A multi-year plan to measure how our students progress towards proficiency

In order to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’re at.  

In our department recently, we decided to find out to what extent our scope and sequence is moving students towards higher proficiency.  

Next fall, the Spanish 1 teachers will be selecting seven promising students about two weeks into the school year for an OPI / proficiency study.  We said “seven” at our meeting on Thursday, but I think I’m going to come back later and suggest ten. I will do OPI’s with the selected students at the beginning of September, and then again in May during each year that they study Spanish.  

Span 1Sept OPI

May OPI
Span 2
Sept OPI

May OPI
Span 3
Sept OPI

May OPI
Span 4 or AP Span
Sept OPI

May OPI

I will also be looking to do this with my heritage students.  It’s trickier, because they are more varied in terms of their entrance proficiency levels, but that also makes it all the more worthwhile.  Are my heritage classes moving students forward with their language proficiency – or as Kim Potowski suggests, linguistic development? Will Intermediate students sneak into the Advanced range? Will Advanced-Low students become Advanced-Mid, over 2-3 years?

SNS 1
Sept OPI

May OPI
SNS 2
Sept OPI

May OPI
AP Span
Sept OPI

May OPI

Here are some questions we are attempting to answer.

  • We would like to determine the extent to which our curriculum is (or is not) advancing students upwards along the proficiency spectrum.  What’s the temperature of our curriculum as it currently stands? How do “strong” students, the ones who are invested in their learning and do the work we give, end up doing with what we teach?  
  • Are there certain courses in which language growth seems to slow down?  We have started questioning if the classes after Span 1 (especially year 3 and higher) are focusing on content that is too advanced and thus slows down progress. We should be able to hear a qualitative difference from September to May, in any proficiency-oriented class.  Will we?
  • Will the students themselves, and perhaps their classmates who look on, be more motivated to acquire language by seeing themselves and/or their classmates advance in proficiency from one year to the next?  
  • We suspect that the results we hear will lead us to hear what our students are not able to do and examine where our curriculum might be falling short.  This school year, we already started to implement some changes in Spanish 3 based on our understanding of proficiency. For example, we tossed out an environmental unit and replaced it with a unit of stockpiled Scholastic magazines.  What else should we do?

We are looking forward to learning about our students, about our curriculum, and about  proficiency in the classroom as we embark on this in a few months. Fortunately, our school offers a school-wide 60-minute lunch break, so it’ll be easy to get them all in in half hour slots, still leaving me enough time to eat.  

My intention is to keep recording our findings and our realizations on my blog here, so stay tuned over the next few… years.

Have any thoughts about this?  How about a name for this project?  If you have any ideas, let me hear them!  

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