An Investigation of the Effects of Using Strengths-Based Assessment with Latino English Language Learners

Claire Roof Wellborn, University of South Carolina


The diversity of U.S. schools is steadily increasing, particularly with regard to the growing population of Latino English Language Learners (ELLs). The underachievement of many of these students, over-identification of this population in special education, and the prevalence of negative teacher attitudes about this group suggest a need to examine alternative approaches for helping these students within the general education setting. An experimental study was conducted to examine the use of strengths-based assessment (SBA) with Latino ELL and Caucasian non-ELL students. Ninety-one regular education elementary school teachers were randomly assigned to read one of four case descriptions of a student struggling in school. The inclusion of strengths-based information (based on empirical SBA frameworks) and the ethnic and linguistic status/background of the student were manipulated. Results demonstrated significant positive effects of highlighting student strengths on teacher's expectations for both Latino ELL and Caucasian non-ELL students in a variety of domains including short- and long-term academic, social and behavioral outcomes, as well as predictions for the level of family involvement in the child's education. There were no significant effects of the variable of racial and linguistic status/background in terms of teacher predictions, and the interaction between the two independent variables was not significant. Implications for schools, as well as the need for additional research on the implementation of SBA and the effect on student outcomes are discussed.