By Sandra Baumel Durazzo, Head of Internationalization and Languages at Bahema Educação – Brazil
The role of schools today is different from what it used to be. In the 21st century, schools aim at preparing students to participate actively and critically in a world with subtle frontiers. Thus, instead of transmitting information, it is necessary to develop competencies. Effective communication is one of these essential competencies, especially in English, considering its international status.
Bahema Educação is an educational enterprise with 14 schools located in different states of Brazil. Each school has its own identity and pedagogical objectives. Bahema’s professionals have been debating on the role of assessment in our students’ education. Our analysis of collected data and research ultimately led to establishing a cycle of English proficiency evaluations in 2021.
Selecting an Assessment
As head of the Internationalization and Languages department, I led a study of assessment solutions from all around the world and selected the AAPPL. The main reason for choosing it was the focus on communicative abilities and proficiency, instead of verifying the use of certain grammar patterns or ranges of vocabulary. The fact that the different test forms targeted specific age groups and proficiency levels underscored the relevance of the assessment tasks for the students, and the reports generated by their results proposed valuable teaching and learning opportunities.
From decision to action
The whole process took about 6 months, from the moment we decided to use AAPPL tests to the meetings with the faculty of each school to discuss the results and define a course of action for the following years. What steps did we take? First, it was necessary to guide school administrators to prepare both the school and the community for testing days. We set up mentoring for teachers to learn about the proposal to use the AAPPL and get to know more about the assessment, so they could help students feel prepared for it. We also evaluated the testing spaces and technical requirements to ensure we could keep COVID-required protocols and have enough silence to avoid background noise interference for the speaking portion. We used many resources on the AAPPL Central website to help teachers, students, and parents know what to expect.
In September 2021, over 500 ninth grade students took the AAPPL. The schools reported easy management of the tests. Students were comfortable with it, although some of them were tired by the end of the last test. Overall, the school administrators and teachers were pleased to have a standardized assessment everyone can look to for reliable information.
The results revealed several accomplishments as well as challenges we will need to face. We learned that in the future we may want to consider administering individual components of the test in shorter sittings across multiple days instead of having students take the full AAPPL in one sitting. We also learned the instructions were accessible and easy for students to understand, making test administration very straightforward. We are developing proposals for teacher training, technology tools for learning, and other initiatives. In all of these proposals, having reliable data from the AAPPL helps inform and substantiate our requests. At each of the schools, teachers look at the Score Reports with their students to reflect on the reasons for the results obtained and how each individual can work to improve. Likewise, teachers are evaluating the reports to help them consider steps to improve their ELL programs. Using the AAPPL has been a very favorable and valuable experience for our organization.