Publications & Resources

An Evidentiary Framework for Operationalizing Academic Language for Broad Application to K-12 Education: A Design Document

Oct 2003

Alison L. Bailey and Frances A. Butler

With the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), all states are required to assess English language development (ELD) of English language learners (ELLs) beginning in the 2002-2003 school year. Existing ELD assessments do not, however, capture the necessary prerequisite language proficiency for mainstream classroom participation and for taking content-area assessments in English, thus making their assessment of ELD incomplete. What is needed are English language assessments that go beyond the general, social language of existing ELD tests to capture academic language proficiency (ALP) as well, thereby covering the full spectrum of English language ability needed in a school setting. This crucial testing need has provided impetus for examining the construct of academic language (AL) in depth and considering its role in assessment, instruction, and teacher professional development.

This document provides an approach for the development of an evidentiary framework for operationalizing ALP for broad K-12 educational applications in these three key areas. Following the National Research Council (2002) call for evidence-based educational research, we propose the integration of analyses of national content standards (National Science Education Standards of the National Research Council), state content standards (California, Florida, New York, and Texas), English as a Second Language (ESL) standards, the language demands of standardized achievement tests, teacher expectations of language comprehension and production across grades, and the language students actually encounter in school through input such as teacher oral language, textbooks, and other print materials. The initial product will be a framework for application of ALP to test specifications including prototype tasks that can be used by language test developers for their work in the K-12 arena. Long-range plans include the development of guidelines for curriculum development and teacher professional development that will help assure that all students, English-only and ELLs alike, receive the necessary English language exposure and instruction to allow them to succeed in education in the United States.

Bailey, A. L., & Butler, F. A. (2003). An evidentiary framework for operationalizing academic language for broad application to K-12 education: A design document (CSE Report 611). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).