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Using Age Equivalencies in ESL Assessment

Jomar Lococo, M.S.,CCC-SLP

January 18, 2010



Why is it helpful to use age equivalencies when assessing second language learners? Can they be used to help determine if a child is eligible for services?


In the initial stages of assessment, we should be looking at where the student is performing using the standards maps/curriculum maps for age and grade level. We then compare where the student is working with time of exposure to the curriculum in a school in the United States. We apply modifications, accommodations, and classroom strategies to track the progress of the student over a prescribed period of time (response to intervention) and look for the accelerated rate of learning usually seen in children from other cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Of course, we have considered the nature of previous schooling and exposure to literacy prior to arrival in a US school.

We carry our findings forward to the more formal stages of assessment for those students who are learning slowly. When administering standardized instruments, it is often more helpful to look at age equivalencies rather than raw scores, standard scores and percentile rankings. The latter simply tell us that the child is not achieving. The age equivalencies tell us where we can expect the child to be performing relative to grade level and curriculum. They also can indicate whether the student is acquiring English and academic skills at an accelerated rate in relation to time of exposure to the language. We have seen children enter kindergarten from another country with no English and be working at grade level as they enter or are enrolled in second grade. Children entering at older ages may make slower progress due to curriculum demands. However, we will still see - according to Cummins - that there will be about two years of growth for each one year of exposure to English.

The observation of rate of English language acquisition and acquisition of academic skills should move hand and hand. Though a student may have 1st percentile scores, s/he may still have an accelerated rate of learning and language acquisition and therefore not follow the profile of special education student. Age equivalency information can be very helpful along with all of our other observational and assessment information in determining eligibility for services under special education guidelines.

This Ask the Expert was taken from the course entitled: Eight Best Practices in Assessing the Second Language Learner: Part I presented by Jomar Lococo, M.S. CCC-SLP.

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Jomar Lococo has been a speech-language pathologist in practice since 1974. Since 1985, Ms. Lococo has provided professional services to second language learners from five continents. She has lectured extensively on topics addressing work with second language learners. Ms. Lococo has been an invited speaker in local school districts, regional offices of education and has given presentations at both state and national conventions.

jomar lococo

Jomar Lococo, M.S.,CCC-SLP

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