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Evaluating different scoring systems (Hendricks et al., 2023)

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Version 2 2023-03-31, 22:13
Version 1 2022-11-08, 22:25
posted on 2023-03-31, 22:13 authored by Alison Eisel Hendricks, Jillian Jerard, Ling-Yu Guo

Purpose: Measures of grammatical accuracy are effective measures of children’s language skills. However, many measures, such as percent grammatical utterances, were developed for children who speak General American English (GAE) and, therefore, may not be appropriate for students who speak other dialects. This study examines different scoring systems for a picture description task to explore the impact of different systems for children who speak African American English (AAE).

Method: Eighteen preschool-age children who speak AAE completed a play-based language sample and a picture description task. The Index of Productive Syntax (IPSyn) was calculated for the play-based language samples and used as the reference measure. The picture description task was scored using four scoring systems: an expansive AAE scoring system, a GAE scoring system, and two strategic scoring systems. Scores were compared for each scoring system, and correlations between IPSyn scores and picture description scores were conducted.

Results: Scores on the picture description task were highest in the expansive AAE scoring system, followed by scores in the strategic scoring systems, all of which were higher than scores in the GAE scoring system. There was a significant correlation between IPSyn scores and picture description scores when using the GAE scoring system and the strategic scoring systems, but not when using the expansive AAE scoring system.

Conclusions: Different scoring systems affect AAE-speaking preschoolers’ scores on measures of grammatical accuracy, and the use of an expansive AAE scoring system, based on lists of nonmainstream features, may diminish the ability to differentiate between children with different ability levels. Future research is needed to refine scoring systems and to explore the validity of different scoring systems for detecting differences between preschoolers who speak AAE, with and without developmental language disorder.

Supplemental Material S1. Dialect density for each child in the play-based sample and the picture description task.

Hendricks, A. E., Jerard, J., & Guo, L.-Y. (2023). Evaluating different scoring systems for a picture description task among preschool children who speak African American English. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 54(1), 198–211.


This project was supported in part by the Language Learning Research Grant (Blackwell Publishing), awarded to Ling-Yu Guo.