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So…how good a job are

we doing?
A Volunteer Training Module for
Adult ESL Assessment
C. Chappell
Assessment: What you need to know as a
volunteer aide for adult ESOL

 SSCC’s free English program for adults

uses the CASAS program for assessment.
 CASAS is an acronym for Comprehensive
Adult Student Assessment Systems.
 As a volunteer aide, you may be asked to
assist in proctoring a battery of CASAS
tests for a group of ELLs.
Why do we assess adult ELLs?
 PLACEMENT—ELLs come to SSCC from a variety of academic
backgrounds; without assessment, we cannot effectively
determine the types of services they need.

 ACCOUNTABILITY—The State establishes guidelines for

learners’ progress, so standardized assessment instruments are
used to establish that we are making an effort to teach the
required content—the testing instruments we use focus on the
Life Skills series of the CASAS program; this content does not
encompass all that we teach, but it is what we are held
accountable for teaching.

 CURRICULUM—Units and lessons are planned, in part, according

to the CASAS Life Skills competencies that show up as “weak”
areas when assessment results are reviewed.
Workflow recommended by the CASAS organization…

Placement using This information is taken

appraisal form directly from page 3 of the Life
Skills Testing Manual. Your site
Diagnosis using pre- instructor has a copy available if
test indicated by you need to review it.
appraisal results

Instruction according to
needs diagnosed during

Certification of skill
Monitoring of progress
level based on post-test
using post-test
Workflow followed in the SSCC adult ESL program…

Selection of pre-test based This information is an accurate

on informal interview representation of how we
actually use CASAS.

Assignment to a skill level

based on pre-test results

Instruction according to
competencies keyed to items
missed on the pre-test

Monitoring of progress using

post-test, augmented by Certification of skill level
authentic assessments as time gained based on post-test
allows results, compilation of data
Skill Levels in CASAS
 The Life Skills section of CASAS places learners into
Levels A,B,C,D, or E.
 These are used for both Adult Basic Education (ABE)
students and for ELLs.
 In both cases, levels are determined by scaled
scores; however, cutoff scores for each level may be
different for ESL than those used in ABE.
 These levels, A—E represent the full range of
performance, from those who are pre-literate in L1 to
those who need TOEFL review to prepare for
academic English in a university setting.
Skill Levels in CASAS
 Each skill level will have a pre-test and post-test
designated for that level.
 Test booklets will be numbered to reflect this
distinction; pre-test forms are odd-numbered, post-
test forms are even-numbered.
 Some test forms might be labeled with an “X”
following the form number; these are alternate post-
tests, and also act as a “bridge” to the next skill level.
 CASAS materials will recommend the level of post-
test according to the scaled score on the pre-test.
So, what do we say the tests measure?

 CASAS content is designed to be representative of Life Skills

 Test items may reproduce a mock-up of almost any form an
adult might be asked to fill-out in English, or information in
chart or graph form that must be decoded.
 Examples include road maps, agendas, bus schedules, warning
labels on medication or household chemicals, newspaper
articles, sale papers, and many others.
 In this respect, CASAS items do provide some authenticity to
the assessment process—the content is “real world.”
 Our challenge may be that many learners are, in fact, very
literate in their native tongues, and believe they are being
asked to interpret traditional academic information—simply
because they are in a classroom!
What are the test items like?
Placement in the program by scaled score…

 Exit stage or “testing out” is 236.

 Advanced 221-235
 High Intermediate 211-220
 Low Intermediate 201-210
 High Beginning 191-200
 Low Beginning 181-190
 Beginning Literacy 180 or below
Accountability to the State for student progress

 When a learner achieves a score on an assessment that

allows advancement from one level to the next, this is
called a “level gain.”
 Only one level gain per academic year may be officially
registered for any learner.
 Administrators will monitor the proportion of enrolled
learners who register a level gain during each academic
 In the Alabama community college system, the minimum
acceptable standard for ESL is 57%.
 Unfortunately, the ESL section of SSCC Adult Education
does not now meet this minimum standard of performance.
 We face serious consequences if this cannot be corrected!
Curriculum planning in response to learner needs..

 We cannot “teach the test,” but we do try to

draw inferences about challenges learners
face, based on items missed.
 Realia incorporated into lesson plans should
include the types of realia reproduced on
CASAS form test items.
 Competencies that present as areas of
opportunity must be recorded in each
learner’s Plan of Instruction (POI).
Proctoring the assessment…
 Obtain a list of your assigned examinees from the site
 Check the last form administered to each examinee; this
information will be recorded inside each examinee’s file
 Use this information to determine the appropriate test
 Provide each examinee with the appropriate form, answer
sheet, and a sharpened No. 2 pencil.
 Seat examinees around a table, with adequate space
between them.
 Set the thermostat in the room to a comfortable
 Finishing in an hour is a benchmark we aim for, but CASAS
is not a timed test.
Proctoring the assessment…
cross-cultural concerns…
 Most learners will have dictionaries; be sure
to carefully explain that these are not allowed
during the exam.
 In many school cultures around the world, it is
acceptable to give and receive help from
peers; please be patient, but firm in
explaining that this is not acceptable during
CASAS assessment.
 Instructions in English may need to be spoken
slowly or repeated many times; this is an
acceptable accommodation for ELLs.
Proctoring the assessment…
 When examinees have finished, please place
answer sheets inside test booklets, and pass
these to the instructor on site.
 Please make sure that each answer sheet has
a name and form number recorded on it.
 Before leaving, you should make sure that
testing materials and student records have
been secured.
 Thanks for serving as a proctor—our
volunteer aides are the best!

 Materials discussed in this training module are
based on the Life Skills Test Administration
Manual, 2nd Edition (2002), and are proprietary to
 This training module is for the exclusive use of
SSCC’s Adult Education Program, its employees and
For more information please
Phillip Johnson
(205) 391-2665

Cary Chappell
Adult Education ESL Instructor
SSCC Holy Spirit Adult Ed. Site
(205) 886-0900