Skip Navigation

Effect of Linguistic Modification of Math Assessment Items on English Language Learner StudentsEffect of Linguistic Modification of Math Assessment Items on English Language Learner Students

Regional need and study purpose. The complexity of the language in mathematics test items may interfere with the ability of English language learner students to demonstrate their understanding of mathematics concepts on achievement tests. This study examines whether linguistic modification of such test items affects middle school English learner students' ability to show what they know and can do in mathematics.

Intervention description. Linguistic modification purposefully alters the language of test items, directions, and response options—by reducing sentence length and complexity and using common or familiar words and concrete language—to clarify and simplify the text without simplifying or significantly altering the construct (concepts, knowledge, skills) tested. Experts developed two item sets to measure the effects of linguistic modification on student access to test content: the treatment item set, containing 25 linguistically modified mathematics items, and the control item set, with the original, unmodified items.

Study design and period. Using a 2-by-3 fully crossed design, the study administered the linguistically modified and unmodified item sets to 4,600 students in grades 7 and 8 in the spring or summer of 2008. The factors are item sets (linguistically modified or original) and student population; grade level (7 or 8) serves as a blocking factor. Student population comprises English language learner students, non-English language learner students at low reading levels, and non-English language learner students at high reading levels.

Key outcomes and measures. The outcome is student performance in mathematics measured through the linguistically modified and unmodified assessment items.

Data collection approach. Data collection involved six sources of data: expert review, cognitive interviews, item tryouts, operational administration of the item sets, student language background survey, and student achievement history data.

Analysis plan. Various analyses are planned: item-level descriptive, variance, differential item functioning, factor structure of the tests, and test correlation.

Principal investigators. Stanley Rabinowitz, PhD, and Edynn Sato, PhD.

Additional Information. Region, contact information, and references

printClick here for full printable version