The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has been awarded a $1.1 million federal grant to develop an assessment system to support multilingual learners – also known as English language learners – in third through fifth grades. North Carolina is one of 10 states to share more than $29 million under the U.S. Department of Education’s 2022 Competitive Grants for State Assessments program to design new assessments that are more “high-quality, innovative, and authentic.”
NCDPI will be partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) on the four-year grant initiative to create an e-portfolio that draws from multiple measures and sources to assess student academic achievement, focusing specifically on science instruction. The project is part of a comprehensive effort to improve teaching and learning and support rigorous academic standards for multilingual learners.
The approach draws on studies related to assessment and formative assessment for multilingual learners. The goal is to better address their language development, full linguistic repertoire and content acquisition. Science for multilingual learners is the specific focus of the initiative because research has shown a significant need for greater support. A 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Education showed a 36-point gap nationally between average science scores of fourth grade English language learners (ELs) and non-EL students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2015.
Once created, the e-portfolio will assist educators and families in understanding the academic progress of multilingual students who are enrolled in dual language immersion programs and content-based science classes. This new approach to assessment will position multilingualism as an asset that students bring into the classroom and showcases North Carolina’s innovative efforts in understanding student achievement and growth.
Working with CAL and other expert advisors on this grant will allow North Carolina to strengthen its ability to measure the academic achievement of multilingual learners and helping content-area teachers ensure that multilingual students are provided with rigorous academic learning opportunities that meet their instructional needs. Lessons learned and products developed will be shared publicly as resources to enhance multilingual learners’ education across the state and the nation.
“We are excited to receive this grant and for the opportunity to highlight the needs of our growing population of multilingual learners (MLs), and to offer ways to equip our educators to strategically support content and language acquisition for the students in the science classroom,” said Ivanna Mann Thrower Anderson, NCDPI ML/Title III Consultant and primary investigator for the grant.
To build the new e-portfolio, the project will first develop score reporting tools, such as rubrics, to help students and their families understand their academic progress. The tools will allow students to show their knowledge of standards-based science tasks in a variety of ways, using all of their linguistic resources. Once the e-portfolio is in place, multiple observations will be collected to provide meaningful data that can be used in real time in the classroom by students and teachers. This data will also be shared with families to enhance learning and their understanding of their students’ progress.