Research Resources

LAS Links Test Design

  • LAS Links® is based on the idea that students acquire a second language when they have multiple opportunities to process meaning with other students, their teachers, and other adults in the school and elsewhere.
  • Students process information best when the information is systematically introduced, engaging, and accompanied by opportunities to practice their new skills and knowledge.
  • Students vary in how they learn language: for example, some rely on visual clues, others use advanced study skills, and most rely on a positive attitude nurtured by their teachers and peers.
  • The tasks and item types in LAS Links are designed to be engaging and to take into account these student learning differences.

LAS Links Research Design Process

  • In the design process, DRC carefully distinguished content of LAS Links from the input and guidance of second language acquisition research and theoretical development. Literature on these topics includes concepts that are evident in LAS Links’ item types, topics, language usage, linguistic expectations, and scoring.
  • Each grade-level span includes developmentally appropriate vocabulary, topics, syntax, and artwork. Test items use a variety of language contexts, from social interactions and pragmatic situations to content-related topics with academic language.
  • A variety of assessment and scoring methodologies are used within the assessment to allow students to demonstrate their proficiency and growth—from not being able to produce or understand English to manipulating single words and simple phrases, building sentences, and understanding longer passages.
  • Throughout an English language learner’s acquisition of English to fluency, LAS Links provides a measure to reflect the varied rates that students’ progress.

LAS Links Research Test Development

  • LAS Links developers considered several state ELP standards in the development of a research framework that incorporated the priorities and commonalities of standards in the language proficiency continuum.
  • This methodology paired with a model for ensuring the depth and breadth of an evaluation system, set the guidelines for detailed specifications that considered students’ cultural backgrounds and their familiarity with the formal education system in English. This approach is reasonable, considering that students need to perform in the content areas as they learn English.
  • The development of LAS Links considered students’ developmental stages as well as grade and intellectual maturity in a classroom context. The comprehensiveness of LAS Links ensures the assessment of a proficiency continuum in a thorough manner at each grade level.
  • As LAS Links assesses a student’s skills in English in a school situation, each student’s basic abilities in his or her first language was not the main focus of the assessment.

Specifically, the research methodology used to create LAS Links was based on theory of second language acquisition, including the following tenets:

  • Learners best acquire language when they have opportunities to collaborate and process meaning with their peers, teachers, and other school personnel.
  • Learners better process information when it is systematically and gradually introduced, is engaging, and recycles elements of the knowledge and skills necessary for learners to meet the requirements of the English-speaking academic, social, and test communities.
  • Learners exhibit individual differences in the way they learn language: some rely more on visual support, some on advanced study skills, and most successful learners rely on positive attitudes. The tasks and item types in LAS Links reflect these differences.
  • Learners start internalizing language patterns and conventions as they notice components of communicative competence in the tasks and stimuli.

preLAS Test Design

  • preLAS Assessment System (preLAS) is designed to measure English and Spanish language proficiency and pre-literacy skills of learners in early childhood—students aged 3 to 6 years old.
  • preLAS can be used for pre-kindergarten programs to first grade.
  • preLAS assesses children through authentic, naturalistic observations and provides a standardized way to screen and place students by evaluating listening and speaking skills.
  • preLAS can be used for program entry and exit, instructional placement, identifying academic strengths, and monitoring progress and growth.
  • preLAS is aligned with recommendations by the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and is aligned to the individual state learning standards.

preLAS Research Design Process

  • The preLAS proficiency assessment represents a convergent approach to language assessment. It is developmentally, linguistically, and psychometrically appropriate for children 3 to 6 years old. The definition and refinement of content specifications were continuous during the development of preLAS. The tests fully meet the strict criteria for reliability and validity of the American Psychological Association.
  • After items were matched to the initial theoretical rationale, test content was verified as part of the procedures for the development of items, analysis of pilot data, analysis of national and international standardization data, and selection of final test items. The procedures were designed to ensure that stimulus materials and items meet the content criteria established for the tests, were well constructed, and were written in language appropriate for this level of testing.
  • The final set of items for each part of the test was selected from a pool of items that reflected the identified objectives by a committee of experts. Criteria for item selection included level of difficulty, level of discriminate validity, inter-item and inter-subscale reliability, age and grade level appropriateness, and culture bias.

preLAS Research Framework

The research framework of preLAS has been carefully designed to include colorful illustrations and a game-like appearance to keep the child’s attention. The assessment is designed to be administered one-on-one and takes approximately 10-20 minutes.

The subscales used in preLAS are:

  • The child’s ability to follow instructions.
  • The child’s ability to understand simple oral instructions as well as language used to talk about relationships, likenesses and differences. The child points to one of two pictures, which best represents, the oral stimulus sentence.
  • The child’s ability to provide labels for common household objects—articles of clothing, eating utensils, and furniture.
  • The child’s expressive ability with morphological and syntactical features through the repetition of oral stimulus sentences.
  • The child’s ability to provide an appropriate clause to complete a compound or complex sentence.
  • The child’s ability to listen to a short story and then retell it. Sample probe questions are provided for use when the child is shy or reluctant to talk.

The subscales used in preLAS Oral that measure receptive and expressive language are:

  • Simon Says: This section tests receptive language, listening comprehension, following directions, and total physical response (TPR). This section utilizes simple directives typically encountered in early kindergarten classrooms. The vocabulary words refer to parts of the body and to items commonly encountered in household and pre-school environments such as pencil, floor, paper, and door.
  • Art Show: This section assesses expressive language and utilizes graphic stimuli to elicit labels for a number of concrete nouns without inflectional markers. The lexical items assessed in this subtest include concrete nouns, single-word responses, words that are commonly used in a household environment, etc. This section of the test shows a student’s ability to produce oral vocabulary and verb phrases at appropriate levels of development.
  • Say What You Hear: This session assesses the student’s receptive and expressive abilities with morphological and syntactical features and focuses on sentence repetition and grammatical features.
  • The Human Body: This section of the test asks students to name 10 parts of the human body and focuses on lexicon commonly acquired by native-speaking children.
  • Let’s Tell Stories: This session assesses expressive language and represents an integrative approach to language testing. Students transform “storytelling and retelling” into their own words, reflecting a level of syntactic development. Students demonstrate their ability to produce complete sentences, retell simple narration with picture cues.

preLAS Research Test Development

The preLAS Observational Assessment is informed by recommendations by the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC). These developmental recommendations specify that every young English language learner requires assessments that are especially designed for them, in other words, that are developmentally appropriate and have been field-tested with representative populations. For example, a test that is too long, or that requires preschool children to use paper and pencil is, for the most part, inappropriate.

preLAS Test Development Considerations Included:

  • Observing children rather than testing them individually captures authentic uses of language throughout the day and across multiple contexts:
    • interactions with peers
    • politeness routines
    • storytelling abilities
    • word and sound play
  • Observations made multiple times across a range of contexts to maximize the validity of the final inferences drawn.
  • Also yields information about how well children are able to generalize their new skills and knowledge across contexts.

Additional test development considerations included:

  • Limits to memory load
  • Slower processing speeds
  • Short-term motivation issues-their attention can wander easily
  • Greater risk of testing fatigue
  • Anxiety and/or wariness
  • Unfamiliar testing practices
  • Curricula focused on oral language and early literacy

Research Methodology

Research Methodology Process for LAS Links Assessments
DRC’s test development and research professionals began the development of the suite of LAS Links assessments by conducting an extensive analysis of national, state, and local standards and curricula. DRC staff worked with teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists to ensure that LAS Links assessments present content that matches instruction and reflects the design of contemporary classroom materials. DRC’s test development staff created detailed specifications and learning objectives, including rigorous standards for content, page design, grade-level appropriateness, and equity.

Designing Assessment Specifications
LAS Links developers wrote detailed specifications for assessment development. These specifications ensured that stimulus materials and items met the content criteria established for the test and that they were well constructed and written in language appropriate for the various levels of English language learner testing. The specifications were applied to all aspects of development, including the creation of tryout materials, analysis of tryout data, and selection of materials for the final tests.

Conducting Curriculum Reviews
Assessment content was defined by objectives and frameworks in state, district, and classroom curricula, standards in the most recent national standards publications, content of currently used language proficiency texts and series, and practices in model educational programs. Review of these documents was ongoing during the development of LAS Links assessments.

Writing and Developing Assessment Materials
A staff of professional item writers—many of them experienced language proficiency teachers/administrators—researched, collected, and wrote the material. To provide a large pool of items for the national test selection, almost twice the number of items needed were developed. All assessment materials were carefully reviewed for content and editorial accuracy. Artists and designers worked with the content developers during development to ensure graphic and textual clarity and appropriateness in the test.