Initial Assessment Strategy 3

3.Why assess students' academic and language skills in their native language? When new monolingual English speaking students enroll in school it is customary for the school and/or classroom teacher(s) to assess their academic skills. This is done so that the program and instructional strategies can match the skills and needs of the learner and can build on his/her prior knowledge. For ELLs, it is also important to ascertain the literacy skills that students have gained in the first language, as well as in English. Literacy skills from the child's first language can translate to and facilitate the acquisition of English language literacy skills (August, Calderon, & Carlo, 2001).

In addition, from a cross-cultural standpoint it is very important to value the student's native language. Assessing students' academic skills in only their second language implies that the first language is not important. Assessment of academic skills in the student's primary language demonstrates that the school values prior literacy attainment. Research shows that students can benefit from literacy skills in their native languag (Goodman, 1998).


August, D., Calderon, M., & Carlo, M. (2001, February). The transfer of skills from Spanish to English: A study of young learners. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). 

Goodman, E. (1998, April 20). The bilingual question. Currents, 2(34). Santa Cruze, CA: University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Public Information Office.