Authentic Assessment for ELL Students

 Teachers need a Wide Range of assessment strategies to discover the true extent of an ELLs learning.

The PURPOSE of assessment is to identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students, adjust instruction to build on students’ strengths and alleviate weaknesses, monitor the effectiveness of instruction, provide feedback to students and parents and make decisions about program planning (


When English language learners arrive for the first time at school, their English language proficiency needs to be assessed to identify student needs and inform planning for instruction (, Coelho, 2004). This initial assessment is crucial so it is important to Get it Right!

Prior to arrival Golden Hills International Students complete an online English Language Proficiency assessment. This allows the ISS team to plan, organize and implement an educational program specifically designed for each students needs. 

Ongoing assessment throughout the year continues in order to evaluate the student’s language development across the Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing strands. An assessment portfolio (such as the GHSD yellow folder) that includes a record of an initial interview and assessment information is created when the student arrives. Throughout the year, teachers can add samples of work, antidotal records, checklists and documentation collected through conference and journal responses.  Copies of the Alberta Education Benchmark Tracking sheets are added to the folder documenting language proficiency growth throughout the year.


It is important to allow ELLs time to adjust to their new school before attempting any assessment. It may take several weeks before a teacher can begin to assess the student’s linguistic and educational needs.  During this time, teachers can gather information informally by watching how the student communicates with their peers, follows instructions, participates in class, reads and writes.

Some Informal Strategies include: (adapted from Coelho, 2004)  

  1. Have the student produce a writing sample in L1 if the student has had enough education in their first language to produce a writing sample.
  2. Engage the student in simple social conversations
  3. Use pictures and concrete objects to assess the student’s vocabulary. Have the student point to letters, numbers or objects and ask them to name them.
  4. Use simple props and instructions to assess the child’s ability to follow simple oral instructions.
  5. To assess listening comprehension read a simple book with pictures and ask the student simple, specific questions.
  6. Have the student read a simple picture book
  7. Observe the child using language in the classroom.
  8. Collect a writing sample using a picture prompt

Usually the informal information teachers gather can determine the students language proficiency using the:

The Alberta Education Benchmarks The ESL Benchmarks support teachers in assessing language proficiency, communicating with students and parents, and planning explicit language instruction.

If more information is needed, there are several standardized assessment tools that can be used to help determine the students Language Proficiency. One such tool is the Idea Proficiency Test (IPT)

The Idea Proficiency Test (IPT) is a standardized assessment that evaluates student’s oral, reading and writing proficiency. The IPT can be administered both online and as a paper copy. Results of this assessment provide educators with Guidance for Instructional Intervention, Annual Assessment and Progress Mentoring and Identification of Language Proficiency Level.

A second tool is:

The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems are accurate and reliable tools to identify the instructional and independent reading levels of all students and document student progress through one-on-one formative and summative assessments.


In order to gather a comprehensive and equitable picture of ELLs abilities it is important that they are assessed on both their linguistic and academic strengths and needs. Numerous opportunities need to be provided allowing them to demonstrate what they know and what they can do (Many Roots, Many Voices, 2005).

“Authentic and Effective Assessment is an integral part of instruction and learning. It helps focus effort on the implementation of appropriate strategies to facilitate learning within the home, school, and community” (Yudcovitch, 2001).


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