Yup'ik Proficiency Test

Yup'ik Proficiency Test
Posted on 06/22/2022
LKSD staff and students
Yup’ik proficiency test addresses areas for language proficiency
 
LKSD staff, in partnership with universities in the Lower 48, have worked to create a Yup’ik proficiency test that addresses six areas for language proficiency: reading, writing, speaking, listening, non-verbal communication and a Yup’ik worldview. The test is currently being developed for grades K-6, with plans to expand testing for all grade levels.
 
Gayle Miller, who was first hired by LKSD in 1998, has long been a part of LKSD’s overall objective to preserve the Yugtun Language. She was promoted to Director of Academic Programs for K-12 in the district, where she looked for a broader and more diverse curriculum to strengthen children’s language skills, both in English and Yugtun.
 
Miller said there was some curriculum developed as early as 1970 in Yugtun for Kindergarten through 2nd grade, but little material beyond those grades was available in the Yugtun Language. At the time, Yugtun speakers at the district often taught school all day and then worked evenings and weekends trying to pick up that slack, she said.
 
“I retired to support the effort to produce Yugtun curriculum and assessments,” Miller said.
 
During her previous jobs in the district, Miller performed services like benchmarking and administering the English proficiency test. She connected with the Director of Assessment at the University of Wisconsin: WIDA, the group that produces English language proficiency assessments for most of the United States. She requested his help in writing a Yup’ik proficiency test for grades K-6.
 
“First, we started by asking, ‘What are the critical skills in the Yugtun language?’,” Miller said. “Although we had mockup Yugtun language tests, they were always generated by looking at an English test and saying, ‘Hmmm, what would that be in Yugtun?’ You weren't testing Yugtun at all, you were testing if your Yugtun speakers could translate.”
 
She says there are questions on the test about Yup’ik people and how they view the world, as well as questions about nonverbal language.
“One of the first things you have to learn when you come here [is that] there are communications that go on that never go out of your mouth,” she said. “The first, and most important for teachers, are asking yes or no questions. [Students] seldom say yes. They just raise their eyebrows.”
 
LKSD is working with MetriTech, a technology services provider, to digitize the test, which will make the test more readily available to those in LKSD schools. The next step of the project is to begin creating the test for grades 7-12.
 
Miller spoke to LKSD’s long-term goal for the project, which is to integrate students’ traditional culture into their education and preserve it as part of modern lifestyle and identity.
 
“It can't help but benefit kids,” Miller continued. “For so long, kids' schooling has been divorced from their life, so it's like two entirely different worlds that have managed to come together... no matter who you are or where you come from, that sense of identity that comes from ‘This is me, this is who I am.’”
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