Should We Translate Educational Assessments in Our Public Schools?

by: Jim Maziejka

The Importance of Translating Assessments

As the United States continues to grow increasingly diverse, public schools face many challenges when it comes to educating students who do not speak English as their first language. One of the biggest challenges within public schools is assessing these students’ academic progress and ensuring they receive the education they need and deserve. 

Translating assessments is one way to meet this challenge. By translating assessments into students’ native languages, schools can help level the playing field for students who struggle with English language proficiency (LEP). Let’s explore why public schools should translate assessments:

Equal Access to Education

One of the main reasons why translating assessments is essential is that it helps to ensure all students have equal access to education. When assessments are only available in English, students who are English language learners or have limited proficiency in English may be at a disadvantage. These students may struggle to understand the questions or to express their knowledge and skills effectively, leading to lower scores and less accurate assessments of their academic abilities. 

By translating assessments, schools can confirm that all students have equal opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. This is essential when it comes to high-stakes assessments, such as standardized tests, which are used to make important decisions about a student’s academic future. Translating these assessments can help prevent students from being unfairly penalized due to language barriers, making certain they are given a fair chance to succeed.

Improving Academic Outcomes

Translating assessments can lead to improved academic outcomes for students. When assessments are translated into students’ native languages, the LEP students are more likely to understand the questions and be able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, guaranteeing that students are not held back by language barriers. 

Research has shown that students who are assessed in their native languages tend to perform better on assessments than those who are assessed in a language they are still learning. For example, a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles found that English language learners who were assessed in their native languages had significantly higher levels of academic achievement than those who were assessed solely in English.

Meeting Legal Requirements

Under federal and state laws, public schools are required to provide accommodations and services to students with limited English proficiency. Translating assessments is one way that schools can fulfill this obligation. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in 2015, requires states to provide English language learners with valid, reliable assessments and measure their academic progress in English language proficiency. 

This includes the requirement that assessments be provided in the student’s primary language if that language is not English. Providing translated assessments is also a requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); mandating that schools provide accommodations and services to students with disabilities. For students who have a disability that negatively impacts their ability to read or write in English, translating assessments into their native language may be necessary to ensure the students can fully demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Enhancing Communication with Parents

Translating assessments can also help schools communicate better with parents who may not speak English as their first language. By providing information in the parent’s native language, schools can improve parent-teacher communication and increase parent involvement in their child’s education. This can lead to better outcomes for students, as parents who are involved in their child’s education tend to be more supportive and engaged. When parents are capable of understanding assessment results, they are better equipped to support their child’s academic responsibilities and endeavors. 

What types of assessments are translated
for school districts?

Standardized tests are one of the most common types of assessments that school districts translate for LEP students. These tests are required by many states and are used to measure student performance against predetermined academic standards. Examples of standardized tests that may be translated include the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

Classroom assessments are used by teachers to evaluate student learning and measure progress toward specific learning goals. Examples of classroom assessments that may be translated include quizzes, exams, essays and oral presentations. By providing accurate translations of these assessments, school districts can ensure that LEP students can fully demonstrate their understanding of the material and receive appropriate feedback on their work.

Progress reports are used by schools to provide families with feedback on their child’s academic progress. These reports may include grades, attendance records and comments from teachers. Translating progress reports can help ensure that LEP families understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses and can provide the necessary support for their academic growth.

IEP assessments are conducted to determine eligibility for special education services and to develop an individualized education plan for students with disabilities. These assessments may include evaluations by psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. Translating IEP assessments can help ensure that LEP families fully understand the assessment results and can participate in the development of their child’s IEP.

Many states require students to take college and career readiness assessments, such as the ACT or SAT, as part of their high school graduation requirements. These assessments determine a student’s readiness for post-secondary education and career opportunities. Translating college and career readiness assessments can help ensure that LEP students have equal access to higher education and career opportunities.

Parent-teacher conferences provide an opportunity for teachers to discuss a student’s progress with their family. Translating these conferences can help ensure that LEP families fully understand the information being shared and can ask questions or provide feedback as needed.

Schools may conduct parent surveys to gather feedback on school policies, programs, and services. Translating these surveys can help ensure that LEP families can provide input and feedback on issues that affect their child’s education.

In Closing: Translating of Student Assessments

Providing accurate and high-quality translations of various assessments can help ensure that LEP students have equal access to educational opportunities and support their academic success. By identifying the types of assessments that need to be translated and working with professional education translation services, school districts can ensure that LEP families receive information in their preferred language, participate in their child’s education and provide the necessary support for academic growth.

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