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The following is an updated version of information excerpted from the Non-Credit ESL Curriculum Guide.


The non-credit section of the ESL Department strives to maintain an integrated assessment program that includes both program goals and activities and classroom goals and activities. It stresses the need for all teachers to adhere to standards of competence in a variety of assessment activities. To assist teachers in reaching this competence, the TRC, through the Assessment Resource Instructor, provides assistance and training to teachers. Information about specific tests, assistance with various aspects of testing, and answers to questions about testing are available from the Assessment Resource Instructor.


Certain assessment needs are programmatic and will be conducted in a uniform way throughout the non-credit ESL program. Programs need to test students for the following reasons:


Incoming students will be placed using the ESL Department approved placement tests. These tests will include a reading test and a listening test. In addition, counselors, teachers or program advisors will conduct an oral interview and obtain a brief writing sample from each student. Students should never be placed based on a single test score or on the results of standardized multiple choice tests alone. When looking at individual components of the placement battery, counselors or program advisors may find that a student has scored at different proficiency levels on different elements of the battery. A workable solution in this case is to determine placement in the following way:

If the student scores high on reading/structure but low on listening/speaking, place the student at the lower level. If the student is not able to communicate with teacher and students, s/he is apt to become discouraged and leave the class. Conversely, if the student's listening/speaking scores are high but reading/structure low, the student will be quickly bored if placed on the basis of reading/structure, and s/he too may leave the program. Such students will benefit from placement into appropriate focus classes as well as a general level class.

A complete test battery will generally lead to accurate placement; however, for a variety of reasons, some students may place higher or lower than their actual proficiency level. Teachers should have the option to move students up or down as they find inconsistencies in placement.


The California State Department of Education requires that a representative sample of the non-credit ESL population be tested on a specially designated test. Supplemental funding which enables the non-credit ESL program to provide services by the Resource Instructors and the TRC library, requires that the non-credit section of the City College ESL Department participate in this testing. Such testing will be coordinated by the TRC, and to the extent that it is feasible, assistance will be available to faculty.


The ESL Department will require that before students move from Beginning Low to Beginning High, from Beginning High to Intermediate Low and from Intermediate Low to Intermediate High they will be required to demonstrate competence in each of the four skill areas: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Students must pass at an agreed upon level of competence a combination of standardized paper and pencil tests and performance based tests. In other words, a battery of tests covering the four skill areas will be administered at each of these major levels. Again, this testing will be coordinated by the TRC, but teachers will share in the responsibility. They will be expected to administer standardized paper and pencil tests as well as performance based oral interviews and writing samples. They will be expected to score tests, particularly oral interviews and to participate in the holistic scoring of writing samples. Students completing the Intermediate High level will have the option of taking the City College Credit ESL Placement test or a test developed or chosen by the Intermediate High instructor to determine whether the student should be retained at the level.

Rather than utilizing a standardized battery of tests coordinated by the TRC, teachers will develop or choose assessment to determine whether students are ready to move from the A section to the B section of each of the major levels i.e. Level 1 exit, Level 3 exit, Level 5 exit). Teachers may decide to use tests identified as appropriate by the Assessment Resource Instructor; they may decide to use tests that accompany certain textbooks; or they may decide to develop their own exit level tests for these students.


Teachers should be skilled in choosing and developing assessment methods appropriate for instructional decisions.

From Standards for Teacher Competence in Educational Assessment of Students


Prior to instruction, teachers will perform a needs assessment to determine what students need to learn. If placement and promotion is accurate, the teacher has a clear idea of the language that the students need. Needs Assessment provides further information to the teacher about topics, contexts, and interests that students perceive as needs. Teachers may also gain insights into students' learning styles. Needs Assessment can be accomplished through questionnaires, oral questions which students respond to orally or by raising their hands. Pictures can also be used to suggest areas of need to students.

The major purposes of classroom assessment are to diagnose students' strengths and weaknesses, to measure mastery of units of work, and to develop test taking skills and positive attitudes about testing among students.


Classroom teachers are constantly assessing the progress of their students. Much of this assessment is informal: The teacher moves from group to group, when students are involved in pair or small group work, checking how well they are performing the assigned task. During whole group work, the teacher elicits responses from individuals. The teacher checks written work as a way to determine degree of mastery. The techniques that a teacher normally uses in the classroom can be used to test as well as to introduce and review material. Such informal testing is helpful to give students immediate feedback on performance and to assist the teacher in planning instruction; however, it is not helpful when making decisions about the student. For example, decisions regarding whether the entire class needs further review on one point, or whether a student is ready to move on to the next unit of work or should be jumped mid-semester to the next level may require more formal classroom assessment.


Formal classroom assessment can be of two kinds: paper/pencil tests and/or performance based tests.

PAPER/PENCIL TESTS. There are a variety of paper and pencil test types including true false, completion, cloze, short answer, matching, multiple choice and essay. In developing paper/pencil tests using these or other formats, teachers need to be careful that they test levels of learning beyond recall and comprehension. Questions need to be crafted that will test students' ability to apply information learned in one context to another, to analyze information and draw conclusions, to synthesize material gleaned from different sources and to evaluate information. The type of paper/pencil test is determined by the level of the question. For example, a true-false test probably will not determine a student's ability to evaluate; the essay is probably more suited to this ability. Teachers needing help in the development and analysis of certain test types should seek out sessions dealing with this issue at professional conferences or request that the TRC sponsor such training.

PERFORMANCE-BASED TESTING. The notion of performance as a measure of proficiency would seem to be self evident, but as a testing tool it has not, until recently been widely used. The difficulty with performance based assessment is the challenge of validity. As a testing tool, performance tasks must be administered and scored in a consistent way. Once these challenges have been met, however, performance based assessment produces a result much more life-like than paper/pencil tests can be. When using such performance based formats as role play, simulations, contact assignments, directions and tasks, and real life situations (as in the workplace), each student being assessed must receive orientation and instruction to the task to be performed in exactly the same way. Likewise, clear guidelines for scoring the performance assessment must be consistently applied to each student's performance. Performance based assessment lends itself well to the higher levels of learning mentioned in the paper/pencil section. For example, a role play can give clear evidence of a student's ability to synthesize or evaluate information. It should be mentioned at this point, that certain types of paper/pencil test can also be categorized as performance based. Any paper/pencil test which requires the student to produce extended discourse is certainly a measure of the student's ability to perform a writing task.

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