Skip to main content

Adult ELL Assessments in the Community Environment.

I am a graduate student at the University of North Dakota in the Masters of Education English Language Learners program. However, I currently teach at a CBO in Charleston, South Carolina.  I am attempting to write a literature review on ELL assessment. The literature review will be an effort in determining the best known practices for community adult ELL assessment. I am trying to root out what is out there in regards to scholarly opinions concerning these assessments. More specifically, I am attempting to pinpoint the immigrant and refugee adult assessment mechanisms for non-profit organizations and local governments who cater their programs to this population and determine their effectiveness--primarily Best Plus and CASAS.
 I have found information issued by the commercial producers of these assessments singing their praises (such as CAL with the Best Plus and CASAS in California), but I have found very little information in regards to scholarly opposition to these programs. For example, we work with the Best Plus in South Carolina. I know teachers that have voiced opposition to this program due to the subjective nature of the verbal test, but I have not seen any research or scholarly articles that tackle that point of view or others. Does anyone know of any research that has been done with opposing viewpoints or even positive objective research that has been done by outside organizations? Any insights you may have have would be greatly appreciated.


Mike's picture


To help you in your research of Adult ESL Assessments I would be happy to email you the TABE Complete Language Assessment System - English (CLAS-E) Technical Report and information submitted to OVAE prior to TABE CLAS-E being granted full 7 unearthed NRS approval for the 4 content areas of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. 

Please contact me directly and I can share the information. 

Thank you.

Mike Johnson

National Adult Education Manager




Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hi Steve, Your investigation into the pros and cons of standardized assessments used in adult ESL programs is interesting. The only review I am familiar with, "Perspectives on Assessment in Adult ESOL Instruction," was written by Van Duzer and Berdan and published in the first volume of the Annual Review of Adult Literacy in 1999. This article is available here

As we all know, standardized assessments are limited in the information they provide to teachers and learners.Since most of us are required to use an approved standardized assessment for accountability purposes, we would want to use these instruments to the best advantage of the learners in our programs. For instance, you may be aware of the training module, "Developing Oral Proficiency of Adults Learning English," available at the Center for Applied Linguistics website that suggests many practical suggestion to benefit adult learners in developing speaking and listening skills from the various assessment tools (both formal and informal) we use.

Importantly, we need to incorporate many ways to assess learners' progress through formative assessments during our daily instruction. You may want to check out the many resources available through LINCS. If you go to the home page, you can search for the assessment documents that have been reviewed and are available. One resource that I thought was useful reported on how practitioners in Massachusetts are using the REEP Writing Rubric with adult ELLs, available here

In adult ESL, we work with a wide range of learners. The standardized assessments we use do not allows align perfectly with the particular profiles of the learners in our programs, for instance, literacy level learners who have limited print literacy in their home language. Heide Wrigley has made a beautiful video to illustrate an innovative process for assessing these learners in reading skills. This demonstration is available here

There are so many critical and complex issues related to assessment. It's wonderful that you are exploring these issues in your graduate program. Please keep us up to date on your investigation, Steve!

Best, Susan