Policy issues in assessing indigenous languages: A navajo case

Mary Mcgroarty, Ann Beck, Frances A. Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Language policy and assessment have rarely intersected, despite the potential value of accurate assessment in guiding programmatic decisions This lack of a close relation is particularly notable in decentralized educational systems like that of the US In making crucial decisions, local educational agencies generally rely on standardized instruments available almost exclusively in the dominant language-English Yet growing concerns related to cultural and linguistic pluralism as well as educational equity demand that skills in other native languages be recognized within the educational system This article describes some of the policy questions arising in the course of efforts to develop a test of Navajo comprehension for young children Using Cooper's (1989) framework for language planning as innovation and Ruiz's (1993) distinction between endoglossic and exoglossic language policies, we explain how the test development process has been similar to and different from the typical model of top-down test development by outside experts While the content of the test reflects the specific historical experience and current educational situation of the Navajo Nation, the procedures for test development as well as general issues related to using the test results may well be applicable to other indigenous language communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-343
Number of pages21
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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