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Bilingual Basics

Bilingual Basics News, Volume 7:1 (July 2005)

by User Not Found | 11/03/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Note From the Editor
  • Articles and Information
    • Accommodating Linguistic Diversity in Testing
    • Negotiating Accommodations and Curricula Amid the NCLB Assessments for Bilingual Deaf Students
    • Assessing Deaf Children’s Biliteracy Development
    • Writing Assessment: A Means to Biliteracy
    • Assessment of Spanish and English Literacy in Children: Products of the Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers Research Initiative
    • For Assessment to Be of Value
  • About This Member Community
    • BEIS Newsletter Mission Statement
    • Call for Submissions for Fall BEIS Newsletter
    • ESL in Bilingual Education Interest Section (BEIS)

Leadership Updates Note From the Editor

By Nancy Dubetz, Lehman College, City University of New York, Bronx, NY, e-mail:

This issue of the TESOL BEIS newsletter offers our readership a variety of perspectives on the theme of assessment, which was the topic of the BEIS Special Academic Session at TESOL in San Antonio. The six articles in this newsletter include work from some of our BEIS presenters at the conference as well as the work of others in our professional community who are striving to ensure that assessment practices for bilingual learners are both meaningful and fair. These authors help us consider what assessment instruments and practices reveal about the relationship between learning in and through a native language versus learning in and through a second language.

The first article, "Accommodating Linguistic Diversity in Testing" by Mayra Carrillo-Daniels, offers suggestions about what to consider when selecting or designing assessments for bilingual learners. She argues that teaching, testing, and learning must be individualized if bilingual learners are to succeed academically. In "Negotiating Accommodations and Curricula Amid the NCLB Assessments for Bilingual Deaf Students," Kathleen Wood offers an example of how a partnership between the Maryland School for the Deaf and the Maryland Department of Education has led to a rethinking of the types of assessments and the kinds of testing accommodations being used to meet the accountability demands of NCLB in meaningful ways.

The next four articles focus on specific assessment practices. In "Assessing Deaf Children's Biliteracy Development," Bobbie Allen and Melissa Herzig illustrate how combining information from a portfolio-based assessment instrument with the American Sign Language Scale of Development helped teacher researchers and preservice teachers accurately assess Deaf children's biliteracy development. Gladys Scott offers a description of an analytic assessment tool to gain insight into children's Spanish writing development in "Writing Assessment: A Means to Biliteracy." In "Assessment of Spanish and English Literacy in Children: Products of the Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers Research Initiative," Valerie Malabonga and Dorry Kenyan describe a range of instruments that can be used to assess Spanish and English literacy development from prekindergarten to fifth grade. The final article by Cecilia Espinosa, "For Assessment to Be of Value," invites us into a dialogue with classroom teachers and a university researcher about memoirs written by a bilingual child named Ernestina. The memoirs written by Ernestina provide a powerful reminder of what assessment should be—an opportunity to emphasize what bilingual learners can do when given the opportunity to express themselves in both of their languages.

Articles and Information Accommodating Linguistic Diversity in Testing

By Mayra Carrillo-Daniel, Northern Illinois University, e-mail:

Demographic Changes

Classrooms throughout the United States are experiencing the effects of the changing demographics. Between 1990 and 2000, the total number of English language learners grew from 2,388,243 to 3,493,118 (Ramirez, 2004). From small towns by the Mississippi river to large urban areas such as Miami, language diversity is changing the face of America. Crawford (2004) reported that in the 1990s there was an increase of 47 percent in the number of U.S. residents who speak a language other than English at home. Hispanic student enrollment in U.S. schools doubled between 1990 and 2000. The Senate Congressional Hispanic caucus predicted that by the year 2025, one in every four children enrolled in school will be of Hispanic origin (Cortez, 2003).

This diversity is a challenge for the caring educator who feels frustration because he or she may not know the students' first language. Monolingual mainstream teachers want to know how to teach and test these learners. This challenge can be overcome. Many strategies that teachers use every day can be adapted and expanded so that English language learners can be part of all that goes on in a classroom and can be tested right along with other students. Even without high levels of English language proficiency, bilinguals-in-the-making can show what they know in non-language-dependent ways.

Considerations When Assessing Bilinguals

Bilinguals are learners with heterogeneous needs and backgrounds. Before a teacher plans instruction, evaluation of the learner must consider issues that impact schooling in this country. A student's educational, familial, and cultural background influences how the student learns. Data must be gathered that paints a complete picture of the learner's language proficiency. Bilinguals must be evaluated in the native language and in English to establish how to best promote the cognitive development of the learner. After formal and informal assessment reveals a student's baseline in language and content-area knowledge, teachers can plan appropriate instruction.

Evaluation of learners in the primary and secondary language allows for placement of the student in the classroom that will facilitate language acquisition and growth in content-area knowledge in both languages. For example, a student with none to low literacy in both English and Spanish cannot automatically be placed in an all-English classroom because he or she may at first glance appear to not read in the home language. Numerous factors contribute to language acquisition and it is therefore paramount to examine how a learner's languages will help or hinder biliteracy.

The learner with high levels of bilingualism has an advantage in school. This student learns through a brain that incorporates two language realms in thought (Cummins, 1981). The balanced bilingual therefore benefits from having additional ways to make sense of the world. On the other hand, the thresholds theory (Toukomaa & Skutnabb-Kangas, 1977) suggests that the learner with low levels of proficiency in both languages will struggle academically in an immersion/submersion situation. This learner should receive instruction in the first language until comprehension is possible in the second language (Cummins, 1981) [not in references]. Clearly, to decide what the language of instruction should be, teachers must obtain answers to the following questions:

  • What languages are spoken in the home?
  • With whom does the learner speak in the native language?
  • What is the level of literacy in the home?
  • Is the student a new arrival to the United States?
  • Is the student a heritage speaker of a language?
  • What is the student's prior schooling?
  • What nontraditional literacies are present in the home culture?
  • What is the learner's dominant language?
  • In which language is the learner ready to learn?
  • Would the native language or English be the more appropriate language to instruct the learner in the content areas?
  • For this learner, what helps me justify the selected method of instruction?

Assessment Modifications for Bilinguals

As students are taught in bilingual, sheltered English, or mainstream classes, teachers should make certain that those who need extra time to complete tests because of language issues have this time. Visuals can aid comprehension of questions and facilitate answers for bilinguals in sheltered English classes. At low to middle levels of bilingual proficiency, learners should be allowed to illustrate a response. When teachers model test questions before evaluation, students can be helped to feel more confident in the testing situation. As with all students, learning styles are another issue to consider. Testing should extend beyond traditional pen-and-pencil tests so that all learners are able to show what they know. For example, retellings with the use of visuals and diagrams and in the native language of the learner can provide an efficient way for a student to demonstrate comprehension regardless of his or her level of bilingualism.

Mainstream teachers view evaluation as a tough problem. There are many questions that teachers want answered. Because in some countries testing consists of essay questions only, many students have never taken a multiple-choice test. Teachers frequently comment that a student knows more than the test seems to reveal. Even native speakers of a language need test-taking skills to succeed. For bilinguals, it is not possible to provide a correct answer to a question that they do not understand or to do well on a test when they are unfamiliar with the testing protocol.

Accommodations that allow students to show what they know are based on the premise that teaching, testing, and learning must be individualized. Testing must offer the learner options and be multifaceted and multimodal to accommodate different levels of bilingualism. Learners in the process of becoming bilingual must be given breathing time during testing because taking a test in English for the bilingual-in-the-making is really two tasks. First, the learner must make sense of the questions. Second, the student must prove content-area mastery.

Performance Assessment in the Content Areas

Krashen (2003) discussed the monitor, a hypothetical small black box that exists within each of us that opens and closes to let information in and out. The second language learner who is overmonitoring focuses on what he or she says, hears, reads, and writes so much that comprehension and communication are inhibited. This can result in the student appearing to not know content. For these learners, informal assessment results in an open monitor that allows a learner to show knowledge. When assessing, teachers must remember that it may take as long as 7-10 years to become fully bilingual (Collier, 1995; Cummins, 2001). When bilingual students work together they should also be encouraged to use their first language when it helps them to grasp content.

Performance assessments are appropriate alternatives to traditional testing for bilingual populations because in one protocol the teacher has numerous opportunities to formally and informally evaluate the student's progress. Longitudinal measures are a better platform for students to accurately demonstrate what they know and can do. Performance assessments are fertile ground for student collaboration. Students can diagram and prepare charts, timelines, posters for presentations, and mind maps. As bilingual students work together they have many chances to succeed and to negotiate meaning in non-language-dependent ways. They work through new vocabulary, problem solve, and develop strategies as they monitor their own progress. Learners who are creating together tend to feel less stress because they give each other emotional and instructional support. Low stress results in greater English comprehension and increased productivity. In performance tasks the teacher can easily document progress because the student is doing something that scaffolds learning and involves authentic listening, speaking, reading, and writing (Vygotzky, 1987).


Currently, programs of instruction for linguistic minorities vary in their goals. Some programs aim to exit students quickly into mainstream classrooms whereas other long-term programs offer dual-language instruction aimed at the achievement of balanced bilingualism. Nevertheless, there are testing requirements and accommodations in evaluation that good programs have in common. These begin with evaluation of the student in the first language and in English, the gathering of multiple test results before decisions for placement or exiting of a student from a program are made, formal and informal teacher observations, and the incorporation of self-assessment measures that promote student self-monitoring skills. With such assessments in place, the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act can be met (NCLB, 2001).


Collier, V. P. (1995). Acquiring a second language for school. Directions in Language & Education, 1(5). Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.
Cortez, A. (2003). The emerging majority: The growth of the Latino population and Latino student enrollments. Intercultural Development Research Association Newsletter, 30(1). Retrieved June 10, 2005, from
Crawford, J. (2004). No Child Left Behind: Misguided approach to school accountability for English Language Learners. National Association of Bilingual Education. Retrieved March 5, 2005, from
Cummins, J. (1981). Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework. Los Angeles, CA: California State Department of Education.
Cummins, J. (2001). The entry and exit fallacy in bilingual education. In C. Baker & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), An introductory reader to the writings of Jim Cummins (pp. 110-138). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Krashen, S. (2003). Explorations in language acquisition and use. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2001).
Ramirez, R.R. (2004). We the people: Hispanics in the United States. Retrieved April 20, 2005, from
Toukomaa, P., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1977). The intensive teaching of the mother tongue to migrant children at pre-school age (Research Report No. 26). Tampere, Finland: Department of Sociology and Social Psychology, University of Tampere.
Vygotzky, L. S. (1987). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Negotiating Accommodations and Curricula Amid the NCLB Assessments for Bilingual Deaf Students

By Kathleen M. Wood, Gallaudet University, e-mail:

We live in an educational age of tests and accountability. State departments of education are busy accounting for the yearly progress of their schools and students, as stipulated in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001). And administrators of these programs are working hard to make sure the NCLB assessments are fair for their students. Meanwhile, bilingual educators nationwide are interpreting state and local curricula, especially the reading curricula, to ensure that students are provided with the best environments for learning to read English and learning how to do well on the state and local tests. How are schools doing this work?

At the Maryland School for the Deaf¹ (MSD) in Frederick and Columbia, MD, administrators have had a long-standing, close relationship with the Maryland Department of Education (C. Baker, personal communication, May 20, 2005).² This partnership has made it easier for the superintendent, Mr. James Tucker, and his staff to negotiate accommodations for MSD's Deaf³ students. According to the NCLB Act, schools must demonstrate that students are making progress in reading. To do this, states have proposed their own accountability programs, including assessments, targets, and accommodations for English language learners and Deaf students.

In Maryland, as in most states, during the annual Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting, Deaf students are required to take either the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) or the alternate assessment, called the Alt-MSA, to evaluate their reading skills4Because a significant number of students take the regular MSA test, administrators at MSD are now working on reasonable accommodations. Here is what has been worked out so far for this pool of bilingual Deaf students:

  • MSD students will take the regular MSA test, which includes several questions pertaining to phonemic awareness and phonics.
  • Their results will be figured without the inclusion of the answers to these sound-based questions.

But these scoring accommodations are only part of the work being undertaken. MSD and other Deaf schools are also giving

  • Directions and pretest explanations in the students' native language, ASL
  • Time extensions
  • Individual accommodations meeting the specific additional disabilities that these students may have, such as test takers for students with motor skills disabilities

However, some accommodations are not being considered for typical bilingual Deaf students:

  • Reading the test questions to students in their native language, ASL
  • Allowing students to respond to questions in ASL

¹ This two-campus school provides students with an ASL/English bilingual learning environment.
² Chad Baker is the director of the NCLB Program at the Maryland School for the Deaf.
³ In keeping with the Gallaudet University Press editorial board policy, Deaf is capitalized to signify that this group is a linguistic and culturally identified minority.
As reported in the Maryland State Department of Education consolidated state application accountability workbook,, page 32.

Curricula Work
In the midst of all of this accounting and accommodating for NCLB-driven testing, schools are working on interpreting the local language arts curricula, which now have dual purposes: to prepare students for the tests and to help students reach their potentials in reading and writing. And this is the curricular challenge of all K-12 educators—whether working with English language learners, Deaf students, or students whose first language is English.

Deaf schools and programs for Deaf students all over the country are struggling to interpret curricula that have a heavy emphasis on the sounds of words. Two out of five of the basic tenets of the NCLB reading plan pertain to sound-based instruction. In fact, a central funding source for curricula work under the NCLB Act, the Reading First initiative, "dictates a national curriculum that emphasizes skills-based phonics programs" (Read, 2002). Many schools are accepting state-mandated curricula, assuming that their students will benefit from the connection between state curricular and testing programs in reading and writing—which, of course, are typically heavily sound-based.

The situation at the Maryland School for the Deaf is one example of a school of bilingual children that is successfully negotiating accommodations for the assessments of the NCLB Act. As a result, Deaf students will no longer be held accountable for knowing phonics. Close ties to the Maryland State Department of Education is crucial in this work.

But what happens when the pressure to teach Deaf children about the sounds of words is removed? How is it that some Deaf children, who do not hear at all, even with amplification, are able to read well without focusing on phonics? The phonics/phonemic awareness waiver for Deaf students in Maryland affords the school the opportunity to explore and interpret the local curricula so there is room for approaches based on research that shows that Deaf students with strong ASL skills read very well. In fact, when teachers and students are not bogged down with splitting words into sound-based parts and memorizing phonemic word families (cat, bat, hat), they might be, instead, investigating words in other more relevant ways. This word part of the reading curricula could instead encourage Deaf students to think about

  • features of letters (Padden, 1993)
  • the connection of fingerspelling to building a sight word vocabulary in English (Padden, 1991)
  • etymology
  • words with multiple meanings
  • translation (e.g., one sign in ASL can correspond to many words in English and vice versa)

Likewise, teachers and administrators in bilingual programs would be freed up to get involved in the national work of developing an ASL literacy curriculum for L1 Deaf students. Classroom-based research might lead to answers about how so many Deaf children already learn to read without sound-based work (Strong & Prinz, 1997). And from this, more relevant assessments could be developed—ones that can measure the bilingual progress that Deaf students are capable of and deserve to have access to.


No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2001).
Padden, C. (1991). The acquisition of fingerspelling in deaf children. In P. Siple & S. Fischer (Eds.), Theoretical issues in sign language research, psychology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Padden, C. (1993). Lessons to be learned from the young deaf orthographer. Linguistics and Education, 5, 71-86.
Read, B. A (2002). A tale of two schools: Reading instruction in the real world. Northeast Education Magazine, 9(1). Retrieved May 22, 2005,
Strong, M., and P. Prinz. (1997). A study of the relationship between American Sign Language and English literacy. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 2, 37-46.

Assessing Deaf Children’s Biliteracy Development

By Bobbie M. Allen, University of California, San Diego, e-mail:, and Melissa P. Herzig, email:, Chula Vista High School

Learning English, specifically how to read and write it, remains an important focus of education for Deaf¹ children. Deaf children's fluency in American Sign Language (ASL) is linked to their literacy, language, cognitive, and cultural development. A number of studies have demonstrated associations between fluency in ASL and reading achievement (Padden & Ramsey, 1998, Prinz & Strong, 1998, Singleton, Supalla, Litchfield, & Schley, 1998). Researchers have reported that fluency in ASL correlates with higher SAT HI scores (Padden & Ramsey, 1998). On the basis of this research, there is a need to assess Deaf children's biliteracy development and identify practices that promote it.

Standardized assessments have been used for many years to report the academic achievement of Deaf students. The SAT-HI is probably one of the most widely used assessments for Deaf children. The SAT-HI, like most standardized assessments, reports a score that can be compared with other normed scores. Based on SAT-HI scores, the average reading level of a graduating high school senior who is deaf is third- or fourth-grade (COED, 1988). Reading levels such as these clearly indicate the advancement of Deaf children's biliteracy is sorely needed. Yet, standardized assessments mandated by No Child Left Behind do little to inform teaching and learning. Authentic assessment, such as The Learning Record Portfolio Assessment System (LR) (Barr, Craig, Fisette, & Syverson, 1999), can be coupled with standardized assessment and provide in-depth portraits of students' biliteracy development.

The LR promotes and recognizes the need for documentation of children's biliteracy development. It also provides information needed for teachers to make informed decisions about what children can do, plan for next steps in teaching, and make comparisons with local and state standards as well as standardized assessments. Using the evidence collected in the LR portfolio, teachers can validate the advancement in Deaf children's biliteracy. Furthermore, the LR has been highly correlated with SAT scores for hearing students in the areas of reading comprehension and vocabulary (Hallam, 2000). Thus, it is plausible that similar correlations between the LR and standardized assessments scores can be determined for Deaf children.

¹ In keeping with the Gallaudet University Press editorial board policy, Deaf is capitalized to signify that this group is a linguistic and culturally identified minority.

Collaborative Partnership
Teacher researchers and preservice teachers along with faculty in the teacher education program at the University of California, San Diego, established a 2-year collaborative partnership funded by the University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute (UCLMRI). The participants engaged in discussions on how to implement authentic assessment and effective teaching practices. The LR and the ASL Scale of Development (Herzig, 2002) were used to document Deaf students' ASL, reading, and writing development in grades K–6. Through this collaborative effort, teachers and preservice teachers were successful in advancing Deaf children's biliteracy.

The LR was selected as an authentic assessment because (a) it had a built-in feedback system, (b) it had highly developed seminars for professional development encouraging reflective teaching practices and collaboration, (c) it was a well-established authentic assessment implemented in schools across the United States with positive results for linguistically diverse populations and at-risk students, (d) it provided a systematic way to organize data collected across a variety of social and learning contexts over time, and finally (e) site and intersite moderations were conducted to validate teachers' judgment of scale placement.

The LR's underlying principles aligned well with the goals of the 2-year project: (a) emphasis of thoughtfulness over rote learning, (b) emphasis of performance over assumptions of deficit, (c) individual development meshed with grade-level expectations, and (d) the strengths of being bilingual and of understanding cultures beyond one's own (Barr et al., 1999, p.2). Teachers who have used the LR have realized that scores reported in standardized assessments often mask the academic progress of students because prior experiences are discounted. Teachers who have desired alternative ways to assess student learning and academic progress have found that the LR (a) values students' prior experiences and knowledge, (b) encourages teachers to observe and document students engaged in tasks where they can apply new knowledge and strategies, and (c) determines what needs to be learned and the ways in which the student can learn best.

For this project, the participants worked toward a common goal of documenting and supporting Deaf children's biliteracy development. The data were collected in a portfolio systematically across time during (a) literacy conversations with families and students at the beginning and the end of the school year, (b) observations of the students when engaged in literacy tasks, and (c) formal reading and writing samples corroborated in student artifacts.

Though the LR had well-established reading and writing scales that guided observations and data collection of student work for English, it did not provide a scale to determine Deaf children's level of ASL development. Thus, the ASL Scale of Development (Herzig, 2002) was designed and field-tested over this 2-year time span. It provided teachers with a guide, not a checklist, for observing and documenting children using ASL for academic purposes as well as interpersonal communication. It was positively correlated with the LR reading scales for both years, corroborating previous research findings linking fluency in ASL and reading achievement.

At the end of each year, the teacher-researchers and preservice teachers reviewed the evidence across various social and learning contexts, made scale placement, wrote final summaries of the children's biliteracy development, and shared the results with families. The documentation of children's ASL development heightened the participants' awareness and importance of facilitating ASL, specifically in identifying areas of fluency and emerging structures of ASL across the social and learning context. On the basis of the participants' feedback, the ASL Scale of Development has been revised with additional information to clarify each of the benchmarks. Recommended teaching practices that support language acquisition were also added.

In conclusion, using only one measure of assessment to determine Deaf children's accomplishments does not provide teachers with the information needed to inform their teaching practices nor support and advance Deaf children's biliteracy development.

Teachers and preservice teachers need ongoing support and training on how to use authentic assessment and implementation of effective teaching practices that promote Deaf children's advancement to eventually "close the gap."


Barr, M. A., Craig, D. A., Fisette, D., & Syverson, M. A. (1999). Assessing literacy with the learning record: A handbook for teachers, grades K–6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Commission on Education of the Deaf. (1988). Toward equality: Education of the Deaf. A report to the president and the congress of the United States.Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Hallam, P. J. (2000). Reliability and validity of teacher-based reading assessment: Application of "Quality Assurance for Teacher-based Assessment" (QATA) to California Learning Record moderations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Herzig, M. (2002). Creating the narrative stories : The development of the students' ASL and English literacy skills. Unpublished master's thesis, University of California, San Diego, California.

Padden, C., & Ramsey, C. (1998). Reading ability in signing Deaf children. Topics in Language Disorders 18, 4.

Prinz, P., & Strong, M. (1998). ASL proficiency and English literacy within a bilingual Deaf education model of instruction. Topics in Language Disorders, 18, 4.

Singleton, J., Supalla, S., Litchfield, S., & Schley, S. (1998). From sign to word: Considering modality constraints in ASL/English bilingual education. Topics in Language Disorders 18, 4.

Writing Assessment: A Means to Biliteracy

By Gladys V. Scott, William Paterson University, e-mail:

Bilingual education encompasses a number of program types, ranging from (early/late exit) transitional to dual-language instruction. The difference among these programs lies in the degree of attention given to the primary/first language (L1) of the English language learner. Is the L1 developed simultaneously with the second language (L2) or is it used just as a means to teach content while the English language learner becomes proficient in the L2? Bilingual programs that embrace the development of L1 and L2 fall under the category of dual-language instruction or two-way immersion. Their primary aim is to promote not just bilingualism and biculturalism, but biliteracy; in other words, they are "additive bilingual education models" (Soltero, 2004) designed to help English language learners develop oral and written skills in both languages.

Research has shown that there are two important benefits to dual-language instruction. From the educational viewpoint, English language learners develop strong literacy skills in their L1, which in turn facilitates the acquisition of their L2 (Cloud, Genessee, & Hamavan, 2000). In addition, ELLs who have become bilinguals perform better than do monolinguals in tasks requiring divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving (Diaz, 1983). Recently, Thomas and Collier (2002) have found that students in dual-language programs attain the same levels of achievement as do monolinguals by the time they reach middle school, and they actually outperform monolingually schooled students by high school. In short, becoming biliterate has positive effects for not only English language learners but also native speakers of English.

Traditionally, bilingualism has been associated with the capacity to communicate in two languages, though it has not necessarily implied the ability to use those languages in academic contexts. Biliteracy, however, involves language proficiency in all four skills-listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It entails the ability to communicate in both languages in social and academic contexts, thus requiring that, as Ehlers-Zavala states, educators "empower them [learners] with the privileged forms of language expected in academic contexts" (2004). In this article, I discuss the development of writing skills in Spanish, one of the keys to becoming biliterate, through the use of a model for assessment and instruction. I begin with an analysis of the complexities of written discourse and the challenges faced by bilingual learners. Then, I present Los Criterios de la Escritura Eficaz en Español (6+1 Trait® Spanish Writing) (Scott, 2003), an analytic assessment tool, as one of the tools available for the development of literacy in Spanish.

Seven Types of Knowledge
Text construction is a complex process involving four key factors: the topic, the writer's purpose, the message, and the expectations of the audience. These factors are affected by the context in which the text is produced and for which the text is created. However, these are not the only factors influencing the text. Written discourse is characterized by rhetorical and linguistic elements that are socially/culturally shaped. Grabe and Kaplan (1996) identified seven types of knowledge that are critical in the production of text. These are knowledge of

  • Rhetorical patterns of arrangement and the relative frequency of various patterns (e.g., exposition/argumentation)
  • Composing conventions and strategies needed to generate text (e.g., brainstorming, drafting, revision)
  • Morphosyntax of the target language, particularly as it applies at the intersentencial level
  • Coherence-creating mechanisms of the target language
  • Writing conventions of the target language in the sense of both frequency and distribution of types and text appearance (e.g., letter, essay, report)
  • Audience characteristics and expectations in the target culture
  • The subject to be discussed, including "what everyone knows" in the target culture and specialist knowledge (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 200)

Indeed, writing in two languages is demanding. Bilingual learners need to have these types of knowledge for each language and be able to use them successfully. In other words, writing requires that bilingual learners be capable of retrieving the appropriate linguistic, rhetorical, and sociocultural resources to write effectively in each language.

Writing processes can be similar in L1 and L2, yet the products are going to be different linguistically as well as rhetorically. It is crucial then to address the teaching of writing in bilingual programs from a contrastive perspective through a balanced approach that focuses on both the process and product of writing while attending to the social dynamic of the writing act and the sociocultural elements of the target language.

Assessment for Learning
Although some writing-related skills (e.g., brainstorming, editing) are transferable from one language into another, writing is not a universal set of skills that applies across languages. Neither is it an innate ability or a natural gift as it used to be described in some cultures. It is a language-specific ability that develops over time through instruction, practice, and experience. Writing is also a discovery process that becomes a problem-solving activity as skills are developed (Graves, 1983, 1984). The development of writing skills in bilingual learners is fostered therefore by instructional strategies that center on problem-solving activities and offer numerous opportunities for the practice of writing in each language.

Among the activities that support the development of writing skills is the use of analytic scoring to provide feedback at different stages of writing. This kind of assessment is formative in nature as it leads to learning and improvement. Analytic assessment rubrics offer writers and readers the means to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in texts and to identify specific aspects of writing that need revision.

Los Criterios de la Escritura Eficaz en Español (6+1 Trait® Spanish Writing) is one of the few available analytic models for Spanish writing. Its goal is to promote the students' development of writing skills in Spanish through the analytical assessment of their compositions. Developed at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, los criterios is the result of an in-depth analysis of the characteristics of writing in Latin American countries and Spain as well as the writing of bilingual learners in different region of the United States. It is designed exclusively for the teaching and assessment of writing in Spanish based on six key qualities: ideas (ideas), organización (organization), voz (voice), fluidez (fluency), lenguaje (word choice), and uso de la lengua(grammar/conventions).

These six qualities are directly related to Grabe and Kaplan's (1996) types of knowledge. They are traits geared at capturing the essence of these types of knowledge in order to guide the bilingual learner through the development of writing skills in Spanish in a process-based instructional setting. Moreover, they consist of descriptors that allow for a wide range of writing genres, which ensures the inclusion of both social and academic aspects, thus facilitating the road to biliteracy. Los criterios offers an avenue to help bilingual learners to become proficient writers in Spanish, but it is just the beginning of the development of a more comprehensive biliteracy educational model. There is still a great need for research in the area of second language writing to find alternatives that would better serve the needs of learners who want to be fully biliterate and bicultural.


Cloud, N., Genessee, F., & Hamavan, E. (2000). Dual language instruction: A handbook for enriched education. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Diaz, R. M. (1983). Thought in two languages: The impact of bilingualism on cognitive development. In E. W. Gordon (Ed.), Review of research in education(Vol. 10, pp. 23-54). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Assocation.
Elhers-Zavala, F. (2004). Considerations for the teaching of bilingual writing. TESOL Bilingual Education Interest Section E-Newsletter. Retrieved August 10, 2004, from
Grabe, W., & Kaplan, R. B. (1996). Theory and practice of writing. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.
Graves, D. (1983). Writing teachers and children at work. London and Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Graves, D. (1984). A researcher learns to write. London and Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Scott, G. (2003). 6+1 Trait® Spanish writing (3rd ed.). Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratories.
Soltero, S. W. (2004). Dual language: Teaching and learning in two languages. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Thomas, W., & Collier, V. (2002). A national study of school effectiveness for language minority students' long-term academic achievement. Santa Cruz, CA: CREDE. Retrieved January 12, 2004, from

Assessment of Spanish and English Literacy in Children: Products of the Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers Research Initiative

By Valerie Malabonga, e-mail:, and Dorry Kenyon, email:, both of the Center for Applied Linguistics

The Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers (DeLSS) is a research initiative jointly organized and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Education Sciences of the Department of Education. The research supported within the DeLSS network of investigators has as its goal the development of new knowledge about critical factors in English and Spanish language literacy (reading and writing) among children whose first language is Spanish but are learning English in their schools. Grants were awarded in 2000 and the funding period runs through 2006 (although some of the smaller projects were funded for only 2 years). The research is aimed at addressing these overarching questions:

  1. How do children whose first language is Spanish learn to read and write in English?
  2. Why do some Spanish-speaking children have difficulties acquiring English language reading and writing skills?
  3. For which children whose first language is Spanish are which instructional approaches and strategies most beneficial, at which stages of reading and writing development, and under what conditions?

As part of the DeLSS research initiative, several assessments and instruments suited to the purposes of each program project, project, or subproject were developed. Some of these assessments and instruments were designed jointly by the two program projects in the initiative. The assessments measure constructs such as phonological awareness and processing, narrative production, decoding, cognate awareness, derivational morphology, and spelling. A parent questionnaire that obtains detailed information about demographics, socioeconomic status, home language, and home literacy practices is also available.

The assessments were created for prekindergartners through fifth graders although most of the assessments span only part of this developmental period. Below is a list of some of the researcher-developed assessments and instruments in the DeLSS Research Initiative that were shared at the BEIS Special Academic Session at TESOL in San Antonio:

Construct Instrument Language Grades/Ages
Demographic Variables Demographic Questionnaire/Survey (Parent, Teacher, School, Census) English, Spanish Parents, Teachers, Principals
Phonological Awareness Phonological Awareness Test (5 subtests) English Pre-K, Kindergarten
Test of Phonological Processing (9 subtests) Spanish Kindergarten–Adult
Decoding Developmental Contrastive Decoding English 2nd–5th

Extract the Base (Derivational Morphology)

Cognate Awareness

English, Spanish




Reading Comprehension Diagnostic Assessment of Reading Comprehension English, Spanish 2nd–5th

Spelling Transfer

Developmental Contrastive Spelling (2 subtests)



1st Grade


Preliteracy Skills

Narrative Production Task

Bilingual Narrative Production Assessment

English, Spanish

English, Spanish

Preschool–2nd Grade

Kindergarten–3rd Grade

These assessments and instruments can be requested by qualified researchers. For more complete information or to request the use of these assessments and instruments, go to, click on "Products," and follow the instructions on viewing assessment descriptions, requesting copies, using assessments, and sharing your assessment data with the DeLSS investigators.

For Assessment to Be of Value

Cecilia M. Espinosa, Long Island University, email:

For assessment to be of value, it must continuously inform our practice. In turn, for our practice to be most effective, it needs to be deeply informed by our assessments. Both need to be informed by what children can do. In addition, assessments need to be conceived as dynamic rather than static. Authentic assessment "is an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teacher's question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student?" (Ayers, 2001, p. 109).

Ernestina and Rebecca, two classroom teachers, and I, a university researcher, met for 5 months twice a week as we engaged their fifth-grade children in a dual-language program in a study of memoir. Most of the 54 children had been in this program for 3 to 5 years. Our group met to plan, carry out, and collaborate on a study about the reading and writing of memoir. The following vignette illustrates one of our conversations:

"I wonder if the crafting techniques we have been working on during the memoir study will transfer to the other language? I mean, will the children be able to 'explode a moment,' use good beginnings or authentic dialect when they write in Spanish? I have taught them these techniques in English, but what will happen to their writing once they begin to write in Spanish is a question I would like to pursue," said Ernestina during one of our last collaborative meetings. We were talking about Karla's [pseudonym] development as a biliterate writer. "Listen to her story in English. I just love the softness of its tone," said Ernestina as she read Karla's piece. "It is titled 'Seeing Him Once'."

I wake up in the morning every day and a ray of light hits my face. "Karina, ya levántate y no te vayas a dormir otra vez," my brother shouts.
My brother wakes me up every morning when he wakes up. That is the reason I love the mornings, because I don't really get to spend time with my brother. When I come home from school my brother has already left for work.
I love it when he comes into my room to wake me up every morning. It just tells me that my brother is still there and that he hasn't left to school yet.
Sometimes in the morning I wake up before my brother wakes me up, but I lay in bed pretending to be asleep. I hear him opening the door. I pretend that I am sleeping. The door creeks open-creeek. He tiptoes into my room-he comes in softly, so that I don't wake up. His long hand stretches out to touch me and wake me up. His soft hand feels like a feather tickling me in between my ribs and I laugh a little trying not to laugh too loud. I start to feel his cold and bumpy hands going up and down my face. I hear, "Karina ya levántate y no te vayas a dormir otra vez."
I love how he pronounces my name. First his lips get tight, then his mouth opens and says in a soft voice "Karina." Then I look at him for a long time because I'm not going to see him until the next morning.

This was Karla's final draft. In the previous few weeks she had written other drafts and conferenced with Ernestina and some of her classmates. They had used the crafting techniques we had introduced the children to in this unit of study. Once the pieces were crafted, Ernestina helped the children edit their pieces. After hearing the story read aloud, we noted that Karla had captured the importance of feeling when writing in the genre of memoir. She also understood that the stories worth writing about are those small stories, such as Sandra Cisneros' (1991) Once. We noted that she had used several crafting techniques (for example, the technique of show, not tell in describing the way in which her brother stretches out his hand to touch her). She understood the importance of using authentic dialogue by having her brother speak in Spanish. As a writer, she had made a choice of not translating her Spanish text into English. She trusted that the reader would construct this meaning (Smith, Espinosa, Aragón, Osorio, and Ulloa, in press). She knew that a memoir can take place over several years, days, or minutes. Her story in "real life" would last only 5-10 minutes. She also used words that give the reader the experience of sound effects (creeek). We compared this piece with some of her initial seed stories in her writer's notebook. We marveled at how much of the discourse (Gee, 1996) of memoir Karla had acquired. We decided to pursue Ernestina's question about what would happen to her writing once she began to draft her memoir in Spanish.

A week later Ernestina brought Karla's folder to another meeting. She read Karla's piece in Spanish. To our surprise her draft in Spanish was longer than any of her English entries. As we read it, we noted that it contained many of the crafting techniques she had learned in English. She had begun the piece with a good beginning-a question, "¿Nunca te haz sentido emocionada por el cumpleaños de tu hermano? (Have you ever felt excited for your brother's birthday?) She used authentic dialogue, but this time she included sayings particular to Spanish-for example, "¿Qué mosco te picó." ("What fly bit you?" a saying in Spanish that is used when someone states the obvious). She also used the technique of show, not tell: "Le volví a preguntar con mis labios todos resecos y mis ojos cansados" (I asked him again with my completely dry lips and my tired eyes).

In several ways this dialogue illustrates the cyclical and inseparable relationship between teaching and assessment. As teacher/researchers we spent large amounts of time becoming knowledgeable about the discourse of memoir (Arnberg, 1999; Barrington, 1996; McBride, 1997; Nia, 1999; Santiago,1993). In our planning we specified which crafting techniques (Lane, 1993; Ray, 2001) we wanted to highlight in this study. We knew that it takes time to acquire any discourse. We had a shared history of the curriculum (we had developed it together). We knew the children. We sat together consistently to talk about our work and the children's work. We brought our knowledge of the importance of the role of the native language (Hudelson, 1987, 2000). We took notes, created checklists, and studied the children's work in both languages. Our work was centered on teaching the writer (Ray, 2001), not the piece of writing. Our dialogue focused on what the children could do and the questions their work raised for us. Our assessment focused on our daily work with the children.

Arnberg. A. (1999). A study of memoir. Primary Voices K-6, 8, 13-20.
Ayers, W. (2001). To teach: The journey of a teacher. New York: Teachers College Press.
Barrington, J. (1996) Writing the memoir: From truth to art. Portland, OR: Eight Mountain Press.
Cisneros, S. (1991). Women hollering creek and other stories. New York: Random House.
Gee, J. P., (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Hudelson, S. J. (1987). The role of native language literacy in the education of language minority children. Language Arts, 64(8), 827-841.
Hudelson, S. J. (2000). Developing a framework for writing in dual language settings. In J. Villamil Tinajero and R. A. DeVillar (eds.) The power of two languages 2000. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lane, B (1993). After the end: Teaching and learning creative revision. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
McBride, J. (1997). The color of water. New York: Riverhead Books.
Nia, I. (1999). Units of study in the writing workshop. Primary Voices K-6, 8, 3-9.
Ray, K. (2001). The writing workshop: Working through the hard parts (and they're all hard parts). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Santiago, E. (1993). When I was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books.
Smith, K., Espinosa, C., Aragón, E., Osorio, R., & Ulloa, N. (in press). Reconceptualizing writing workshop in a dual language program. In S. Hudelson (Ed.),Elementary second language learners reading and writing the word and the world.

About This Member Community BEIS Newsletter Mission Statement

The goal of the BEIS Newsletter is to provide a forum for the discussion of educational and sociopolitical issues in pre-K through postsecondary bilingual educational settings around the world.

The BEIS Newsletter is oriented to practitioners and teacher educators working in bilingual education programs around the world.

The BEIS Newsletter serves as a vehicle for the expression of ideas and scholarship related to teaching and learning in bilingual classroom settings. The newsletter also takes an advocacy position with respect to bilingual education. It includes articles, research summaries, book reviews, convention information, and general commentary.

Approved at the 2004 annual business meeting on March 31, 2004.

Call for Submissions for Fall BEIS Newsletter

Fall BEIS Newsletter
General Pre-Conference Issue

What topics are appropriate for this general issue of the newsletter?

Summaries of the discussion groups you organized for TESOL 2005, if they were of a general nature, are appropriate. (Shorter summaries than the length specifications listed below are acceptable). Reactions to discussion groups you participated in which outline and further the dialogue are also appropriate.

Summaries of BEIS talks or workshops that you presented or attended at TESOL 2005 would also be of great interest.

Timely issues of relevance to our interest section will also be accepted.

What topics work better for a theme issue?

The Spring 2006 BEIS Newsletter deals with Preparing and Supporting Teachers of Bilingual Children. Submissions dealing with this topic should be submitted to Nancy Dubetz (, the editor of the next spring theme issue. Deadline: June 1st, 2006.

What else will appear in the Fall BEIS newsletter?

This general issue includes pre-conference information, ballots, and a wider range of articles than in the theme issue.

When are submissions due, and who should they be sent to?

Due date: August 25th, 2005
Editor: Shelley K. Taylor (

Submission & abstract info: length, style, tips

Submission Length: 1,000-2,500 words (max)
Abstract: 50-words (500 characters or less)
Style: Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Ed)
Tips: begin with central ideas or conclusions, keep sentences short (16-words max),
keep paragraphs short, and chunk information (heads, subheads)

ESL in Bilingual Education Interest Section (BEIS)

TESOL's ESL in Bilingual Education Interest Section combines the fields of ESL and bilingual education. Its goals are to develop awareness of the role of ESL in bilingual education, to foster communication among those involved in ESL in bilingual education, to encourage research in bilingual education, and to work closely with other TESOL interest sections and other professional groups concerned with bilingual education.

ESL in Bilingual Education Interest Section Community Leaders, 2005-2006

Chair: Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala, email
Chair-Elect: David Schwarzer, e-mail
Past Chair: Ester DeJong
Editor: Shelley K. Taylor, e-mail
Co-Editor: Nancy Dubetz, e-mail
Steering Committee Member: Gerald P. Berent, e-mail
Steering Committee Member: Maria Coady, email
Steering Committee Member: Madeline Milian, email
Steering Committee Member: Millicent I. Kushner, e-mail
Steering Committee Member: Alcione Ostorga, email

Discussion e-list: Visit to sign up for BEIS-L, the discussion list for members of this community, or visit if already a subscriber.