Dodge City schools have begun administering the KELPA (Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment) exam for students.
Per state guidelines, the test is administered between Feb. 3 and May 2 each year. The test assesses the proficiency of English Language Learners (ELLs) in four areas: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Some schools in Dodge City have already begun administering the exam.
Of the 7,141 students in the school district, 3,554 are administered KELPA exams. ESL/Migrant Director Dr. Robert Vinton said he sees the test as an important tool for the district.
“For a district our size and for a population the size that we have in terms of English language learners, it's critical for us to have this kind of information because this is over 50 percent of our students,” Vinton said. “This is who we are.”
To determine who takes the KELPA, the district requires students to complete a home language survey, which addresses all languages spoken at home. KELPA information is sent to principals and those found to not be fluent according to KELPA are eligible for programs through the school system intended to boost English language ability.
KELPA results are received back by the district in June or July. Vinton said the timing is somewhat inconvenient because by that time the schedules for high schoolers and most of the elementary students have already been set in place. Schedules are sometimes tweaked in response to KELPA scores. Reports given to the schools indicate whether a student has progressed, regressed or stayed the same in each of the four assessment areas.
“In terms of what we do with that information, we get it out to principals and into the hands of teachers as readily as we can, because they need to have that information to make determinations about kids and how they're doing and also how the teacher is delivering instruction,” Vinton said.
Some of the additional support services available for English language learners include computer-assisted instruction, extended programming and tiered instruction which allows for small learning settings.
Vinton stressed that KELPA testing and other programs for English language learners do not detract from the district's focus on those already proficient in English.
“It's not that we're asking teachers to abandon our English-proficient kids and just dedicate themselves to our English language learners,” Vinton said. “… What I'm saying is that we need to identify those strategies and techniques that work very well with all kids, but also have a high impact on our ESL students.”