In this chapter, we come to an issue central to second-language learning, the question of how to assess language proficiency. This question is important for a number of reasons, a major one being that critical decisions about the education of minority-language children are made on the basis of language proficiency measures. This was not always the case. It used to be that crucial decisions about the education of children were made by their parents and teachers.

One of the educational developments witnessed in the 1970s, which has permeated every classroom and school district across the nation, has been the gradual increasing reliance on testing instruments rather than teacher judgments as sources of information for student placement and assessment. Indeed, teachers face a constant tension between validating their perceptions of their students' progress and that reported on standardized achievement tests. (Arias, in Dieterich & Freeman, 1979, p. vii).