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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Adjust Your Teaching Styles for English Language Learners (ELL) in ESL/Bilingual Classrooms

Standards-based Instruction and English Language Learners
Tobey Cho Bassoff

Many of you have inquired about how to make sense of the standards-based grading philosophy that seems to be shifting the way we assess student work and plan for instruction. The following is a quick guide to some of your burning questions.

So, what is standards-based education?

Standards-based education seeks to define what students should know and be able to do and it arose out of an educational reform movement in the late 20th century. Standards-based education systems seek to clearly define specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals for student achievement. Student achievement is measured against a specific standard for each content area. Curriculum, professional development, and assessment are all aligned to standards-based instruction.

Where can I look to find out more user-friendly information on Standards Based Grading?

On the web: 
Standards-based Instruction for English Language Learners

The Benefits of Standards-based Instruction

Standards-based Reform in Practice

In the library: 
Badgett, John and Christmann, Edwin. Designing Elementary Instruction and Assessment. Thousand Oaks:  Corwin Press, 2009.

Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn’t Always Equal. Portland:  Stenhouse Publishers, 2006.

Zagranski, Richard, and Whigham, William, and Dardenne, Patrice. Understanding Standards-based Education:  A practical guide for teachers and administrators. Thousand Oaks:  Corwin Press, 2007.

What do I need to know about Standards-based Grading?

Within a standards-based grading environment, grades must fall into three categories:  summative assessments, formative assessments, and preparation/production. There is much discussion on the percentage to weigh each of these categories; however, most agree that summative assessments count for the majority of the grade (50% or more), formative assessments count for 40% or less, and preparation/production count for the least amount (10% or less). Grades should reflect only what a student knows and is able to do. In a standards-based grading reporting system, grades communicate students’ level of mastery of content standards. This is complicated when it comes to ELLs. Research shows that Standards-Based Education ensures that all students are exposed to challenging curriculum and high expectations. However, ELLs in the early stages of language acquisition cannot be expected to perform on a par with their native English speaking classmates (Laturnau, Joseph. Standards-Based Instruction for English Language Learners. Hawaii:  PREL, 2002). It is imperative that we, as teachers, continue to raise discussions about the schools inclusion of ELL within the standards-based grading environment.

In the next article, I will talk about Formative assessments and offer practical quick strategies for assessing ELL students in the classroom.

If you have questions or comments about this article, please mail me.


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