COVID IS NO MATCH FOR CAAP!

Rebecca H. Bias, Ph.D., The Ohio State University
Assistant Director, Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

The CAAP Program (Collaborative Articulation and Assessment Project) at The Ohio State University is in its 29th year!  CAAP is a creative, action-oriented articulation project designed to address the problems typically associated with the language learner’s transition from high school to post-secondary world language instruction.  Collaborative refers to the collective effort of high school and university instructors to create a core curriculum and a common set of instructional objectives for students at each stage of a four-level language program.  Articulation ensures that students move smoothly through a course of study, from one level to the next. It addresses the problems that students encounter when they make transitions between high school courses and the college classroom.  Assessment measures give students an indication of their potential university course placement.  

The project was initiated in 1992 by The Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College, and Columbus Public Schools, with a grant from The Ohio Board of Regents.  CAAP is currently funded by The Ohio State University College of Arts and Humanities and the Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.  In 1994, CAAP added suburban schools in the greater Columbus area. Since then, over 250 schools from all over Ohio have become CAAP participants.  

CAAP exams are not based on any particular textbook material. The CAAP exams are developed to be textbook neutral.   Exams include the major vocabulary and grammar themes common to high school and university curriculum.   All exam materials are authentic and are drawn from current media, journals, news programs and magazines either online or in print form, and native speakers record the listening comprehension sections.

The core curriculum (CAAP Core) provides level-specific guidelines per skill, as well as assumptions, functions, formats, exercises, and strategies as examples.  Targeted can-do statements round out the core curriculum in an easy to access web platform.  Each level is also designated with ACTFL proficiency scale equivalents.

Listening, reading, writing, and speaking practice tests in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese allow students to practice on their own time in school, or at home.  The CAAP practice exam platform automatically grades the multiple-choice listening and reading.  The writing portion is saved in the CAAP practice exam portal for instructor viewing and grading at any time. Students can also retake practice exams as many times as they like. These are considered low-stakes practice assessments.  

The scheduled high-stakes spring exams target level three students and provide feedback to students and their teachers about general performance levels across the state, as well as each individual’s progress toward common curricular goals.   High school students receive a comparison score as it relates to other high school students taking the exam, as well as a comparison placement with Ohio State students at the end of the 1102 level (second semester) that take the same exam.  Our pedagogy experts design a new exam in each language each year, and after these exams are retired, they are loaded into the practice exam platform for future use.  The spring high stakes exams mirror the practice exam format to lessen student anxiety.  

In the spring of 2018, we began working with the OSU Arts and Sciences Technology Services to develop a new CAAP website and practice exam interface.  The new website and exams were one year in production and were unveiled for beta testing in the spring of 2019. The challenges to CAAP that occurred with the onset of Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 mainly involved spring testing, that is usually done in class with paper exams.  With hopes of continuing the exam process without interruption, we began planning for the spring 2021 CAAP exams to be taken fully online through the new CAAP website and practice exam portal.  

As a pilot project in December of 2020, we conducted level three CAAP exams for high schools in Ohio who were on the block schedule. We tested Spanish, French, and Chinese students in the pilot.   The testing itself went very smoothly and proved easy to access.  Instructors in the pilot are now receiving their students’ results via email.  We are now poised to begin spring testing in April-June 2021 with complete online access.  Nearly 1,000 students will be testing this year.  This is down from previous years due to the impact of Covid-19 on decreased curriculum expectations and standardized testing statewide.

In addition to the practice exams and spring assessments, CAAP offers professional development resources for teachers that extend to many areas of language teaching and learning. We offer technology integration workshops on a variety of topics. These can be customized to your group’s needs. Workshops can also be scheduled during in-service or PD (professional development) days, if appropriate. The World Media and Culture Center in Hagerty Hall is a popular destination on the Oval, and we also offer tours for both teachers and their students.   We also provide CAAP information sessions, exam procedure workshops, and exam calibration sessions.

Eight years ago, the CAAP Program added a new feature to help high school students seriously consider including their world language(s) in their career.  Our CAAP Ambassador has visited over 4,000 students either in person or virtually. The ambassador addresses students about careers in world languages in interactive, thought-provoking sessions.  We strive to make students aware of the fact that any level of competence in a world language along with intercultural competence will help them find the job they are searching for, regardless of their major content area.  The ambassador provides many current, real-world examples of jobs which require world language proficiency from applicants.  We have continued these sessions virtually since the onset of Covid-19 and they have been extremely successful in small and large student groups.  We have remarked that students often speak to their parents about the presentations, and parents have been known to follow-up by calling their schools to discuss plans for adding or enhancing current language courses.  In addition, teachers have appreciated students hearing about the benefits of learning a world language from a professional besides themselves.

Questions often arise about exactly what CAAP is and is not, and the following points will clarify any confusion:

  • CAAP does NOT require a paid subscription for membership. It is FREE to all Ohio members. 
  • CAAP does NOT require members to complete CAAP testing to be a part of the program. Each member can take advantage of any CAAP feature they choose at any time.  However, Columbus City Schools has required mandatory CAAP participation by all their Spanish, French, German, and Chinese teachers for over ten years.
  • CAAP does NOT screen member teachers.  Any high school language teacher in Ohio can be a CAAP member.  This includes public, private, parochial, and charter schools.  Oftentimes all language teachers in a particular school are CAAP members, but it is also common that only one teacher in a particular school may be a CAAP member. 
  • CAAP is NOT the Ohio State placement exam for incoming students.  CAAP is more extensive and robust and tests each skill.
  • CAAP is NOT a research project.  We do no research based on CAAP results. All of the findings regarding students’ scores are confidential and are not shared in any way other than an aggregate report showing the number of Ohio high school students and OSU students who participated in the spring exams, as well as the comparison averages between these two groups per skill. 

Plans for CAAP include resurrecting the former CAAP Chat sessions for members.  These casual networking sessions done either in person or via Zoom allow teachers to discuss CAAP, but also other issues that they may be facing in their individual districts.  Many CAAP members teach in rural areas of Ohio, which do not have regular networking opportunities in place.  

Since our new CAAP website and practice exam interface has now been unveiled and is proving extremely accurate, user friendly, and effective, we hope to begin offering practice exam access to language teachers in other states, with a modest subscription fee. We have had much interest in this possibility in the last few years from states as far away as California and Montana.  

Just as our language teaching world has evolved over the last few decades with new standards and technology-enhanced applications, online platforms, and synchronous and asynchronous Zoom classes due to Covid-19, CAAP has evolved as well, both pedagogically and technologically.  Its reach is now limitless.  The onset of the pandemic one year ago resulted in a rapid reworking of our plans to continue this important free, state-wide service, but COVID-19 was no match for CAAP!

Questions about CAAP in Ohio?   Contact Rebecca Bias (bias.3@osu.edu).