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The procedures British Columbia school psychologists use to assess English as a second language students. Angerilli, Mark

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to answer the question, "Do British Columbia school psychologists use a multifaceted approach to assess English As A Second Language students?" Another purpose of the study was to measure the prevailing procedures used to psychologically assess ESL students in British Columbia school districts. A data collection design was developed that consisted of a mailed self-administered questionnaire that was to be completed by all of the school districts in British Columbia. The questionnaire items were grouped in 3 separate sections - The first section (4 items) of the questionnaire requested personal and demographic information. The second section (35 items) asked participants to indicate on a 4 point Likert scale (always(1) - usually(2) -sometimes(3) - never(4)) the techniques and testing instruments they used during the psychological assessment of an ESL student. These techniques and instruments were selected from the literature outlining multifaceted assessments and included (a) the use of tests translated into the student's L I, and the assessment of the student's L 1, (b) reference to peers and siblings, (c) use of translators, (d) parental involvement, (e) number of years in an English - speaking school system before assessment, (f) use of norm-referenced standardized tests, (g) assessment of the student’s social/cultural/linguistic background, and (h) an awareness of the bias found in widely used tests, and the use of test results to prescribe treatment. The third section (open-ended) invited the participants to briefly describe the guidelines, if any, that their district followed to distinguish learning English As A Second Language difficulties from cognitive processing problems. The results revealed that many B.C. school psychologists involved in the assessment of ESL students are cognizant of the linguistic/ socio/cultural bias found in norm-referenced standardized tests and, as a result, are not extensively administering tests such as the WISC-R to ESL students, nor are they relying exclusively on the test scores to prescribe treatment for ESL students. Moreover, many psychologists are using peers and siblings to establish more realistic norms. Many of the psychologists are assessing the students' academic records (when available) and health records, and involving the ESL students' parents in the assessment process. The data also indicated that several phases of a multifaceted assessment need to be addressed by many of the school psychologists in British Columbia that are involved in the assessment of ESL students. These include: 1)the assessment of the students' L 1, and the use (when appropriate) of standardized tests translated into the student's L 1 2)involving trained translators in the interview and assessment of ESL students, and the interview of the students' parents 3) measuring the students' current level of functioning with 'dynamic' assessment and adaptive behaviour measurement (such as Feurerstein's Learning Potential Assessment Device) 4) involving the students' classroom teacher in the assessment through the use of anecdotal reporting 5) understanding that it takes at least five years, on the average, for an immigrant child who arrives in the host country after the age of six to approach grade norms in L2 Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. This study has revealed the wide range of psychological assessment procedures currently employed by British Columbia school psychologists. Some psychologists are utilizing all of the data at their disposal to accurately assess ESL students, while others are employing practices that may produce inaccurate and misleading results. In this regard, this study has established a need for valid multifaceted psychological assessment of ESL students procedures to be adapted by all of British Columbia's 75 school psychologists.

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