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Noncredit ESL Placement Test Procedure Manual

  1. Introduction
    1. Credit ESL
    2. Noncredit ESL
  2. The Noncredit ESL Placement Test: Content
  3. The Noncredit ESL Placement Test: Procedure
    1. Duties and Responsibilities
    2. The Testing Process
    3. Scoring
      1. Literacy/Level 1 Screen
      2. Multiple Measures Questions
      3. Levels Placement
      4. Placement Test Results Sheet
  4. Related Issues
    1. Test Retake Policy
    2. Test Storage
  5. Summary
  6. Acknowledgments


Introduction:

City College of San Francisco has one of the largest English as a Second Language (ESL) populations in the country. A staff comprised of hundreds of instructors, counselors and staff members work to serve the needs of 20,000 Noncredit and 5,000 credit ESL students.

Credit ESL

Students in the credit division, upon entrance, take the ESL Placement test to determine proficiency level. The test measures reading, writing and grammar skills. Students may meet with faculty advisors to discuss questions about the discipline. Additionally, students are interviewed by counselors who obtain multiple measures information. Students are thus placed via a combination of traditional paper and pencil tests and an interview process, with input from faculty advisors and counselors.

Noncredit ESL

Noncredit ESL instruction is provided on an open entry/open exit basis, and as a result, several hundred students are given the placement test each week throughout the semester. During the 1993-94 academic year, the curriculum for Noncredit ESL classes underwent changes to conform to the State Department of Education's Model Standards for Adult Education Populations. The new state mandated curriculum de-emphasizes grammar in favor of a more balanced presentation of the four major skill areas : reading, writing, listening, speaking. To conform with these new standards, the Noncredit curriculum was completely overhauled and the old Master Plan replaced with the new Curriculum Guide.

The implementation of the new curriculum demanded that the placement test utilized for Noncredit students be changed to reflect the new emphasis on the four skills. This handbook provides a summary of the content and administrative process involved in the Noncredit ESL Placement Test.


The Noncredit ESL Placement Test: Content

The Noncredit ESL Placement Test, when first implemented, included a listening, speaking and reading component. It was not feasible, given the size of the student population, to obtain writing samples from all incoming students. Rather, instructors are encouraged to give students a writing diagnostic during the first week of the semester. The listening and reading portions of the test are paper and pencil in format and are delivered in a group testing arrangement. Assessment of oral skill is done on an individual basis during an interview with a counselor.

The listening portion of the test is now being revised. Students are currently being placed via reading and speaking scores. The listening test will be reintroduced into the placement battery as soon as possible. Additionally, the content of the reading test will undergo a similar revision.


The Noncredit ESL Placement Test: Procedure

Duties and Responsibilities:

A number of individuals are responsible for a variety of duties concerning the administration of the Noncredit ESL Placement Test:

Campus Deans:
Coordinate testing and enrollment process at their site. Coordinate (with the Dean of Counseling) the Counseling Clerk schedule, ensure Campus Security is present, and rooms/equipment is available.

Dean of Matriculation:
Coordinates master testing schedule and schedule of Test Examiners. Responsible for availability/security of testing materials.

ESL Department Chair:
Makes all policy decision about the testing instruments.

Assessment Resource Instructor:
Coordinates activities of test content development and revision process and test-related training.

Counselors:
Conduct Multiple Measures Interviews. Recommend final placement.

Test Examiners:
Describe the testing policies/procedures to students, administer Literacy/Level 1 Screen and Placement Test. Score tests and record test results. Responsible for maintaining test security.

Counseling Clerks:
Assist with the initial seating of students and Literacy/Level 1 Screen test as needed. Translate/describe testing policies. Act as proctors during testing. Record test results, assign counseling appointments.

The Testing Process

While some variety exists across campuses, in general, students are given appointments for specific test sessions. Test Examiners maintain statistics of the number of students tested per session. The testing process occurs in six major steps:

Step 1:

All students arrive and are seated. Test Examiner welcomes students and explains process and rules. Some pre-screening may have occurred at certain campuses.

Step 2:

Students take the Literacy/Level 1 Screen. The test is administered by the Test Examiner. The Counseling Clerk can refer Literacy/Level 1 students (i.e. students who do not pass the screen) to the counselor for additional assessment. The counselor may refer the student back for testing, register the student for a class, or place her/him on a waiting list.

Step 3:

The remaining students take Reading Form 1 Test, which is thirty minutes in length.

Step 4:

Scoring Break. Reading tests are quick-scored by Test Examiner and Counseling Clerk. Students take a short break. Students scoring from 0-21 on the Reading Form 1 test are excused from testing and are referred counseling for an appointment or immediately meet with a counselor. Students scoring 22+ on the Reading Form 1 test stay to take the second Reading test.

Step 5:

Students take Reading Form 10 which is thirty minutes in length.

Step 6:

Reading Form 10 scantrons are quick-scored. Students are then referred to counseling for an appointment or immediately meet with a counselor.

Following are the general directions utilized by Test Examiners:

Test Examiner Script:

Once the students are seated, you may begin with welcoming remarks:

Good morning/afternoon/evening. My name is ____________ and I am going to give you a placement test. This is _____________, a counseling clerk at this campus. S/he is going to help with testing today. You will be taking this test so we can know which ESL level to place you in. It is very important that you understand that some of the questions on the test may be difficult for you. They are supposed to be! The test has three parts. All of you will take the first short part. You will all then take the second part, and some of you will take the third part. The test covers eight levels, and you are only in one of the eight levels. The test should have questions that are easy for you, questions that are a little difficult, and questions that are very difficult. Don't worry if you do not understand all of the test questions. Just try your best.

I would like to explain some testing rules. Please do not talk during the test, and please do not leave the room until I have excused you. Today's test will take about two hours. If you know now that you

cannot stay for the entire time, please let me know and we will give you an appointment for another test day. Now, please put all of your things under your desk. We will give you everything you need.

Once the desks are cleared, begin passing out the pencils while explaining the literacy test.

Literacy/Level 1 Screen:

Explain to the students what you are about to do.

The first part of the test is a short reading/writing test. I am going to pass out the papers in a moment, and it is very important that you follow my directions very carefully.

There are two forms of the Literacy/Level 1 Screen. The forms are printed on different colored paper. Begin placing the literacy tests upside-down and face-down on each student's desk. Alternate forms between rows such that the first row gets Form A, the second row gets Form B, the third row gets Form A, and so on

Please do not look at this paper until I instruct you to.

Once the papers are handed out:

You may now turn over your papers. You have five minutes. Please write in the information. Do the best you can. Do not talk or help each other.

While students work, circulate around the room to make sure that there is no cheating. As students finish, collect their papers and quickly scan them to determine if they should be referred to the Counseling Clerk. If students request help from you, do not do more than reiterate the direction to fill in the information. Students who are unable to perform the task at all should be pointed out to the counseling clerk who can surreptitiously remove them.

Once the Literacy/Level 1 Screen is complete, continue with the Reading Form 1 test.

Reading Form 1:

Again, explain to the students what will happen next.

Now we will pass out answer sheets for the Reading Test. Please do not write until I give you directions.

Have students fill out the following information:

Name: _____(Last, First)_________________________

Subject: _____Reading Form 1_____________________

Date: ___________________ Hour: __SSN_______

After students have filled in the information on the scantron, review the correct manner in which to mark answers. Use the blackboard to demonstrate:

Remind students about correctly marking their answers.

Mark your answers dark and heavy. Do not use an X or, Check, or Circle.
When you are sure that everyone understands how to correctly mark the answer sheet, begin with the Reading Form 1 test.

You will now take a reading test. There are thirty items on this test. You will have thirty minutes to finish. Some of the items will be easy and some will be very difficult. Some of the questions may be hard for you. That's okay. Don't worry. Try your best. If you don't know the answer, it is okay to guess.Now we will pass out the Reading Test booklets. Please do not open your booklet. Each test booklet has a number

Hold up booklet and point to number.

Write the number on your answer sheet next to your name.

Hold up answer sheet and point to left of name. Pass out booklets in numerical order, calling out numbers loudly. Have the clerk follow to make sure students are writing the numbers and are keeping their test booklets closed. Inform the students:

Remember, you may not talk or leave the room during the test. If you have a question, raise your hand. If you finish early, you may look back over your answers, then close your booklet and wait until the testing time is finished.Look at the directions on the front of the test booklet. Please read to yourselves while I read the directions to you. Are there any questions? Open your test booklets to the first page. You may begin now.

Write down the beginning and ending times on the chalkboard. Circulate around, especially during the first two minutes, to make sure that the students are okay. When there are ten minutes left to go, announce it:

You have ten more minutes.

When the time is up, tell them:

Time is up. Please close your test booklets now.

Quickly collect all of the answer sheets, then collect the test booklets in numerical order, again calling out the numbers as you go. Once the test booklets, scantrons and pencils are secured (i.e. placed in a box away from the students), let the students stand up and stretch. While you quick score the scantrons, have the counseling clerk begin passing out the Results Sheet. Students fill in the top lines. When completed, the clerk collects the sheets.

After you have quick-scored the scantrons, separate them into two groups as follows:

If the total score is 0-21, students are finished with testing.

If the total score is 22+, students take Reading Form 10.

Students who are not taking the Reading Form 10 test can be removed from the room, or, if it is a large room, separated to another area.

The counseling clerk can give counseling appointments to the lower level students. If time permits, s/he should write the Reading Form 1 test raw scores and levels for these students.

Reading Form 1

Raw Score
Placement Level
0-11
Beginning Low 1
12-15
Beginning Low 2
16-21
Beginning High 3
21+
Take
Reading Form 10

Reading Form 10:

Give the students the following directions:

Now we will pass out answer sheets for the second Reading Test. Please do not write until I give you directions.

Have students fill out the following information:

Name: _____(Last, First)_________________________

Subject: _____Reading Form 1_____________________

Date: ___________________ Hour: __SSN_______

After students have filled in the information on the scantron, review the correct manner in which to mark answers. Give them a brief summary of the Reading Form 10 Test:

You will now take a second reading test. There are fifty items on this test. You will have thirty minutes to finish. Some of the items will be easy and some will be very difficult. Some of the questions may be hard for you. That's okay. Don't worry. Try your best. If you don't know the answer, it is okay to guess.

Now we will pass out the Reading Test booklets. Please do not open your booklet. Each test booklet has a number. Write the number on your answer sheet next to your name.

Hold up answer sheet and point to left of name. Pass out booklets in numerical order, calling out numbers loudly. Have the clerk follow to make sure students are writing the numbers and are keeping their test booklets closed.

Remember, you may not talk or leave the room during the test. If you have a question, raise your hand. If you finish early, you may look back over your answers, then close your booklet and wait until the testing time is finished. Look at the directions on the front of the test booklet. Please read to yourselves while I read the directions to you. Are there any questions? Open your test booklets to the first page. You may begin now.

Write down the beginning and ending times on the chalkboard. Circulate around, especially during the first two minutes, to make sure that the students are okay. When there are ten minutes left to go, announce it:

You have ten more minutes.

When the time is up, tell them:
Time is up. Please close your test booklets now.

Quickly collect all of the answer sheets, then collect the test booklets in numerical order, again calling out the numbers as you go. Once the test booklets, scantrons and pencils are secured (i.e. placed in a box away from the students), let the students stand up and stretch.

Quick-score the Reading Form 10 scantrons. The counseling clerk can give counseling appointments to students. If time permits, s/he should write the Reading Form 10 test raw scores and levels on the results sheet.

Reading Form 10:

Raw Score

Placement Level
0-12
Beginning High 4
13-25
Intermediate Low 5
26-31
Intermediate Low 6
32-37
Intermediate High 7
38-50
Intermediate High 8

Scoring

Both the reading and listening portions of the Noncredit ESL Placement Test are machine scored. Cut scores for these tests help determine the level of proficiency. The Literacy/Level 1 Screen and Multiple Measures Interview questions have more detailed scoring systems.

Literacy/Level 1 Screen

The purpose of the Literacy/Level 1 Screen is to separate out students who are at an English proficiency level too low to take the Noncredit ESL Placement Test. Instead of testing, these students will be referred to a Counselor, who will determine whether they belong in a Literacy or Level 1 class.

When administering the Literacy/Level 1 Screen, it is important to observe how the student approaches the task. After passing out the papers, it is important to carefully monitor students. Those having great difficulty with the task, even if they are able to complete the paper, should probably be excluded from taking the ESL Placement Test. In other words, do not rely solely on the end product with this test. Pay attention to the way students function as well.

It is difficult to apply hard and fast rules regarding what constitutes a "pass" with this screen. The following are guidelines:

If a student is able to fill in the majority of the paper easily, s/he is probably able to take the ESL Placement Test. Do not be overly concerned about how correct an answer is, as there is some ambiguity in the information requested. For example, if the student writes USA vs. her/his native country under the category Country, do not count this as an error. Likewise, if a student prints vs. signs her/his name under the Signature section, do not be overly concerned.

Students may leave some sections of the screen blank (e.g. if a student does not have a telephone, s/he will not be able to fill in the section Telephone). You should be able to determine, by watching the student complete the screen, whether the omissions indicate a lack of competency vs. lack of information.

If you are in doubt regarding whether a student is ready to take the ESL Placement Test, you should refer her/him to a Counselor (i.e. don't have her/him take the test). If it turns out that the student is at a level high enough to test, the Counselor will reschedule her/him.

Multiple Measures Questions

The questions are designed to discriminate between levels Beginning Low 2 through Intermediate High 8. The questions are calibrated such that they are progressively more difficult.

Each section of questions represents a different ESL level. When asking the questions, begin with Question #1 and continue until the student is no longer able to understand. You may stop the interview at that point (i.e. it is not necessary to ask all of the questions if the student is clearly at a lower level).

We are trying to get a good general impression of the student's oral skills. When asking the questions, focus on the student's ease of answering vs. the exact words s/he uses. In some cases, the questions will require clarification. These are presented in parentheses.

Level Placement

Counselors are responsible for both conducting the Multiple Measures Interview and recommending final level placement for students. This task involves synthesizing the separate level scores obtained from the listening, reading and interview subtests. It is often the case that a student's aural/oral

skills will be markedly different from her/his reading/writing skills. The Noncredit Curriculum Guide offers specific recommendations for dealing with this dichotomy:

If a 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.

Placement Test Results Sheet

The Test Results Sheet form currently being utilized has two parts: the white copy remains at the campus with the student's records, and the yellow copy is provided to the student. The Test Examiner is responsible for writing the test results on the form and the Counseling Clerk provides the student with the counseling appointment as well as her/his copy of the Results Sheet.

Students may take their test or placement results to other campuses (i.e. to a campus other than the one where they tested) and use the information to register for classes. Students should not be asked to return to the campus where they originally tested in order to receive a counseling appointment as this will hinder the enrollment process. Test results garnered at one campus should be respected at all other campuses (i.e. students should never be asked to retest if they transfer to another campus).


Related Issues

Test Retake Policy

Test results for the Noncredit ESL Placement Test are valid for one year only. Students will be informed by the Test Examiners that it is not necessary to retake the test at another campus to get on a waiting list.

Test Storage

Each campus must provide a locked cabinet in which to store the test materials. Test Examiners are responsible for the security of test materials while they are in use.


Summary

The Noncredit ESL Placement Test provides a valid and reliable means for placing students into Noncredit ESL classes. As with all assessment instruments, this test, to remain effective, must be continuously revised both in terms of content and application. As noted, specific changes in test content vis á vis reintroduction of the listening section and revision of the reading component are planned for the immediate future.

As can be seen, the successful application of this test depends on the cooperative skills of numerous individuals. Hopefully, this manual provides a clear delineation of the roles played by all of the individuals involved.


Acknowledgments

The development of the ESL Noncredit Placement Test process has been a collaborative venture involving the invaluable contributions of counselors, faculty, administrators and classified staff. The input of all participants has been critical in the creation of this testing system.



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