How assessment supports English learners

By Elizabeth Foster
April 2019
Vol. 40 No. 2
In 2015, nearly 5 million public school students were identified as English learners, according to the National Center for Education Statistics report, Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018 (de Brey et al., 2019). To serve these students well, educators need professional learning on a range of teaching and learning strategies. Among the topics where they need support is student assessment. Assessment can provide information about student learning and the effectiveness of classroom strategies, but what are the special considerations when used with English learners? To better understand the research about how schools and systems can support multilingual learners through assessment, we spoke with Margo Gottlieb, an expert in curriculum, instruction, and assessment of language learners and author of more

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Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster ( is associate director of standards, research, and strategy at Learning Forward. In each issue of The Learning Professional, Foster explores recent research to help practitioners understand the impact of particular professional learning practices on student outcomes.

LET US HEAR FROM YOU. Do you have recommendations of research you’d like to see us cover? Email me at


Here are resources that support educator learning about assessment and multilingual learners, with comments from Gottlieb.

Basterra, R., Trumbull, E., & Solano-Flores, G. (Eds.) (2011). Cultural validity in assessment: Addressing linguistic and cultural diversity. New York, NY: Routledge.

Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004). Working inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 8-21.

  • Discussion of the importance of teacher-student interaction and of educators knowing students well as an aspect of assessment.

Earl, L.M. (2013). Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

  • Focused on assessment as a strategy for daily classroom learning as well as student measurement.

González, N., Moll, L.C., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hornberger, N.H. (2002). Multilingual language policies and the continua of biliteracy: An ecological approach. Language Policy, 1(1), 27-51.

  • An examination of the impact policies that support multilingualism have had in South Africa and Bolivia, with implications about education in the United States.

García, O., Johnson, S.I., & Seltzer, K. (2016).The translanguaging classroom: Leveraging student bilingualism for learning. Philadelphia, PA: Caslon Publishing.

  • Language practices to draw on students’ bilingualism to support their engagement with complex academic texts and advance social justice.

Soltero-González, L., Sparrow, W., Butvilofsky, S., Escamilla, K., & Hopewell, S. (2016). Effects of a paired literacy program on emerging bilingual children’s biliteracy outcomes in third grade. Journal of Literacy Research, 48(1), 80-104.

  • This longitudinal study examines whether the implementation of a Spanish-English paired literacy approach provides an academic advantage to emerging bilingual students over a sequential literacy approach.


de Brey, C., Musu, L., McFarland, J., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Diliberti, M., Zhang, A. … Wang, X. (2019). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups 2018 (NCES 2019-038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Learning Forward. (2011). Standards for Professional Learning. Oxford, OH: Author.

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