monitored beginning in elementary school so that special language services can be offered earlier and more effectively, thus improving achievement in secondary schooling. The current research on best practices for teaching ELLs is extensive, but not conclusive. ELLs are a complex and growing population that requires special attention within the classroom. Research points to the need for specific education of teachers, pre-service teachers, and paraprofessionals in meeting the needs of ELLs. Although no one method for providing this information to educators has been suggested, growing research supports the notion that more professional development is needed, and that professional development is more useful the earlier it is received in an educator s career. The ELL population in the classroom must be reached to prevent more and more children from receiving the label of Long Term English Learner. Every student should have an equal opportunity to succeed and receive the educational resources necessary to meet this goal. OBJECTIVE, RESEARCH DESIGN AND PROCEDURE The ADEPT assessment is a promising tool for teachers of ELLs to pinpoint their students instructional needs. By regularly assessing students, teachers are able to determine at what language proficiency level students are functioning and plan lessons accordingly. This knowledge boosts the confidence of teachers trying to meet the needs of their ELLs. This is an especially useful tool for pre-service teacher candidates who often do not know where to begin with instruction for ELLs. The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of the ADEPT assessment training on teacher knowledge of effective teaching practices for ELLs. This study took place from October 29 to May 2. Volunteers from the cohort of teacher candidates from CLU s teacher preparation program in fall 29 were invited to participate in a study of their knowledge and classroom practices. These volunteers were all over years of age and signed an informed consent. Approximately one week prior to the training for the ADEPT assessment, co-researcher Dr. Janice Tucker attended a session of the EDTP 52: Literacy and Language in Diverse Classrooms course to invite teacher candidates to participate in this study. Dr. Tucker distributed the invitation letter and informed consent at this time. A link to Flashlight, an online survey program, including demographic questions was distributed to the volunteer teacher candidates to determine their knowledge of teaching practices prior to the training. Post surveys were conducted via Flashlight at the end of the fall 29 semester. The Flashlight survey automatically assigned a code of random numbers to each participant to ensure confidentiality. Data from the survey were stored electronically on the researcher s computer in a locked file. Volunteers received the link to these Flashlight surveys and were able to complete them on their own time at a location of their choosing. 4 2 The Clute Institute Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number During the second semester of student teaching in spring 2 a smaller cohort was placed in a classroom situation where they were given an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained with the intended student population (ELLs). Interviews were conducted by co-researcher Dr. Tucker with this smaller sample to provide further information on the effectiveness of the ADEPT training as it applied to actual teaching practices. The interview questions were based on the questions contained in the Flashlight survey. Names of these teacher candidates were kept confidential. The interviews were recorded and labeled with a random number to ensure confidentiality of student responses. The tapes were kept in a locked drawer in the researcher s office and will be destroyed upon completion of the project. SAMPLE A Flashlight survey was used to collect demographic information as well as student responses to maintain anonymity. The confidential Flashlight survey identified the sample for this study of volunteer teacher candidates enrolled in CLU s EDTP 52 course in the fall of 29. SETTING Teacher candidates were invited to volunteer for participation in this study by co-researcher, Dr. Tucker. Dr. Tucker is not an instructor for these teacher candidates. The ADEPT training took place during the EDTP 52 class at California Lutheran University by CRLP certified trainer Teresa Nunez. All surveys for this study were conducted anonymously online through CLU s flashlight survey system and data were saved in a secure file. DATA AND ANALYSIS Quantitative A total of sixteen teacher candidates participated in both the pre and post survey for this study. The following tables present a graphic representation of the survey data from both the pre and post surveys, organized by question. With the exception of one respondent who appears to have marked strongly disagree for every question on both the pre and post surveys, there was a significant increase in positive responses after receiving training in the ADEPT assessment. Responses to questions 9 and are noteworthy. In response to the statement, I feel adequately prepared to report individual progress in English proficiency to parents, % of respondents agreed or strongly agreed on the post survey, whereas only 29% had responded positively on the pre survey. Responses to the statement, I have a good understanding of where my students are struggling with English proficiency show an even greater change, with 94% responding with agree or strongly agree on the post survey, while only 24% responded positively on the pre survey. 5. I feel prepared to identify a student s instructional level for Systematic ELD Neutral Neutral 2 The Clute Institute 5 Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number. I feel that I understand my student's language abilities to assist in differentiating instruction Neutral Neutral 7 7. I am adequately monitoring student progress in English proficiency 3 Neutral Neutral. I feel I am prepared to plan for Systematic ELD, Frontloading language and reading/language arts instruction 5 3 Neutral Neutral 2 The Clute Institute Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number 9. I feel adequately prepared to report individual progress in English proficiency to parents Neutral Neutral. I have a good understanding of where my students are struggling with English proficiency Neutral Neutral. I am able to differentiate instruction based upon the assessment tools that are available to me Neutral Neutral 2 The Clute Institute 7 Journal of International Education Research First Quarter 2 Volume 7, Number 2. I have the information I need to help evaluate and improve grade level/school-wide English language instruction Neutral Neutral The responses for each question show an increase in confidence in preparing for and working with ELLs in the classroom. For every question in the post survey, there was an average of 7% response of agree or strongly agree, whereas the average for agree or strongly agree in the pre survey was only 29%. Based on the survey data, it appears that the ADEPT assessment training was effective in assisting teacher candidates in determining a student s English language proficiency. This knowledge provides participants with a foundation for differentiating instruction and reporting progress to parents. Qualitative Data from the in depth interviews with teacher candidates the following semester confirmed and expanded upon the findings of the surveys given during the fall semester. Among the interviews, there was a strong theme of confidence in determining a student s language proficiency. The ability to determine language proficiency gained through administering the ADEPT, lead to a greater ability in differentiating instruction for ELLs. Furthermore, the ADEP
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