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Reflection on CELDT Released Questions

Reflection on CELDT Released Questions
Britt E. Sjostrom
SD San Diego: Assessment of English Learners
8/3/16

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When considering any text in teaching, it is important to view it with an English Language Learner lens.
In between my grad school program and starting my teaching career here in the states, I decided to teach English
abroad. I wanted to challenge myself with a new language and I felt the need to broaden my perspectives for
myself and also for my future students. I decided to teach in Chile, and I found a program that allowed me to teach
there without having to know Spanish. I knew very little Spanish and was 1 of maybe 5 people in the small town
that spoke English. It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I felt what it was like
to be in a foreign country, without knowing the language. It gave me invaluable insight as a teacher and allowed
me to get a glimpse of what life is like for an English Language Learner in my classroom.
I have many memories of ways in which I looked deeper into languages. While learning Spanish and
teaching English I had daily realizations of the complexities of languages – especially the English language! There
are so many grammar rules, and exceptions to the rules – I imagine it is so hard to keep track for someone learning
English. One of many examples includes idioms or sayings. I’ll never forget feeling so proud of myself for
following along with a conversation with the teachers at my school in Spanish. Then, someone said “hacer una
vaca” during the discussion, and a few others continued to mention it. This translates to “make a cow” which is a
Chilean saying that means “lets all go in on this, or lets put our money together to buy this.” Not knowing that one
phrase completely threw me off and I lost track of the conversation wondering what they had said about a cow,
thinking I was totally lost and I stayed quiet and removed myself from the conversation. All it takes is one little
phrase to completely confuse a language learner, and make them question their own knowledge. Using this insight
from my experience, as well as things I have learned in my studies and as a teacher, I plan and read my materials
with an English Language Learner lens. I’ll use this lens when evaluating 2 questions from the CELDT released
questions.
The first question I will evaluate from the CELDT (grades 3-5)test is: “If you were a scientist, which
would you rather study, outer space or rain forests?” and the next part of the question is “Tell me two reasons why.”
Using an ELL lens I anticipate that the vocabulary words “outer space” and “rain forests” could be challenging for
many students. If a student has not been exposed to these words they would not be able to speak about them. They
wouldn’t know what to say about them. In the YouTube video two students (one from China and one from the
Philippines) both said in the videos that vocabulary was a difficult part in taking tests. Elmar states that
“vocabulary is something we need to learn more and just get used to it.” (Class Lesson, July 29, 2016) This

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CELDT question brings to mind the question of measurement validity as referenced in the powerpoint – “Does the
test accurately measure a student’s knowledge in the content area being tested?” For me this brings another
question to mind – is the test supposed to be measuring the students’ scientific knowledge about outer space or rain
forests? No – it is supposed to be a question that guides them to show their speaking abilities. A student may have
a higher level of speaking abilities than they are able to show because of a lack of knowledge of those particular
Tier 3 vocabulary words.
I will use my previous 4th grade classroom as the example class I would teach these to. My classroom next
year will be very similar. My class was a mix of English only students and a few English learners. If I were to
prepare my students for the CELDT speaking question about the rain forest and outer space, I would teach them
these vocabulary words. I would show them a picture of the words and/or allow them to look them up in a
dictionary so that their prior knowledge about the topics would be triggered.
The next part of the CELDT test I will evaluate is the reading comprehension passage. This passage is
entitled “Teresa’s Visit.” In this story Teresa visits a farm and a barn and it mentions many of the animals
associated with it. This question could be considered to have a Geographic Bias or a Cultural Bias. The document
states that a “Geographical Bias occurs when test items feature items used in particular geographic regions that are
not universally shared.” (Class Lesson July 31, 2016). This question could confuse a student from a different
country or area in which a farm was not nearby. It could also be considered to have a Cultural Bias. A “Cultural
Bias may occur if the test content represents content from the dominant culture that may be understood differently
or not at all by English learners.” (Class Lesson July 31, 2016). Farms are something that you see frequently in
early childhood programs. Farm animals are found in many children’s books in the United States. Animal sounds
are some of the first sounds that children are encouraged to learn and produce in the US. Farms and farm animals
are often lessons taught in daycare and early childhood programs. This might not be the case for other cultures as
it is for the dominant culture in the United States.
In order to prepare my students for this portion of the test I would provide them with background
knowledge about farms. In order to answer questions about the reading comprehension questions associated with
“Teresa’s Visit,” it is only fair that they are able to create pictures in their minds of the content presented to them.
Not everyone grew up with pictures and lessons about farms and farm animals. Those that had that experience
would do much better on the test. If an accurate picture of a student’s language level is to be understood – one
must consider a students geographical and cultural backgrounds.

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In conclusion, these test need to be seen with an English Language Learner lens in order to make them
valid and in order to ensure that you are getting an accurate picture of the students language level. If things like
the bias’ and the vocabulary are not considered, a teacher may very easily get an inaccurate assessment score. The
student could be placed in the wrong level and not get the services that feel the particular needs of that student. As
stated in the powerpoint, “Validity is based on how a test is used.” (Class Lesson July 31, 2016).

When

administering these tests, one must consider what they are actually testing – Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening
– and provide background knowledge and information so that they can actually test those specific skills.

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References
Engers, Debra (2016). YouTube Video: UCSD Extension Assessment of English learners
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?
list=PLQJl_WLUG5440pE01UKjGlT8V59HFIpnK