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Formative Assessment of English Language Proficiency in the Science Classroom


"As the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are language intensive, they present both opportunities and challenges for all students, and English learners (ELs) in particular, who are developing language and disciplinary knowledge and practices simultaneously. To support students of varying levels of English language proficiency in the NGSS science classroom, an important role of the teacher is to gather information about student learning that can be used to advance students' language proficiency in the service of learning science. Formative assessment can be a powerful means of gathering such information and using it to provide ongoing and contingent support. This article focuses on formative assessment of language proficiency in the context of NGSS-aligned science instruction. First, we provide a framework for language use in the science classroom in terms of modalities and registers. Second, applying this framework, we articulate language proficiency descriptors across four language proficiency levels aligned to a fourth-grade NGSS modeling task. Third, we provide illustrative examples of student models at each of the four language proficiency levels. Finally, we offer recommendations for how teachers can leverage the power of formative assessment to support the language proficiency of all students, and ELs in particular, in the NGSS science classroom. "