Vocabulary Assessment Study in Education (VASE)

Teachers and researchers across California have been working since 2009 to develop and test a new method of vocabulary assessment. Funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center for Educational Research, the goal of the Vocabulary Assessment Study In Education (VASE) was to develop a vocabulary assessment based on words actually taught in classrooms that provides teachers with both summative and diagnostic information about vocabulary knowledge and growth in 4th and 5th grades.

While other measures of vocabulary knowledge rest on a student’s ability to define a word or to figure out its meaning from context, the VASE Assessment captures a broader base of knowledge than these strictly definitional measures. The assessment measures incremental word knowledge via a six-question progression called a testlet that enables students to demonstrate gradations of knowledge about each word (see VASE sample item).  The VASE Assessment is given twice a year to measure growth in breadth of grade-level vocabulary and in aspects of word knowledge.  If given in both grades, the VASE Assessment enables educators to track student vocabulary knowledge from the start of fourth grade through the end of fifth.  Please contact Judith A. Scott (jascott@ucsc.edu; 831-459-5066), the VASE principal investigator, if you would like to learn more about the VASE Assessment or its use. The VASE technical manual contains more information as well.

The grant also includes development of a word bank and a Members Only site (see button on the left) where VASE teachers can access lessons and activities that use words found across the curriculum in 4th and 5th grades. The words were selected by experienced teachers who identified them as unfamiliar to typical students at these grade levels. Words that were too difficult or rare for 4th and 5th graders were dropped, as were words that students had limited exposure to through their classroom texts and materials. The activities that teachers will find in the Members Only sections were adapted from the VINE vocabulary project by teachers who were developing word conscious classrooms. In addition, resources for researchers in the field of vocabulary and academic language are available in the VASE Research section of this website.

We are currently providing access to the VASE instructional lessons and activities to teachers who participated in the VASE field tests. This access will be available through July 1, 20135 After that, we will request that teachers, schools or districts register to gain access to these resources.

Current Status of VASE

VASE was a five-year federally funded research project to develop a new method of vocabulary assessment through a collaboration between the University of California-Santa Cruz, the University of California-Merced, and school districts across five regions of California. The overarching performance goal for VASE was to produce a “set of tests to measure proficiency in vocabulary knowledge for science and language arts across the fourth and fifth grades.” We have met and exceeded that goal with a set of psychometrically sound tests that cover aspects of vocabulary knowledge deemed important in the field of vocabulary research (e.g., depth of word knowledge, longitudinal growth, measures of multiple dimensions of word knowledge, measures of incremental growth) but rarely measured. We also expanded our focus to math and social studies vocabulary (in addition to science and language arts), and created both diagnostic reports (used to target appropriate instruction), and annual summative reports. Marginal reliability for the VASE tests are greater than or equal to .94 and they have been validated against other California assessments.

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