The NYC Department of Education Enhances Their Language Proficiency Exams with Technology

NYC - Department of Education

The post below is an excerpt taken from our case study with the New York City Department of Education, detailing their effort to streamline the administration of their Spanish Language Proficiency Exams and deliver them to an entire cohort of 9th to 11th grade students.

Read on to learn more about their transformation, and download the full case study for free!

As a global center for media, art, tourism, finance, food and home to the United Nations, the City of New York is one of the world’s great multicultural cities. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) supports the single largest school system in the United States, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools located across more than 32 communities. NYC students and their parents communicate in over 180 different languages.

As part of their mission, NYCDOE offers comprehensive proficiency examinations in Languages Other than English (LOTE) to enable their high school students meet the Advanced Regents diploma requirements with a passing score on one of their world language assessments. Students who pass a LOTE exam receive special recognition. LOTE exams are currently offered in 21 languages, and contain four components:

  1. Speaking: This is a one-on-one teacher-student conversation in the target language administered prior to the other exam components.
  2. Listening: Students are asked to listen to a native speaker teacher read a short text aligned to an authentic scenario (e.g., listening to the radio, short conversation with peers, etc.) for 30 seconds at a time, then they answer multiple-choice questions.
  3.  Reading: Students are asked to read authentic texts in the target language before answering multiple choice questions.
  4. Writing: Students are required to compose two essays in the target language.


The LOTE exams are administered in two parts. Students are offered up to three hours for the reading, listening, and writing components of the standardized exams which are administered concurrently on a specified, city-wide date. The NYCDOE takes a technology based approach to make their test administration process more efficient.

The administration of the exams is not without challenges. The exams are offered across all the schools, in multiple languages, relying on live, native speakers, and the distribution and collection of thousands of paper-pencil-based exam materials. Wanting to make the process more efficient, the NYCDOE decided to try a technology-based approach, phasing in the use of technology in a carefully coordinated plan.

The first phase focused on utilizing technology for the listening component of the Spanish test. Due to the sheer number of students who wish to take this exam—20,000 a year—it’s difficult and time-consuming to schedule native-speaker teachers to provide the live “listening” sessions in each school and to assign a test-time for every student. It’s also a logistical challenge to deal with the large amount of paper-based testing materials within each site and across the district as a whole. In an effort to streamline the administration of the exams, the NYCDOE first wanted to see if it was possible to move from a paper-based assessment to an online assessment.

They put the idea to the test, digitally administering the listening part of the Spanish language proficiency exam to an entire class of 9th to 11th grade students at a specified time.

Download the full case study to follow NYC’s journey, and see how district leaders are using TAO to redefine their digital assessments.

Download the full case study to follow NYC's journey, and see how district leaders are using TAO to redefine their digital assessments.