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Assessment of English language learners in New Zealand primary schools: Purposes, principles, and practices

Sue Edwards

It has been mandatory since March 2015 for New Zealand schools to use the English Language Learning Progressions (ELLP) (Ministry of Education, 2008) to determine English language learners’ eligibility for Ministry funding of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) programmes and support. Teachers are expected to “use a wide range of assessment tasks, activities and observations to make an OTJ (overall teacher judgment) with reference to the various descriptors on the ELLP matrices” (Ministry of Education, 2015). This article provides the background to the current situation, located in the wider context of standards-based assessment and incorporating the use of language learning progressions. It then reports on a small exploratory study, which investigated aspects of teacher practice regarding the new assessment system. The study gathered information about which assessment tasks were used or recommended, positive aspects of completing the new assessment process, and challenges encountered with the new process. The findings revealed that although teacher attitudes towards the new assessment system are positive, they encountered a number of challenges relating to the validity and reliability of the assessment process.

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