How should schools test proficiency in a foreign language?

Immersion programs across the country are grappling with how to measure language proficiency – how much Mandarin, Spanish, French, etc. students are acquiring.

Utah is using a fluency-testing tool used by the U.S. military and State Department (among other groups), adapting it for younger learners, so that it’s age-appropriate.

Minnesota is pursuing a different strategy: using translated versions of the same assessments that all Minnesota school children take. In other, words, they’re testing students’ knowledge of content in both English and their target language – at least, for Spanish learners.

“For Chinese immersion teachers, finding materials that meet the same standards as English language resources is a more difficult task,” According to the St. Cloud Times.

Like many Chinese immersion programs, Minnesota schools have to develop Mandarin curricula, lesson plans and testing materials from scratch. They’re working with professors at St. Cloud State University to develop their Chinese assessments, reports the St. Cloud Times

“Immersion is fairly new concept in the (education) field,” said an education official quoted by the Times. “We’ve been watching very closely as resources become available, but at this point there are no practical Chinese tests.”

Minnesota has seven Chinese immersion schools and 29 Spanish immersion programs.

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