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Addressing the Unique Needs of Emergent Bilinguals: Part 2

Riverside Insights
Written By Riverside Insights
On Jul 9, 2024
4 minute read

Best Practices in Assessing Early English Language Learners

With the recent rise in young, emergent bilingual students, it is more important than ever for educators and evaluators to be best prepared to assess and support culturally and linguistically diverse children. Early childhood professionals play a crucial role in creating inclusive environments and implementing accurate assessment practices that consider a child's comprehensive language skills. Culturally-aware assessment practices and family engagement are essential for understanding bilingual children's diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.


Challenges and Issues in Assessments with Bilingual Children

For Spanish-speaking students in the US who are learning Spanish in school, several issues need to be addressed:

  1. Language diversity is often seen as a problem, rather than a resource to be developed.
  2. Educators may have a lack of understanding about the intersection of language development and assessments.
  3. Some literacy programs fail to acknowledge the language-specific needs of the English learners.

These issues can contribute to a negative view towards bilingual programs. As a result, assessment outcomes may be skewed or affected. How can you best support English learners in your classroom? Let’s investigate tips and techniques to consider during dual language assessments.


Strategies for Assessing and Supporting Development of Bilingual Children’s Literacy Skills in Early Childhood Settings

To effectively administer assessments to bilingual preschoolers, evaluators can utilize several techniques to ensure accuracy and comprehensiveness. Not only is it crucial to have a thorough knowledge of the assessment measure but also to maintain a positive and adaptable nature. Keeping a child engaged this way can help provide a fluid and optimal assessment. Other ways to have an effective assessment is to create the physical setting of the test with intention, implementing a distraction-free area, a focal point of interest, and a cohesive placement of tables and chairs.

There are other considerations unique to dual language assessments:

  • Recognize that children may be more nonverbal in one language during certain periods or with different examiners, reflecting reticence rather than incomprehension.
  • Provide breaks between assessments of different languages.
  • Chat in the child’s dominant language before beginning the test to build familiarity with the child.
  • Use a positive tone and quality interpersonal engagement when testing in their nondominant language so children feel more at ease.
  • Consider how usage of code-switching and varying dialects are accounted for in the assessment.
  • Be sure that interpreters, if included, are properly trained and have a strong relationship with the examiner.



The increase in bilingual preschoolers necessitates prepared educators to assess and support diverse learners. You can be prepared by implementing culturally-aware, accurate assessment practices and embracing the potential of dual language programs. Addressing misconceptions and using specialized techniques ensure fair outcomes, fostering an inclusive, supportive environment for bilingual children's language development and learning.

By integrating these best practices, you can help create a more equitable and effective assessment process for emergent English language learners, ultimately supporting their academic and personal growth. To learn more about the importance of early childhood professionals’ role in effectively supporting bilingual language development, read this article: Addressing the Unique Needs of Emergent Bilinguals: Part 1.


Your classroom may be filled with linguistically diverse students! The BDI-3® Spanish can be used to assess the 5 domains of development to help evaluators distinguish between difference and delay. Learn more about how you can set up your English Learners for success with the BDI-3® Spanish:

Language of Assessment for Early Learners GuideLearn how the BDI-3® Spanish and the BDI-3® English can help you accurately assess children in all stages of their dual language development, including:

  • Children who are Spanish dominant
  • Children who are English proficient whose families may not be
  • Children who may have mixed language abilities

Check out our Language of Assessment Guide for Early Learners linked on the right!

Explore the BDI-3 Spanish




Barrueco, S., Lopez, M., Ong, C., & Lozano, P. (2012). Assessing Spanish-English bilingual preschoolers: A guide to best approaches and measures. Paul H, Brookes Publishing Co.

Escamilla, K. (2000). Bilingual means two: Assessment issues, early literacy and Spanish speaking children. United States, Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs.

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