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Problems in Using Norm-Referenced Assessment Materials in Work with Bilingual Children Early research employing normative intelligence tests with children from linguistic minorities led to the conclusion that learning two languages must disadvantage cognitive development. g. Saer, 1923). In retrospect this does not seem at all surprising, since the bilingual children were disadvantaged in the testing process itself, as they were being tested in their second language (McLaughlin, 1985). More recent research has suggested that specific advantages may accrue from bilingualism in childhood, advantages that can only be identified if more sensitive measures are used (Cummins and Swain, 1986).

Thinking solely in terms of a stark choice between 'language problem' and 'limited learning ability' is a gross oversimplification. It is dangerous because it may lead to a simplistic and misleading strategy of assessment. For example, there may be a focus on the testing of children's general intelligence as the central method of determining whether they have special educational needs. There are two very serious problems with such a strategy: firstly, it ignores the many other factors, besides limited ability, that might be affecting the children's progress in school; secondly, it relies on using tests that were devised for one type of population to work with another population where some of the assumptions inherent in the tests are violated.

M. (1971) Educational Assessment of Immigrant Pupils. Windsor: NFER. Kroeger, E. (1978) The role of training in the assessment of learning ability in migrant children: Overcoming lack in performance or competence? British Journal of Educational Psychology 48(3), 361-2. Labov, W. (1969) The logic of non-standard English. Georgetown Monographs on Language and Linguistics 22, 1-31. McFie, J. A. (1970) Intellectual abilities of immigrant children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 40(3), 348-51.

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