The need for a diversity-friendly type of assessment is prompted by law and supported by theory and practice of teaching, but the process of developing the required tools and policies is not an easy one (Gottlieb, 2009, p. 58). The article “Can One Size Fit All?” by Lisa Huempfner (2004) addresses this issue. In the present paper, the study of Huempfner (2004) is summarized, its strengths and weaknesses are dwelled upon, and the possible implications of the author’s ideas for the practice in an ESL or bilingual classroom are mentioned. It is concluded that the article achieves its goals in the discussion of the typical mistakes in the development of assessment tests and is of consequence for policymakers, schools, and individual teachers.
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The article by Huempfner (2004) discusses the issue of parallel assessments: standardized achievement tests (STs), which are performed in a native language and should “emulate the content of their English-language counterparts” (p. 379). Huempfner (2004) indicates that while the need for such an assignment is understandable, the development and implementation of STs are often faulty, and the author concentrates on these faults.
Huempfner (2004) compares the current situation to the history of minority education in the US and points out that little changed even in the 1990s. Closer to the 21 century, the diversity of students was acknowledged at the governmental level, but the provisions made by the government were not sufficient. Huempfner (2004) focuses on the tests for Spanish-speaking learners and explains that the STs designed for the Hispanic community are capable of harming students in more than one way. The author explains that the content of the tests tends to define the content and the emphasis of the educational programs: the non-tested areas can get eliminated.
Also, the author mentions the fact that the tests’ validity and reliability are often taken for granted, but in reality, there is a number of crucial mistakes that have been made by their developers. First of all, the Hispanic community is far from being homogeneous: there is dialectal and cultural diversity; the level of language knowledge and the types of attended programs can vary as well. Besides, the differences between English and Spanish define the difficulties in making Hispanic STs “emulate” their counterparts.
Finally, the testing procedures of the current test developers could be better controlled. In other words, the results of the tests may not be trustworthy but can still end up labeling students. Finally, the author points out that the initial (and technically the only acceptable) goal of STs consists in defining the effectiveness of education, but in reality, they have been used for varied purposes, including those related to acceptance for education and jobs.
The author concludes by suggesting that the Hispanic community produces its own standards that are not subjected to the majority culture bias. She especially emphasizes the need for appropriate use of the tests. In the end, the author insists that the then-current tests are “not the answer,” and calls for action to change the situation (Huempfner, 2004, p. 721).
Strengths and Weaknesses of Assessment Discussion
Huempfner’s (2004) article provides a solid background for the study, where the problem is outlined, the research efforts aimed at its discussion are mentioned, and the blank points in them are defined. The author does not seem to be neglecting the pro-test arguments and extensively explains the need for this type of assessment, but it can be argued that the advantages of the tests are underrepresented.
For example, STs are similarly dwelled on by Gottlieb (2009), and the author does more justice to the tools by introducing a number of advantages including the ready scores, uniform data collection, and personal bias reduction (p. 15). Still, Huempfner’s (2004) focus on the drawbacks is explained by the fact that attracting the attention to these issues is the goal of the article. Similarly, the author admits that the difficulties that she discusses are not easy to resolve.
For example, when discussing the cultural challenge and the selection of materials she mentions the “ideal” of the presence of balanced amounts of texts that represent the Spanish-speaking world in its variety, but she immediately admits that the feasibility of this solution is questionable (Huempfner, 2004, p. 389). In the same way, the author does not deny the difficulties of the Hispanic community coming together: she mentions the challenge of diversity and the issue of governmental support. In the end, she attempts to find feasible solutions like the suggestion to begin to improve the assessments by taking into account the type of the program that is being attended by students (Huempfner, 2004, p. 392).
One might argue that the author hardly provides sufficient guidelines for future actions, but the article is primarily aimed at determining the issues, attracting attention to them and indicating the key directions for change. The author also mentions a number of concerns (for example, the need to gain policymakers’ support), which may imply that the cohesive strategy of finding solutions is too extensive a topic to be included in the presented article.
Assessment Ideas Analysis
The article appears to be aimed at attracting the attention to the issues of STs, and it contains the implications that are mostly of interest to the entire Hispanic community in terms of policymaking and developing the tests. The conclusion of the author that emphasizes the importance of the minority community for the development of suitable tools is especially noteworthy. Such an approach will help to avoid the bias generated by evaluating everything in the majority culture terms.
Still, a couple of issues defined by the author are of consequence for the schools and classrooms. In particular, the author warns against using ST for means other than assessing the effectiveness of education. Also, the author expresses ideas on the diversity challenges that are true for any ESL or bilingual class and possibly any other classroom since differences are not limited to culture and language. Indeed, the diversity of students is a challenge, and a professional educator needs to take it into account. Understanding and respecting students’ diversity is one of the crucial elements of building relationships with them, their families, and communities (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2010, p. 30).
It might also be mentioned that the article is not very recent, but the study of Hopewell and Escamilla (2013) indicates that the inadequate testing, which neglects the diversity of students, is still an issue nowadays. However, the same study also demonstrates an increased awareness and conscientiousness of educational institutions in this respect, which is a promising fact. Still, current assessment tools can also be deficient, and Huempfner’s (2004) call to action is valid for the modern education community as well.
The diversity of students is a fact of life for modern society, and nowadays their needs are admitted on the governmental level. However, the development of the means of fulfilling the diverse needs of the students is a challenging task. Huempfner (2004) provides an analysis of the then-current means of assessment, but this data is of interest nowadays because it contributes to the knowledge of the pitfalls and challenges of producing a diversity-friendly tool as well as the possible solutions, in particular, the emphasis of the role of the minority community for the development of the test.
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Gottlieb, M. (2009). Assessing English language learners: Bridges from language proficiency to academic achievement. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. Web.
Hopewell, S., & Escamilla, K. (2013). Struggling reader or emerging biliterate student? Reevaluating the criteria for labeling emerging bilingual students as low achieving. Journal of Literacy Research, 46(1), 68-89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1086296×13504869
Huempfner, L. (2004). Can one size fit all? The imperfect assumptions of parallel achievement tests for bilingual students. Bilingual Research Journal, 28, 379-399. Web.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2010). 2010 NAEYC standards for initial and advanced early childhood professional preparation programs. Web.