Interpreting EL Data
In the U.S., students are expected to participate in learning conducted primarily in English. With this in mind, FastBridge recommends screening all students in English, regardless of language background. Using the national norms and benchmarks FastBridge provides for each screener, educators can determine each student’s level of performance on essential English reading skills relative to grade-level expectations. Screening all students three times per year shows how the student is progressing toward English literacy.
For those students with below benchmark scores, it is recommended that further steps be taken to ascertain the instructional needs of each student. The FastBridge Screening to Intervention Report breaks down student performance into critical reading areas, provides recommended interventions based on each student’s score profile, and includes recommended dosage for the intervention. Pairing the intervention with frequent progress monitoring indicates whether additional English instruction is needed.
For English learners with below benchmark scores, FastBridge also recommends evaluating the student’s literacy skills in their primary language. FastBridge provides a suite of early reading assessments in Spanish that include measures of phonemic awareness, letter recognition, phonics, word reading fluency, and passage reading (through Grade 5); these assessments include earlyReading Spanish and CBMreading Spanish. Using the national norms and benchmarks with these Spanish assessments, educators can determine the student’s level of proficiency in the primary language.
This information aids in understanding the student’s overall exposure to print (letters, words, books), and may signal a need for more intensive instruction. For students with average to above average reading skills in the primary language, FastBridge recommends promoting those skills and leveraging them for further English literacy instruction. For students enrolled in bilingual (Spanish/English) programs that include ongoing instruction in Spanish, FastBridge recommends ongoing screening in both languages to monitor progress in both languages.
Alongside using FastBridge benchmarks and norms to identify English learner needs, teachers should consider additional factors that influence English learners' academic progress. For English learners identified as at-risk, it is important to consider the amount of time the student has been exposed to English language instruction, the characteristics of their first language, and proficiency in their first language (if Spanish, we strongly recommend administering the earlyReading Spanish - Composite and/or CBMreading Spanish).
The sections below provide more information about benchmarks, rates of improvement, and the factors that affect English language acquisition and proficiency for English learners.
Other Factors to Consider
Additional factors that will influence an English learner’s progress toward English literacy include:
- First language(s)
- Amount of time exposed to English
- Years of schooling in a first language
- Prior English instruction
- Type and frequency of English instruction provided
- Other individual factors such as attendance, disability, and engagement
There are many languages and each has its own features. Some languages are oral only and others have both oral and written forms. Among written languages, some will have features more similar to English and others will be very different. A student’s specific first language will influence the student’s language learning experience and likely affect how quickly the student will acquire English language and literacy skills.
Amount of Time Exposed to English
Students attending U.S. schools will have varying prior exposure to English, in both oral and written forms. Some English learners may have extensive prior exposure because English was also used in their home or community. Alternatively, they might have heard or seen English through various media. Other students might have had virtually no prior exposure to English before enrolling in a U.S. school. The amount of English exposure will influence the pace of English language and literacy acquisition for individual students.
Years of Schooling in First Language
Similar to the effects of the type of language and prior English exposure, English learners vary in terms of how much prior schooling they have experienced. Some might have attended school in another country for many years and others might not have due to a variety of circumstances. Regardless of the reason, the amount of a student’s prior school experience can affect acquiring English in relation to knowledge of school and classroom routines as well as first language vocabulary development.
Prior English Instruction
As noted, the amount of English instruction over time will affect a student’s progress. In relation to understanding a student’s relative English proficiency, it is important for teachers to know how much, and what type, of prior English instruction the student has had.
Type and Frequency of English Instruction Provided
There are many different models and methods for teaching English to students of other languages and the specific method(s) used can affect a student’s progress. Types of instruction can include (but are not limited to) full immersion in English only, bilingual instruction in both languages, transitional English instruction that is later removed, and others. The type and frequency of English instruction over time will influence a student’s English language and literacy development.
Other Individual Factors Such as Attendance, Disability, and Engagement
Just like all students, English learner progress will be influenced by factors such as school attendance, the presence of a disability, general engagement in daily lessons, etc. Teachers need to consider these alongside the student’s current English proficiency and the above factors when interpreting FastBridge scores.
The FastBridge benchmarks provide a tool to know to what extent a student’s current score may indicate risk for later English reading difficulties. If a student’s score falls at or above the low-risk level, it suggests that the student can read and use English similarly to same-grade native English peers. If the score falls in some risk or high-risk range, then the student’s current English skills are not at the level necessary to participate in English-only instruction without appropriate supports in place.
Understanding Rate of Improvement (ROI)
Once at least two screening periods have been completed, or with progress monitoring data, a student’s rate of improvement (ROI) can be evaluated. The FastBridge norms tables display typical rates of improvement for students participating in English-based instruction. When a student’s ROI is similar to or above same-grade native English peers, it suggests that the student’s English skills are developing at an expected rate. If a student’s ROI is well below same-grade peers, it is important to consider the above factors related to English learning. In such cases, it might be important to provide more intensive English language and literacy instruction to improve the ROI.