Using Real-World Tasks to Assess Student Performance

Aimee Mack came to a quick realization last spring as she and colleagues pored over Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation system: Their jobs would depend on being able to share evidence of their language learners’ growth with the entire school community. “We knew that as a department we were going to be looking at data as part of our evaluation,” says Mack, a French teacher and world languages team leader at Brookfield High School. “That made me wonder: Does a standardized test for world languages exist?” She soon heard about something that seemed to fit the bill: the ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages. Called AAPPL Measure or simply AAPPL, the online, performance-based test assesses students in the Interpersonal, Interpretive and Presentational modes of communication, with tasks that require learners to listen, read, speak, and write about topics commonly explored in language classrooms. Each task—whether typing out an e-mail message, video chatting with a recorded native speaker, or making selections based on an understanding of something heard, read, or viewed—occurs in the context of a Standards based classroom. Students can take one or all portions of the test; they then receive reports that classify their demonstrated level of performance and offer detailed suggestions for moving up. (Sample tests in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, and Russian can be found at More language are being added, including English.) AAPPL’s availability comes as states grapple with two interrelated, high-stakes challenges:

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