The ACES Project created new course-level curriculum maps, benchmarks, and thematic units with integrated performance assessments for Arabic and Chinese in Minneapolis, based on the Understanding by Design framework, (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005). This curriculum design model allowed ACES project teachers to develop curriculum that integrates an interdisciplinary, content-based approach that incorporates the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning, (ACTFL, 1996). The themes, topics, and benchmarks are articulated to facilitate students’ proficiency development over a course of language learning in grades K-12. The project benchmarks were adopted and adapted to provide learning targets for the curriculum sequences and address the various entry points for students who begin learning Arabic or Chinese in K-12, 6-12, and 9-12 learning sequences in Arabic and Chinese.
The thematic units incorporate Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA) that provide opportunities for teachers to assess students' language skills in an authentic, language-rich context of culturally and developmentally appropriate themes and topics. These IPA units include effective instructional strategies, formative assessments, literacy development activities to support students’ language acquisition, and common rubrics for assessing students’ work. The project adapted a thematic unit planning template developed by Clementi, Curtain, and Lentz, 2010.
Integrated Performance Assessment Units
The ACES project developed Integrated Performance Assessments to evaluate students’ language learning and adopted as common rubrics those developed for IPAs in the book ACTFL Integrated Performance Assessment by Glisan, Adair-Hauck, Koda, Sandrock, & Swernder, 2003. Teachers use these common rubrics to score the integrated performance assessment tasks. These rubrics are grounded in teachers’ understanding of the nature of proficiency development and performance progress. These rubrics were appropriate for the ACES project materials the following reasons:
It is important that teachers help students use these rubrics to become familiar with the nature of language proficiency development. Sandrock explains, “Students benefit by clear description of what they can do to raise their performance to the next level.” (p.55, ACTFL Keys to Assessing Language Performance).
When teachers and students think of language skills from a lens of proficiency, they understand that this develops over time, that rubrics describe “quality” not “quantity” of student performance, which helps students progress to the next level.
These common rubrics, aligned to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, assist the ACES project teachers to develop consistency in evaluated students’ work and determine “how good is good enough” for students to move from one level to the next.