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Assessment of the English Language Learner


Smarter Balanced Assessment

Smarter Balanced Assessment: My Responsibility as a High School English Teacher
The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was created and began in
the 2014-2015 school year. It complies with Common Core standards. Per the Smarter
Balanced website, it was created to fairly assess English Language Learners (ELLs),

Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is charged with the development,

field testing, and implementation of systems that provide fair assessment opportunities
to every student taking the assessments, including English language learners (ELLs)
and students with disabilities (SWDs).

In selecting accommodations for ELLs, there are five major conditions followed
including: Effectiveness, Validity, Differential impact, Relevance, and Feasibility.
Despite all of these accommodations for the ELL, I did not find the test fairly written.
First of all, I believe it is so important for the state to administer this test to track
and assess the proficiency of ELLs. It is equally important for teachers to view sample
questions for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in order to properly prepare their
students. Through my research of the Language Arts portion of the Smarter Balanced
Assessment, I am better aware of what type of job I must do to prepare my students.
I do not know what I expected of the exam; however I was surprised by its
complexity and bias. Grade 11 especially, was no different than any written test I would
administer for College Prep, native English speakers. The word, untenanted is used in

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the passage The Hound of Bakersfield for 11th grade. Although a student may surmise
what that word means by looking at the overall passage, the word in and of itself is
complex and I question whether a native English speaker could define it, regardless of
an ELL.
Another example from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the word whilst was
used in a grade 11 reading test from the excerpt of Jules Vernes, Journey to the
Center of the Earth. For an ELL and a foreign exchange student (who is also required
to take the assessment), this might be a stretch, as even though it is a form of while, it
is a Middle English term no longer used in Modern Language.

It is evident that at that moment a deviation had presented itself before me, whilst the
Hansbach [the stream], following the caprice of another incline, had gone with my
companions away into unknown depths.

I consider this a bias toward English learners who are already familiar with
while and have a better ability to assimilate to the word whilst. Even the use of
brackets could be confusing to an ELL who may not yet be familiar with this use of
grammar. He/She may not understand what Hansbach is and if unfamiliar with
brackets, would not understand the correlation to stream. I am equally surprised by the
complexity of vocabulary when considering an ELL. Not only are they to comprehend
the English language, but they must be proficient in challenging vocabulary terms in
order to comprehend the text. For example, an ELL may not know what a caprice is
(also used in the Jules Verne excerpt) as it is not used frequently in every day
conversation. These vocabulary words may influence the overall understanding of the

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passage which would therefore affect the students overall score. He/She may be no
less proficient than an English native speaker, but due to the complexity of vocabulary,
will not pass the exam.
I do note that the accommodations for ELLs may help in the scoring of the
assessment for this particular group of students. Considerations for this particular
passage include:
Potential Challenges a Text May Pose:
Sentence and text structures
Archaic language, slang, idioms, or other language challenges
Background knowledge
Bias and sensitivity issues
Word count

I did not see anywhere on the website where one could view a graded assessment. It
would be beneficial as an English teacher to compare the same test, between a native
English speaker and an ELLs exam. This would also potentially sway my opinion about
the exam. I still believe the vocabulary and complexity of text is biased toward native
speakers; however I would be more willing to accept the exam if the grading were more
There are many ways in which I will prepare my ELL students for the Smarter
Balanced Assessment. One way is to teach complex vocabulary terms on a weekly
basis. This will not only help ELLs but also any college-bound senior taking the SAT and
AP tests. I will spend additional time ensuring the understanding of vocabulary terms by
requiring students to write the vocabulary words in complete sentences as practice;
proving their understanding of that word. I will also provide the students with a passage
including the vocabulary terms; most likely within the context of an excerpt from the

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book we are currently reading. At the end of the week, students will be tested on all of
the vocabulary words and should pass with 70% or higher, or a re-test will be expected.
Another way in which I will prepare my ELL students is to assign various written
passages from bodies of literature, including current events. This will also satisfy the
Common Core standards for high school Language Arts classes. Students will interpret
these passages and answer questions, similar and modeled after the Language Arts
portion of the Smarter Balance Assessment.
In conclusion, my opinion of the Smarter Balance Assessment is that it is
challenging and somewhat biased toward native English speakers. As a future English
teacher, I have a huge responsibility in preparing my ELL students to successfully pass
the Language Arts portion of this exam as outlined in this paper.

Works Cited:
Oregon Department of Education
Accessed: 1/28/16
Grades 9-11 Reading:
Grade 11: Excerpt of A Journey to the Center of the Earth (TE)
Grade 11: Excerpt from The Hound of the Bakersfield (CR)
Smarter Balance
Accessed: 1/28/16