AAPPL test results and thoughts about proficiency

I’m frustrated. Really frustrated. Like, so frustrated that I have been putting off writing this post for weeks, to give myself time to compose myself in order to avoid using the bad words.

None of my kids earned the Seal of Biliteracy this year. Ouch. It still hurts. Last year 50% of my Spanish 4s scored I-4 or higher  in reading, writing, speaking and listening on AAPPL test, thus earning the Seal of Bilieracy on their diploma and mad bragging rights. I was really proud of our results last year: look what CI can do! Then this year, exactly 0%.  Huh?!

The results look fishy to me and this is the part that really chaps my hide. Out of the 60+ students we tested (Spanish 4 kids, French 4 kids, heritage Spanish speakers) nobody passed the listening test. That’s right. No one. Nadie. That’s weird, right!?! I mean, if it was the speaking test… I could accept that. I’d look at how we prepared, make changes next year and call it a day. But come on! The listening test?! The skill that babies develop first?! The skill that my little darlings, who have (mostly!) been raised on a steady diet of Comprehensible Input since Spanish 1, are best at!!! Last year nearly every. single. one of my kiddos passed the stinkin’ listening test. ¡No way, José- I don’t buy it!

My district contacted LTI, the company behind the test, to request an “Official Investigation” into our test results. That was 6 weeks ago. We’ve heard nothing. Nada. Radio Silence. And this really makes me mad because tomorrow is graduation. And I have graduating seniors who speak Spanish beautifully. Seniors who I am certain deserve the title Biliterate. And it pains me that they won’t don the  Biliteracy Medal with their cap and gown. Grrrrr….

In related (and happier!) news…

I asked 4 of my Spanish 2s to take the AAPPL test as well. I was curious about their proficiency levels. Now these kiddos were not randomly selected, they’re special ones that I taught in Spanish 1 and again in Spanish 2. I wanted some cold hard evidence to show: look what Comprehensible Input does! Look what these kids can do after just 2 years of Spanish class! None of them earned the Seal of Biliteracy(see rant above) and I am suspicious of their listening scores (again, see rant above) but other than that, I’m really proud of these little darlings, who all came to me with zero Spanish 18 months ago.

Student A:

Scored I-3 in Speaking, Listening and Writing, and scored I- 4 in Reading. Holy guacomole! That’s impressive!

Student B: 

Scored I-1 in Reading, I-2 in Speaking, I-3 in Listening and I-4 in Writing. This one surprises me, that he did better in writing than reading. 

Student C:

Scored I-1 in Speaking, I-3 in Listening, and I-4 in Reading and Writing. This one makes sense to me…in 2 years of a CI classroom, it makes sense that Speaking would be the last skill to be developed. 

Student D: 

Scored I-1 in Speaking, I-2 in Listening, and I-4 in Reading and Writing. I’m going to chalk up all these great reading scores to Free Reading, baby!

You guys!! This is great news! We already knew this, but CI works! Dr. Krashen was right!! I’d love to see what Traditional Textbook students scored at the end of Spanish 2. I’m under no delusions that it’s because I’m a great teacher…it is the method! I wish I could take credit for it, but I just can’t! (Maybe we’ll give them a bit of credit because they’re pretty special kids, but it’s the method, guys!)

So my take away: I really wish that there was an easy, reliable  and unbiased way to measure my little darlings’ proficiency…but I’m beginning to think that language proficiency is more of an art than a science. Maybe there’s not a clean way to measure someone’s proficiency because language is way more complicated than a rubric or test can measure. I think about my own journey- I’ve been speaking English well for years and years (my whole life minus 12 months or so!) and still I find myself in linguistic situations that trip me up! Times when I know what I want to say and my words get all jumbled up and the wrong thing comes out! I wonder…how many words do I know? Is there anyway to measure it?!

You can’t measure how beautiful a sunset is, or how talented a ballerina is or how impactful a song is…and I think that’s how language proficiency is too. We can assess ourselves sick…but maybe we’re suppose to marvel at our little darlings’ language skills like works of art, all unique and deserving of praise.

So, on this graduation eve, I’ll sit back satisfied that I worked my tail off loading up my little darlings with Comprehensible Spanish this year. I’ll enjoy my much needed summer vacation and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running in August, anxious to start all over again, with the new little darlings that God plops into my classes.

Happy Graduation!

PS- I’m especially bitter about the AAPPL results this year because I was going to sing to my kiddos “2 bilit 2 Quit” as I announced the results. Hopefully next year… 


  1. I definitely agree with you about proficiency being difficult to measure, especially when it comes to tests. I often find it frustrating that certified proficiency doesn’t always translate into real-life proficiency. Although I frequently study towards proficiency tests myself, I’ve tried to stop relying on them for accurate portrayals of what I can really do. Sorry to hear that your students didn’t get the recognition you felt they deserved!


    • Unfortunately Nevada doesn’t accept Stamp results for Seal of Biliteracy, so I haven’t really looked into it 😦


  2. Very late to this post, but I’ll throw in my two cents–I used to use the AAPPL yearly for Arabic for a community program that has several teachers, and sometimes twice-yearly. One year (2015 or 2016) I used it twice, once in February and once in June. Shockingly, the results showed that at least half the students actually had lower scores in June than in February. An entire class scored “below novice low”. I investigated further and I found that LTI had completely revamped the test in March, right between our test dates. Long story short, I don’t trust it either and any test that causes half of the students to score lower after four additional months of instruction is highly unreliable.


    • Arrrgh!!! It’s so frustrating!! I wish there was a reliable, easy to administer, objective way for someone else (bc I’m afraid I’m too biased- I just like them too much!) to evaluate their proficiency!! Is that too much to ask?!


  3. […] Last year at this time, I was absolutely livid with our AAPPL scores. Basically, out of 60 students, including my Spanish 4 kiddos, French 4 kiddos and Heritage Students, exactly zero percent scored I-4 or higher on the listening comprehension test, which is the pass score for Nevada’s Seal of Biliteracy. Read the whole rant here, if you want to begin to understand the rage I felt last year.  […]


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