So, I recently had the opportunity to administer the STAMP 4s proficiency test to a small group of my students across levels 2-AP (which is level five). I’ve always wanted to administer a proficiency assessment to my students but wasn’t sure if/when I’d get the chance, until my colleague and I got into a rather, ahem – shall we say spirited discussion of proficiency levels and what students could do at each (and that a French 1 student is probably not a reliable Intermediate Low). Our curriculum coordinator gave us permission to test 5 random (key word – random) students in levels 2, 3, 4 and AP. Because we wanted our data before our district-wide meeting that’s taking place tomorrow (March 15), we decided not to test French 1 until the end of the year. I’m not teaching French 1 this year, so that was fine by me.
Our district provided the funding for us to test our students – our ISD subsidizes some of the cost so it was only $10/student and our curriculum department took care of that.
The STAMP assessment has two sections – Reading & Writing and Listening & Speaking. You have to complete either reading or listening to do the output sections; it’s not an option to just do writing and speaking. The test is adaptive, so the reading and listening samples get harder the better a student performs. Their results on the interpretive section of the test also determine what kind of prompts they receive for the writing and speaking (three prompts each).
The test is administered via computer. I have a laptop cart in my room for 1:1 use, so I had our tech specialist re-image and update the computers to make sure they met the tech specs for the test. Our department also has 30 headphone/microphone combo sets, so I made sure to have those on hand for the listening and speaking portions of the test.
Prior to administering the test, I used the index cards I have for cold-calling on students to randomly select 5 students per level. I offered them an extra-credit incentive to take the test (plus, they were excused from that day’s classwork).
Giving the test
On the website, it says that the interpretive sections of the test should take about 40-45 minutes, and the speaking and writing sections about 20-25 minutes each. So I planned to do two days of testing one week, and two days of testing a second week. The assessment can be stopped and resumed at any point – even in the middle of a section.
I have a large classroom, so I set up my test takers on one side and administered class normally on the other. It seemed to work just fine that way. We experienced a few technological issues, but nothing that switching a set of headphones or getting a new laptop couldn’t fix.
I planned the administration of the test around our Charity Week, which was the first full week in February; nothing big gets done that week in terms of instruction because there are so many interruptions, so I figured it was ample time to get the test done and over with before our March 15th deadline.
Reflections on testing
You guys. This test took FOR. EV. ER.
As in, I started in the first full week of February and I STILL have some students who haven’t finished. It is THAT MUCH of a time suck. I finally had to let it go – what’s done is done and their results are their results on whatever parts of the test they took. Seriously, the students taking the test were starting to miss so much class material that it became frustrating for me and them. I guess because of the adaptive nature of the test, it just naturally becomes more long but after 180 minutes of testing, the software quits recording exactly how much time was spent on it and just says “180+ minutes.” Time does not factor into their score, and neither the speaker nor writing portions are timed, so a student can very easily plan what they are going to write/say in response to the prompt. Recordings can also be re-done if students are not satisfied with their first attempt. In that way, I would say that it is much less of a proficiency assessment and far more of a performance assessment due to the processing time allowed and the lack of interpersonal interaction/negotiation of meaning.
Despite the enormous time commitment of the assessment, I have been so far very pleased with the results. Across all levels, students performed very well in reading, with an average score of 6 (Intermediate High) even in level 2; the highest score for reading was an 8 (Advanced Mid) by one of my AP students. Listening tended to vary wildly across the board, with some students earning scores as high as a 7 (Advanced Low) in AP and as low as a 2 (Novice Mid) in French 3.
In terms of writing and speaking, the majority of my students performed exactly as I thought they would, if a bit lower in some cases. For example, I have a student in French 2 who performs very well on in-class assignments and assessments who scored a 2 on writing (Novice Mid) and a 3 on speaking (Novice High), and a French 3 student who I thought for sure would be well into Intermediate got a 3 (Novice High) on speaking. That being said, the VAST majority of my students were in Intermediate range, with many scores of 4 (Intermediate Low) and 5 (Intermediate Mid) on speaking and writing across levels 2-AP. I had a smattering of 6s (Intermediate High) in speaking/writing for my AP students (and even one French 4 student). No one scored higher than a 6 (Intermediate High) on the speaking portion, which to me proves the point that an immersive study abroad experience really is required to get students over that hump into the Advanced proficiency range.