2001 Ohio Foreign Language Model Assessment Project


Welcome to the Ohio Foreign Language Model Assessment Project. This project, completed between 1999 and 2001, represented Ohio’s first attempt at providing world language educators with the means to begin moving away from traditional vocabulary- and grammar-based assessments toward a more proficiency-based system of language assessment focused on the three modes of communication. This work was undertaken just prior to the creation of Ohio’s first set of world language academic content standards at a time when the early ACTFL National Standards and ACTFL Performance Guidelines weren’t widely known or commonly used by the world language teaching field.

Although the model assessments that resulted from this project might be considered to be quite dated, the themes, topics and contexts for communication that they feature are still highly relevant and can be easily paired up with authentic resources and adapted for use in modern integrated performance assessments (IPAs). The corresponding rubrics might also be of great interest and utility in today’s communicative classrooms. While visitors should be cognizant of the timeframe and limitations of this project, they can still benefit from the creative ideas that the assessment writers embedded in their work – ideas which still carry over into the modern, communicative learning venues of today.

The Project

 In the following, you will find sample assessments designed to serve as useful tools for your classroom testing and curricular planning. These models provide concrete examples of ongoing assessments and tips for devising your own proficiency-based tests.

  • Purpose and Background of the Project
  • Project Framework
  • Individual Assessment Layout
  • About Rubrics
  • Ohio Foreign Language Model Assessments
  • Writing Team Members

The model assessments contain practical applications of the teaching guidelines and philosophies set forth in the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning, ACTFL's Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners, Ohio's Model Competency-Based Program, and the Joint Council's (Board of Regents/State Board of Education) Common Expectations for Ohio’s High School Graduates. Thus, by modeling these assessments, you can be sure that your own tests and curricula are aligned with standards for foreign language learning at both the state and national levels.

The model assessments have been developed in four different languages: French, German, Latin, and Spanish. These languages were targeted because they are the most frequently taught in Ohio’s K-12 programs. Teachers of other languages, however, should be able to base their own assessments on the exemplars in this document. The models address the abilities of students at three different age levels: Elementary (K-5), middle (6-8), and high school (9-12). In addition, they focus on three different levels of proficiency: Novice (K-5, 6-8, 9-12), intermediate (6-8, 9-12), and pre-advanced (9-12). The assessments were composed by K-16 Ohio educators who represent a variety of program models, languages, and levels. Consequently, you, the classroom teacher can be sure that your point of view is represented in the documents even if you did not directly participate in the test writing process.

We hope that you will find the following easy to use and helpful in your classroom planning and assessment. We believe that you will discover many of your own assessment ideas and practices reflected in these pages. Ultimately, by providing uniform standards of language performance in Ohio, and holding students accountable for what they can do with the language, we can help create a linguistically and culturally competent citizenry.


Cynthia Chalupa
Project Director
The Ohio State University

Deborah Wilburn Robinson
World Languages Consultant
Ohio Department of Education

Virginia Ballinger (retired)
World Languages Consultant
Ohio Department of Education

Purpose and Background of Project

The Model Assessment Project, funded by the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development Program is a collaborative project of the Ohio Foreign Language Association and the Ohio Department of Education. Participants came together for the first time in March, 2000 with the primary purpose of developing model assessments and test-writing guidelines for foreign language educators throughout Ohio. The assessment instruments are designed to serve as exemplars of proficiency-based assessments and to provide test-writing guidelines for Ohio foreign language teachers who are developing assessments for their own programs. Four current models that are important for foreign language education in Ohio schools today provide a basis for the project framework:

  • The National Standards for Foreign Language Learning
  • The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners
  • Ohio's Model Competency-Based Program
  • The Ohio Board of Regents/State Board of Education Common Expectations

I. The National Standards for Foreign Language Learning

The National Standards for Foreign Language Learning (1996, generic; 1999, language specific) revolve around the five goal areas of communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. Students are expected to function in the interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes. In other words, they must be able to engage in face-to-face communication where negotiation of meaning is possible as well as to comprehend texts, both oral and written, where negotiation is not possible (e.g., watching a video, presenting to classmates on a cultural figure, reading a travel brochure).

II. The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners

The ACTFL Performance Guidelines represent an expansion of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines by focusing on K-12 learners and providing performance standards that define how well students perform in the foreign language at each stage of language development. Three modes of communication, interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational act as the framework for describing language performance at the Novice (Beginning) range, Intermediate (Developing), and Pre-Advanced (Expanding) range. These terms, novice, advanced, and intermediate, refer to the language of the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners introduced in 1998, and not the proficiency guidelines for adult learners introduced in 1982. The interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes provide a more integrated and natural way of looking at communication rather than the traditional approach of teaching and testing the four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in isolation.

What Do the Modes Mean?

Interpersonal Mode

This mode is characterized by active negotiation of meaning among individuals. Participants monitor each other to see how their meanings and intentions are being communicated. The most obvious vehicle for the interpersonal mode is conversation; however, communication can also take place through reading and writing (e-mail).

Interpretive Mode

This mode focuses on the fit of cultural interpretations and understanding of meanings that occur in written and spoken form when no opportunity for clarification of meaning exists. This mode includes reading or listening to texts such as magazine selections, television and radio broadcasts, movies, etc. Interpreting cultural meaning should be distinguished from the idea of "comprehending" a reading or listening text through an American mindset.

Presentational Mode

In this mode, participants create a message for interpretation where no opportunity for negotiation of meaning exists. This mode includes such tasks as writing reports, giving speeches, giving presentations. This one-way mode of speaking and writing requires participants' in-depth knowledge of their audience's culture.

Performance descriptors at each stage of language learning are based on the three modes of communication and encompass six areas:

  • Comprehensibility: How well is the student understood?
  • Comprehension: How well does the student understand?
  • Language Control: How accurate is the student's language?
  • Vocabulary Use: How extensive and applicable is the student's vocabulary?
  • Communication Strategies: How does the student maintain communication?
  • Cultural Awareness: How is the student's cultural knowledge reflected in language use?

The complete set of performance guidelines may be ordered by visiting the ACTFL web site at www.actfl.org or by reading the article "ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners" (Swender & Duncan, 1998) in Foreign Language Annals Vol. 31, No.4, pp. 479-491.

III. Ohio's Model Competency-Based Program

Like the National Standards, Ohio's Model curriculum proposes guidelines that focus on the necessity of communication, cultural understanding, connecting with other disciplines and communities, and developing the ability to compare one's own culture with another. Reaching beyond a traditional four-skills approach to teaching foreign languages, the Model clearly defines the content and goals for language instruction. While Ohio does not have many early foreign language programs, the committee that drafted the Model developed guidelines for each grade in a K-12 program. The Model is structured around instructional and performance objectives at each grade but may be better understood by clustering grades into stages of language development. These stages have likewise been utilized in compiling the items for the Foreign Language Model Assessment Project, making it clearer how the National Standards, the Ohio Model, and the assessment project all work together.

Stages of Language Learning

Stage One/Novice Stage of Language Development (Grades K-5, 6-8, & 9-12)

Students are able to speak and write using short sentences that contain learned words and phrases. They are able to understand the target language when it is spoken in short, simple phrases and sentences. They are able to read brief texts with comprehension. Comprehension is further enhanced when the spoken language and written text are supported by visual cues and gestures.

Stage Two/Intermediate-Low Stage of Language Development (Grades 6-8 & 9-12)

Students are able to participate in simple conversational situations using sentences and groups of sentences. They can create with the target language by combining and recombining learned phrases and words. They can write simple messages, read authentic texts dealing with familiar topics, and understand the main ideas when listening to conversations dealing with familiar topics or themes.

Stage Three/Intermediate-Mid Stage of Language Development (Grades 9-12)*

Students can initiate and sustain conversations by making statements, asking questions, and giving appropriate responses. They can communicate using appropriate time frames on everyday topics both orally and in writing. Students are able to compose cohesive paragraphs related to familiar topics and personal experiences. They are able to understand the main ideas and significant details in extended discussions and presentations, both live and recorded. They are able to acquire new knowledge and information from authentic texts including short literary texts and media.

* Some of these competencies fall in Stage Four (Ohio Model)/Intermediate-High range given the revision of the ACTFL Speaking Guidelines of 1999.

IV. The Common Expectations for Ohio's High School Graduates

The Common Expectations outline functional and performance guidelines of student proficiency. Expectations are benchmarked for the three different stages of language development at various grade levels as defined in Ohio's Model curriculum. Many of the benchmarks that project participants used to create assessments for the different stages of language development were taken directly from the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning (1996).There are fifteen total expectations for which assessment writers have created items for students at three different age and experience levels: Elementary (K-5); middle (6-8); and high school (9-12).

The Common Expectations have been woven into Ohio’s Academic Content Standards for Foreign Language (scheduled for State Board of Education adoption in 2003). Consequently, the Model Assessments will provide guidance for local assessment for many years to come. The Common Expectations can be found in Appendix IV.

Project Framework

The project focuses on two types of assessments: 1) ongoing assessments that teachers may use to assess student performance at regular intervals, i.e. at the end of a chapter or unit, and 2) proficiency tests that evaluate students' abilities at various levels throughout the language learning sequence. Test writers developed the model assessments with the following in mind:

Sample assessments were based on the fifteen expectations for foreign language study listed in the Common Expectations document in Appendix IV.

Model assessments were written for each expectation at each of the three levels of language learning. Test writers addressed a sampling, but not all, of the benchmarks as a means of providing a model for teachers to follow when writing assessments for the other benchmarks.

Each of the assessment descriptions includes the modes of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational) and the language modalities (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) used and evaluated in the assessment.

All of the assessments incorporate the goals of foreign language standards at both the state and national levels.

Together, test items are designed to assess student performance across the three modes of communication: Interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. Consequently, the model assessments require students to use the target language to function in real-life situations. For each assessment, both the text type or format and the context or content of the item is considered. Scoring criteria are outlined at the end of each assessment, and rubrics, along with guidelines on how to use them, are included in Appendix I.

Assessment writers developed the assessments based on the following descriptions. Test writers selected several different contexts and developed assessments that evaluate students' language proficiency (interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational) within a given context. For Stage One (Novice), assessments were developed for three different age and experience levels: Elementary (K-5); middle (6-8), and high school (9-12). For Stage Two (Intermediate-Low), assessments were developed for two different age and experience levels: Middle (6-8) and high school (9-12). For Stage Three (Intermediate-Mid), assessments were developed for one age and experience level: High school (9-12).

Individual Assessment Layout

The model assessments are designed to be used with any standards-based curriculum. Each assessment item is listed according to the Common Expectation it addresses and one of the benchmarks listed for that expectation. Also included with the assessment descriptions are the stage for which the item was written and the modes of communication the assessment addresses.

Each assessment item has a description that is written for the teacher. By reading the description, the teacher is given an overview of the assessment, learns how to organize the prompt, and establishes what students are expected to accomplish. The description is followed by a prompt, which is written for the student. In the prompt, students are given the assessment task and learn about the assessment components on which they will be evaluated.

Following the assessment description and prompt are criteria for grading. The assessment writers have suggested point values and/or grading rubrics that can be used to evaluate student performance. All of the grading rubrics to which the assessment writers refer are listed in the Appendix I of this booklet. In some cases, writers added new criteria to the rubric and included a revised copy of it with the assessment. In other cases, they made general suggestions for how to adapt the rubric, leaving specific changes to the discretion of the teacher. The grading criteria and rubrics should be shared by and discussed with both students and teachers.

About Rubrics

What is a Rubric? A rubric is "a list of the specific standards to which students will be held accountable."* Based on these standards, rubrics provide a consistent measure of quality and ensure students that grading is not conducted in an arbitrary way. Using rubrics is important for holistic and proficiency-based types of assessment because grading focuses on what the student knows and can do with the language in real-life situations.

Why Rubrics? Who Creates Them? Rubrics are important for making explicit the performance expectations for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. They promote self-evaluation skills and help clarify the purpose of an assessment and the expected degree of completing a task. Rubrics are a useful tool for grading tasks such as projects, writing samples, group work, interviews, demonstrations, and portfolios that require global measures of performance.

Rubrics can be created by teachers, students, or teachers and students working together. They can be used repeatedly for many assessments, or particular rubrics can be designed to address a specific assessment. Most importantly, rubrics can be flexible as long as the expectations outlined in them are clearly established at the time the assessment is first introduced.

There are two types of rubrics: holistic and analytical.

Holistic rubrics provide a qualitative evaluation of student performance as a whole, and do not focus on individual points. This type of rubric uses a variety of criteria to determine a single score. The idea is to avoid grading an entire performance based on singular aspects (e.g., grammar or technique). Olympic judges provide holistic evaluations when assessing an athlete's performance. Holistic scoring is quick and user-friendly, but it does not always provide students with enough feedback to help improve their performance. Analytical rubrics break down performance into categories and assign each of them a point value.

Analytic rubrics force raters to consider all of the specified criteria. Consumer Reports uses a type of analytic rubric to evaluate the performance of automobiles in categories such as reliability, gas mileage, and safety, assigning scores to each. Analytical rubrics take more time to use and may sometimes lead the rater to focus on one area more than another. They are helpful for students, however, because they provide students with more concrete suggestions on how to improve their performance.

Rubrics and the Model Assessment Project

This booklet contains both types of rubrics. For each assessment, test writers have outlined specific grading criteria, and they have often suggested using one of the rubrics listed in Appendix I of this booklet. Sometimes they recommend that teachers use a combination of two rubrics when grading an assessment item, such as in the case of oral reports in which students are graded both on their speaking and presentation skills. For all of the rubrics, a score of 7-6 indicates proficiency on any given assessment item. Assessment writers have also encouraged teachers to be creative when using rubrics, suggesting that they add in elements of cultural awareness and creativity to the categories already listed. Using a rubric takes practice, but once teachers are accustomed to this tool, they will enjoy the flexibility and focus that rubrics offer and will want to develop their own over time.

For more reading on the use and design of rubrics see the list of resources in Appendix III.

* Blaz, Deborah. A Collection of Performance Tasks and Rubrics. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 2001, p. 5.

Ohio Foreign Language Model Assessments 

Click on the title below to open the PDF.


Writing Team Members


  • Robert Ballinger (Worthington City Schools)
  • Lisa Markovich (Upper Arlington City Schools)
  • Elvina Palma (Columbus City Schools)


  • Patricia Fellinger (Upper Arlington City Schools )
  • Eva Haeberle (retired - Lakewood City Schools)
  • Lori Winne (Toledo City Schools)


  • Sherwin Little (Indian Hill Exempted Village Schools)
  • Mark Torlone (Mariemont City Schools)
  • Carolyn White (Columbus School for Girls)


  • Norma Guice (Shaker Heights City Schools)
  • Maria Martinez (Toledo City Schools)
  • Ryan Wertz (Columbus City Schools)

Native Speaker Proofreaders:

  • Andrea Herzog (Ohio State University - German)
  • Judith Quismondo-Garcia (Ohio State University - Spanish)
  • Thibaut Schilt (Ohio State University - French)

Editing and Proofing:

  • Virginia Ballinger (retired - Ohio Department of Education)
  • Cynthia Chalupa (Ohio State University)
  • Deborah Wilburn Robinson (Ohio Department of Education)

Last Modified: 7/8/2016 2:44:30 PM

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