Assessing World Languages: Performance and Rubrics

The study of any world language involves becoming proficient in the skills of listening, reading, writing, and speaking the language. In other words, what can students do in the new language within each of these skills? In the case of American Sign Language (ASL), the skills are interpreting and communicating through signing.

Curriculum goals are performance-based: The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) foreign/world language curriculum goals are grounded in the 5 Cs of all language learning: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. These five goals when taught and reached by the end of each year of study, require students to perform or do something meaningful with the vocabulary and grammar in real-life situations. The national, state, and our PWCS curriculum are organized around these five performance-based goals called the 5cs. 

Assessments should be performance-based: Therefore all classroom practice, unit or chapter tests, and end-of-year assessments are based on tasks in which the students apply the vocabulary and grammar to asking and answering questions, or listening to native speakers talking about a familiar topic such as a school schedule, family members, friends, their home and/or reading a passage about these same themes, and/or in some way showing understanding of the main messages and details by writing or speaking about them.

The traditional fill-in-the blank and true/false type item assessments are not appropriate ways to assess how our students are performing in a new language. 

Common Rubrics for Performance-based Assessments: Since all Prince William County Schools use the same curriculum and follow the best current learning and assessment practices, all schools use the PALS (Performance Assessment for Language Students) rubrics recommended by the profession and created by Fairfax County Public Schools through a federal grant for the purpose of assessing writing and speaking tasks. These rubrics provide a common tool for all teachers to use when assessing performance tasks in writing and speaking across levels 1, 2, and 3.

The PALS rubrics provide a common standard by which students become familiar with the expectations and ratings across all languages and schools. Students in special programs such as the International Baccalaureate (IB and Cambridge may have additional similar rubrics, also. 

The Prince William County Schools World Language Program is designed to follow the most current and best research-based best practices and to align our curriculum and assessments to performance-based tasks leading to proficiency in all skills of a world language: listening, reading, writing, and speaking in order to ensure our students are successful on our local Common End-of-Year Performance Assessments and the external IB, Advanced Placement (AP) and Cambridge exams which are all completely performance tasks.