Assessment information needs to be interpreted and reported to various audiences. The form of the report needs to be appropriate to the audience who will receive it.
1. In what way is reporting about EAL students both similar to and different from reporting about your other students?
2. What do you know or assume about the audiences for your reports on EAL learners?
3. What assessment data (from both formal and informal assessment) do you draw upon when reporting to EAL learners, their parents or carers and other teachers who teach the student?
4. Think about the following questions about the ways you report on EAL students:
- How do you report to EAL students?
- How do you report to parents and carers of EAL students?
- How do you report about your EAL students to your colleagues?
- How do you report about your EAL students to the school leadership?
5. How effective are these reports, and what could be improved to make them more effective for EAL learners and their parents or carers in your school?
6. How do you and your school provide information and communicate in comprehensible language for parents or carers of EAL learners?
Assessment for Learning principles emphasise the use of information from assessment to improve student learning. In addition, teachers follow system-wide or school policies and practices in producing formal reports for parents and guardians. Reporting is the ‘formal’ use of assessment information about students with parents and carers. It is important to consider how reporting to parents and carers of EAL students can have maximum impact on improving learning for students.
Reporting on assessment information as a dialogue
When reports are produced and shared with parents the focus is usually on the product, the report itself. However, thinking about how the report nurtures conversations about learning can lead to the report having a much longer term and profound impact than if the report is prepared, delivered, and then forgotten about.
Reports can open dialogues between:
|teachers and students||…when teachers share and discuss the contents of reports with students, and have follow up conversations about learning; conversations in which references that are made to achievements and challenges are related to what has been said in reports.|
|parents or carers and teachers||
…when communication is not just one way communication from teachers to parents and carers, but when parents and carers are asked to respond to what they have learned from reports, as well as to ask questions about a report. Further discussion can extend to how parents can help stimulate the child’s learning progress, and to the hopes and expectations of parents and carers for children’s learning. The conversation about a child’s learning can continue in many ways beyond parent-teacher meetings, including:
Such communication does not need to be as formal as a periodic report, but when the content of these exchanges is related to what was discussed in the report, there is follow-up on the report, and a foundation for using it to help students and their families to extend their learning on an on-going basis and not just at ‘report time’.
Making suggestions about strategies and actions should be the focus of these conversations, not evaluative comments. Use examples in the student’s work as a basis for suggestions.
|students and parents and carers||… when students are asked to explain their report to their parents or carers. This way of discussing reports (‘Student-led’ or ‘3-way conferences’) is an emerging practice in education that involves students taking more responsibility, and thinking more about their learning and progress. It provides a basis for more dialogue between students and their families, and takes learning beyond the school and into the family. There is a growing literature on this approach to reporting- see Reading and resources (at the bottom of this page) for details and examples.|
Depending on the language proficiency of EAL learners and their parents and carers, arrangements for interpreting services may be needed when teachers are part of these conversations, and students will require support and preparation for this task until they get used to taking on this role.
Basis of reports about EAL learners
Assessment information may be the result of formal assessments made of EAL student work in a variety of tasks or it may be the result of less formal assessment, such as incidental observations of the student both inside and outside class. It may include information gleaned in conversations with the student. A wide range of information, covering all language macro skills (listening and speaking, reading and writing) as well as language about different topics needs to be used to prepare comprehensive reports. Reports about EAL learners need to be broad based and comprehensive, and not based only on a limited number of tests or tasks.
Issues to consider in preparing reports about EAL students
1. Format and nature of reports
Some education systems have specific requirements and provide guidelines about the format and nature of reports to parents. See, for example, Department of Education and Training, Victoria and BOSTES NSW. This advice offered by these systems emphasises the need for responsible and ethical reporting which is clear and easily comprehensible to students. There is also some specific guidance about reporting about EAL learners at the Department of Education and Training's web site.
2. Audience for reports
In addition, teachers and schools should consider the audience for a report, and how reports about EAL learners can be made relevant and accessible for that audience.
|Possible audiences for reports about EAL learners|
1. Parents and carers
The usual reporting policies and practices of your education system and school apply to the parents of EAL learners. There are some additional factors that need to be considered in reporting to parents and carers of EAL learners: It is important to consider whether parents and carers have adequate English proficiency to understand the report. There can be many different answers to this question, as sometimes parents of EAL learners know very little English, while in other cases a parent or carer may be quite proficient in English. Schools should provide parents and carers with translations of reports when it is necessary and wherever possible. If it is not possible to provide a translation, schools should provide opportunities for the report to be discussed in the parents’ or carers’ home language, using a Multicultural Education Aide (MEA) or interpreter. Schools should consult with parents and carers to determine which reports require translation or explanation through an interpreter.
Parents and carers of EAL learners may be more familiar with education practices and expectations in their birth country than in Australia. In some cases they may have had limited experience of schooling themselves in their country of origin. In these circumstances reports may need to be more fully explained or be supported with some further communication with parents and carers about the expectations and practices of the school, and discussion about how expectations in Australia may be similar to and different from what parents and carers have experienced in the past may need to take place.
2. EAL learners
While teachers of EAL learners provide ongoing feedback to students, formal reports are an opportunity to give students an overview of their progress, including what they have achieved, and what they still have to learn. As well as providing information through the parents’, carers’ and child’s home language, the report will have maximum impact for the student when the information provided is comprehensible to the student, and gives an idea of what he or she can do, as well as what he or she needs to work on to improve. Specific examples of what is being said will help the report have maximum effectiveness.
3. ‘Mainstream’ teachers of EAL learners
Teachers working with EAL students need to communicate what they know about an EAL student’s skills to colleagues working with that student. This may be done in formal meetings or less formal conversations, and sometimes in formal written reports, such as when a student is changing schools or moving from a new arrivals/English language school or centre to a mainstream school. In these communications, provide information that will assist the teacher to understand what levels of participation in class and learning activities they can expect of the student, as well as how the student can be supported in learning subject content, and develop language relevant to the learning area(s).
3. Points of reference for reporting of assessment information about EAL learners :
Learning EAL is a long-term process, in which students move from having no or limited ability to communicate in the language, to becoming as proficient as their age/year level peers in the use of English. While reports should include descriptions of what EAL students can do, and what they are ready to learn to do, there are three possible points of comparison that can be useful in preparing reports about EAL students. These are the student’s own development, their current stage of learning in EAL, and how their current skills compare to expectations of ‘mainstream’ students at their year or age level. The circumstances in which each of these is useful varies according to the stage at which a report is prepared. The following table summarises the potential and limitations.
|Points of comparison to use in preparing reports about EAL learners.|
Point of comparison
|Student development||Describes development of the student over the period covered by the report. This is a major concern of parents.||Does not provide an indication of how the student compares to either EAL or mainstream peers.||Can be used to maintain sense of achievement and balance in a report that identifies what a student still has to learn.|
Point of progress in EAL learning (e.g. Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL levels)
|Identifies the student’s current stage of EAL learning in context of the overall process of developing proficiency in English.||The technical nature of such descriptions needs to be explained in ways the audience for the report can understand.||All formal reports on EAL learners should include information on the student's current level of English skills and how the student is moving through stages of EAL learning.|
|Age/year level ‘mainstream’ expectations and norms.||Identifies learning needs for successful learning in mainstream classes.||Identifies what a student can’t do (yet), and can result in a negative sounding, or overwhelming report which may be demotivating for the student. Use in conjunction with student progress and points of progress.||This is most relevant and useful as students approach or move through the final stages of EAL learning (e.g. Victorian Curriculum F-10 levels, A2, B3 and C4), although some reference to mainstream expectations can be appropriate at earlier stages of EAL learning.|
|It is useful to keep each of these points of comparison in mind when preparing reports about EAL learners, and writing a report which balances these in a way that is appropriate for both the current stage of EAL learning and the audience for the report. For example, in the earlier stages of EAL learning, more emphasis may be given to the students’ development and less to mainstream expectations, while at the later stages of EAL development emphasis on mainstream norms will be more relevant. Reports written for parents and carers are likely to give some attention to student development, while reports for mainstream teachers will need to include reference to mainstream expectations.|
In writing a report, it is also important to consider factors such as absences, illness, family settlement issues, etc. that may have had an impact on the student’s progress. Before commenting on these, it is always sound practice to confer with welfare coordinators, multicultural education aides or staff who are familiar with the student and their family to discuss ways of expressing such comments in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
Communication with EAL learners’ families about reports
- How can schools report to parents and guardians of EAL learners in language that is comprehensible to them?
While reports for parents should always be written in plain language avoiding unnecessary technical terms and jargon, teachers should be mindful of the English proficiency of EAL parents and guardians when writing reports for them. Parents and guardians may be quite proficient in English, may be in the process of learning it, or have limited knowledge of it, depending on their circumstances. It is worth communicating with parents to establish whether English is their preferred language for receiving reports, and if not arrangements need to be made to use an interpreting service.
|Reporting to parents and carers of EAL learners and students in their home language|
Parents and carers are entitled to reports on their child’s progress. This means that when their English proficiency is limited, translations must be provided, or the report delivered in a context where it can be explained, discussed, and questions asked through a suitable interpreter.
Interpreting (explaining what is said in Language A into Language B) and translation (producing an equivalent written text in Language B of an original written in Language A) are specialised skills. Children should not be used as interpreters or translators of school reports because this infringes privacy principles, and presents a task children are not trained for and perhaps are not capable of, even when they are proficient in both languages. Schools should use appropriate adult interpreters, including telephone interpreters, or translators whenever possible. Where possible interpreting and translation services should be provided by any of these options:
• Bilingual/multilingual, multicultural aides employed in schools to facilitate communication between EAL students’ families and the school. These staff can explain what is written in reports, and communicate with parents and guardians in their home language. They can also provide teachers with information about the concerns and perceptions of parents and guardians.
• Bilingual school staff members, who have sufficient proficiency in the language spoken by an EAL student’s family, who have some skill and experience in interpreting and translating, and who are willing to undertake this responsibility. Such staff members should be approached in advance, and given adequate time to prepare for the task, rather than being ‘put on the spot’ at the moment their services are required;
• Interpreters or translators holding a suitable level of accreditation under the NAATI accreditation framework. This would normally be at least level 2 (‘Professional translator/Interpreter’), meaning the person has been assessed as having adequate language proficiency and interpreting/translation skills for working in school contexts.
These services may be provided in person, or in certain circumstances by a telephone service. This is particularly useful if interpreters in a language are not available in the locality of the school, or for languages it is otherwise difficult to find interpreters for. Some school systems have contracts with agencies that provide interpreting and translation services, such as the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) contract with LanguageLoop, which means all government school in Victoria can obtain interpreters and translation services free of charge. For more information, see Use an interpreter or translator. Schools in other systems can use the services of interpreting and translation agencies or other organisations that may be able to provide these services.
Teachers involved in meetings, including parent-guardian interviews, should be prepared for the use of an interpreter in order to maximise the efficiency of this mode of communication. LanguageLoop provides downloadable advice sheets that provide information that helps maximise the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings and meetings mediated through a telephone interpreter:
Using standardised, norm-based assessment information about EAL learners
Assessment information about EAL learners needs to be carefully analysed before conclusions are drawn for school performance or accountability. As learning EAL is a long-term process, results for EAL learners should take into account their current stage of EAL development, and often this is also related to the amount of experience and time they have had in learning and using English. Care needs to be taken in comparing EAL learners’ results in standardised tests like NAPLAN with the general cohort of students who have taken the test. It is more valid to relate EAL scores on such tests to how you would expect students at the same stage of EAL development to perform on the test.
Sample reports about EAL learners
These samples from different schools present a range of practices for reporting on EAL students at different stages of schooling and different stages of EAL learning. Compare these with the information provided on this part of the TEAL site, and with the reports written for EAL learners in your school.
|Context and commentary|
EAL students at this level of schooling are new or relatively new to formal schooling and are also unfamiliar with English. Reports therefore need to deal with both how the child is adjusting to school and beginning to learn and use English.
These samples come from English language schools (Samples 1 and 2) that teach new arrivals students, as well as from a mainstream school (Sample 3).
All school, teacher and student names are pseudonyms.
New arrivals program reports (Pathway A Samples 1 and 2)
Both reports are progress reports about students as they move through the new arrivals program, and both are written about students who are at relatively early stages of learning EAL (Level A1).
There are common elements in the reports, as well as some notable differences. Both have a relatively simple structure and include statements of what the student can do. Both include some information about how parents can assist their child with their learning at home, and both reports extend beyond the modes of the EAL curriculum (Speaking and Listening, Reading and Viewing, Writing), to include information about language use in the area of mathematics, and the child’s adjustment to the context of the classroom.
However, these common elements are done in different ways in each report. In Sample 1 the use of a ‘checklist’ with a consistent range of descriptions that apply to student performance is used. This can be translated for all students, or even be presented bilingually on a report, thus simplifying translation of reports. In Sample 2 the report is limited to one page, short sentences under each area of learning provide a relatively simple text when translation is required. Such reports are relatively easy to write, while providing useful and rich information. Statements about what the student can do are presented in a descriptive paragraph in Sample 1, while in Sample 2 they are presented in the points made under each area of learning. In Sample 1 general advice is given to parents about how to assist their child, while in Sample 2 comments are made in relation to each area of learning for the child.
There other notable differences between the reports. Sample 1 includes statements about the nature of the curriculum, while Sample 2 indicates the student’s current level according to the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL. Sample 2 includes information on absences, while Sample 1 does not.
Both reports provide useful information to parents and convey a sense of the progress the student is making in their adjustment to school and their learning of English. Both samples illustrate useful strategies that can be used in reporting to parents of Pathway A (Years F – 2) EAL learners in a new arrivals program context, which may also be useful in mainstream schools.
Mainstream school report (Pathway A, Year 1, Sample 3)
This report informs parents of the nature of EAL learning for their child at this stage of his transition into school in Australia. It provides a visual depiction of the stage he is at in his learning in relation to reading and speaking and listening, but not writing, which is dealt with in the descriptive comments. The descriptive comments give general and some specific information. Specific learning needs are identified and suggestions are made about how the student can be supported at home in his learning, as well as indicating how the school will be supporting the child’s learning in the future.
|Context and commentary|
EAL students at middle to upper primary grade levels usually enter school in Australia with limited English but they may have some prior experience of formal schooling and literacy in their home language. These are resources they can draw on as they commence learning English and adjusting to learning in Australian classrooms.
Students who start in the BL (pre literacy) stage are exceptions to this, and are likely to take longer to adjust to formal schooling and learning a second or additional language and developing initial literacy skills.
These samples come from an English language school (Pathway B Sample 1) that teaches new arrivals students, as well as from a mainstream school (Pathway B Sample 2).
All school, teacher and student names are pseudonyms.
New arrivals program report (Pathway B, Sample 1)
This report is written about a 12-year-old student who has been learning in an English language school for one 10-week term. The report includes both a set of statements and indicators of level of performance, which can be translated (or even provided bilingually) relatively easily. It also includes a description of the student’s skills written by the teacher, which means the teacher has scope to say whatever needs to be said, rather than being limited by a given set of comments. The teacher has framed the comments so they relate to the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL, although there is no explicit match of the student to a given stage. There are also statements about the student's general adjustment to class, as well as comments about her learning language for Maths and learning in other curriculum areas such as Physical Education. The report includes a statement of the focus of learning in the student's class, and general suggestions about strategies parents can use to assist their child’s learning.
Mainstream school reports (Pathway B, Samples 2 and 3)
These reports visually depict the students current points of progress in moving through the Pathway B of the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL. Descriptive comments provide specific information about skills the students have developed and what they are currently able to do in their use of English. Specific learning needs, ways of providing support at home, and strategies the school will use in helping the students to progress are identified. While the reports provide a lot of information they are framed in direct and easily accessible language.
|Context and commentary|
EAL students at secondary levels usually enter school in Australia with limited English but they may have some prior experience of formal schooling and literacy in their home language. These are resources they can draw on as they commence learning English and adjusting to learning in Australian classrooms. Their self-awareness and identity is also developing, and this can be a significant factor in their learning as they adjust to school in Australia.
Students who start in the CL (pre literacy) stage are exceptions to this, and are likely to take longer to adjust to formal schooling and learning a second or additional language and developing initial literacy skills.
These samples come from English language schools (Pathway C Samples 1 and 2) that teach new arrivals students, as well as from a mainstream school (Pathway C Sample 3).
All school, teacher and student names are pseudonyms.
New arrivals program report (Pathway C Samples 1 and 2)
These reports take different approaches, but both provide comprehensive information about the students’ progress. Sample 1 places the student along the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL secondary levels, and provides a number of short sentences about how the student is progressing in different areas of learning. Sample 2 provides indications of levels of performance on a number of statements and a descriptive comment about the student’s progress. Both reports include advice about how parents can assist their child with their learning, and both include information about adjustment to school in Australia and other curriculum areas.
Mainstream secondary school sample EAL student reports
All secondary-aged EAL learners participate in the relevant subjects for their year level, and reports are written for all subjects. EAL subject reports should contextualise the current stage of learning of the student, as well as providing detailed information on the child’s learning and use of English. Other subject reports are more likely to be framed in terms of the expectations of subject learning at the relevant year level, but mention can be made of how an EAL learner is developing subject skills and language specific to the learning area.
As the parents of EAL students may not be familiar with Australian approaches to education and subjects that focus on Australian content, schools should employ strategies such as discussion of the report with teachers, parents and students, translation and the use of interpreters, when appropriate, to ensure parents fully understand reports about their children.
These sample reports come from a secondary college and cover the EAL subject and, for Sample 3, home group. They illustrate some strategies that can be used to provide useful information to parents.
|Context and commentary|
Transition reports are provided for students moving from English language schools where a student has been studying for between one term and one year, to mainstream schools the students are moving to. The audience for the reports is the teachers who will be working with the student in the new school – especially the EAL teachers. The purpose of the reports is to inform these teachers about the stage of learning the EAL student has reached, and give the new teacher information about the prior learning experiences of the student.
As transition reports are written for teachers, they are more technical in orientation, and make explicit, detailed reference to the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL framework, as well as covering other learning areas, general adjustment to class and whether the student may need any specific welfare support.
The result is a longer, more technical and more detailed report than progress reports given to parents and carers. Some English language schools also provide copies of transition reports to parents, so parents and carers are aware of what has been reported to their child’s new school.
While the sample transition report is for a primary (Pathway B, middle to upper primary) EAL student, transition reports for lower primary (Levels A1 and A2) and secondary students (Levels C1 to C4) share the features of the sample report.
All names in the sample transition report are pseudonyms.
The TEAL EAL report template can be used to compare report formats used for reports on EAL learners. It incorporates ideas provided in the input sections of this section of the TEAL website, as well as practices illustrated in some of the samples EAL reports provided on this site. It can be used in the following ways:
- as the format for a school’s report on EAL learners
- as an example to consider when schools are designing or revising their reporting format for EAL learners
- as a point of comparison or example for a review of a school’s reports for EAL learners
- as stimulus material for staff discussions or professional learning activities about reporting to parents and guardians.
Instructions relevant to completion of each section of the report are presented in square brackets [… ] which should be deleted from final reports.
2. Links and resources related to interpreting and translation
Further information about translation and interpreting services can be obtained at the following websites:
3. Information about and examples of student-led or 3-way conferences
A number of websites provide information about this new development in education that promotes reporting as a dialogue, as well as students taking responsibility for their learning. These include:
Examples that can be seen on YouTube include:
4. Information about increasing engagement with schools of parents and carers of EAL learners
Some North American websites have some excellent materials that present strategies for improving connections between the school and EAL learners’ families. These use US terminology for EAL Learners – ‘ELLs’ (English Language Learners) and make references to the US school system, School Districts are the authorities that administer schools in local government areas. You may need to make some allowances for US conditions, for example schools often serve neighbourhoods that are more homogenous than is the case in many Australian schools, and many schools have students with an Hispanic background.
- Colorin Colorado : If you click the link to ‘see guide’ you download a very comprehensive discussion of strategies for increasing EAL parent engagement in the school.
This web site also includes resources on teaching and assessing reading. It features this video of Nancy Cloud speaking about why benchmarks for native speakers are not appropriate for young ELL learners.
1. Review a report you have recently written for an EAL learner, and compare it with a sample report for an EAL student at a similar stage of EAL learning, in light of the comments in the Input section.
2. Compare the TEAL EAL report template with the template or format of reports used by your school. What are the similarities and differences? What changes would you suggest to your school’s template, and why would you make these changes?
3. Does your school report to parents of EAL learners in their first language? What procedures are used to decide who needs translated reports or interpreter assistance? Who is used as interpreters? Are all staff involved prepared for the use of interpreters?
4. How are the results of norm-based assessments of EAL learners analysed and used in your school?