English Learners and Science Tests (ELAST)
Principal Investigator: Tracy Noble and Ann S Rosebery
Grade Levels: Elementary, Middle School, High School
In this project, Chèche Konnen Center researchers will explore whether linguistic features of multiple-choice science test items on high-stakes assessments are interfering with the ability of English Learners (ELs) to demonstrate what they know about science. Project researchers will review the research on linguistic features of test items that negatively influence ELs’ performance on assessments. Researchers will modify multiple-choice science test items from the 5th grade Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) by changing these linguistic features without changing the tested science content. By administering original and modified science test items to a large sample of EL and non-EL students across Massachusetts, researchers will gather evidence to determine whether these linguistic features are in fact interfering with the ability of ELs to demonstrate what they know about science. Researchers will explore the generalizability of these findings by examining science test items and student performance data from the 8th and 10th grade MCAS, other state-wide tests, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
The outcomes of the project will include: a) empirical evidence that contributes to the field’s knowledge of linguistic features of science test items that interfere with the ability of ELs to demonstrate their knowledge on science tests; b) a handbook for state departments of education and multi-state assessment consortia to use to eliminate or modify test items that contain these features; and c) a guide to linguistic features of science test items for teachers of ELs to use with their students. This four-year project is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.