Minnesota Language Proficiency Assessments (MLPA) 

This online test battery measures language learners' proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening at two intermediate levels on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale in French, German, and Spanish. 

Purpose of the Assessments

The MLPA were developed to determine that students have attained minimal proficiency in a second language. The assessments have been used to certify that students have met designated levels of language proficiency, and facilitate the process of articulating expectations of student performance at the end of secondary studies and the beginning of post-secondary studies.

Articulating Expectations

The minimal proficiency level of Intermediate-Low level on the scale developed by the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) was selected by members of the Minnesota Articulation Project as a reasonable benchmark for:

  • students completing their secondary studies and entering college;
  • students completing one year of language study at the college level.

Meeting College Language Requirements

The reading, listening, and writing assessments are also available at a higher level selected by faculty members at the University of Minnesota as the goal for proficiency at the end of two years of language study. Though this language goal was designed to be equivalent to two years of post-secondary language study, the assessments were created to ensure that students were able to demonstrate their ability to use the language of study at the appropriate level instead of just putting in the proper amount of “seat-time."

Features of the Assessments

The MLPA were carefully developed with the input of teachers, faculty, and administrators to meet high standards of reliability, and to be flexible and easy to implement. Below are some of the key features of these assessment tools:
  • The MLPA include performance-based assessments that measure second language proficiency along a scale derived from the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines;
  • Tasks are authentic, contextualized, and varied;
  • Reliability coefficients from data collected to date are all in the acceptable range;
  • Items and tasks have been extensively field tested and refined;
  • The assessments may be administered as a battery, or institutions may choose to administer one or more modalities in depending on their needs to measure learner outcomes;
  • The MLPA are easy to administer to large groups as well as to individuals;
  • Reading and listening are computer-scored and writing and speaking assessments are rated online by teachers using a holistic rubric;
  • Online rater training modules provide samples for rating writing and speaking performances to ensure consistent evaluation; and
  • Passing cut scores on all assessments can be calibrated to individual institutions’ needs.

Levels and Samples

Contextualized tasks place test takers in realistic situations where they need to use the target language in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The online assessments were developed in French, German, and Spanish for two levels are based on the proficiency guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Click on the heading to see samples and find and in-depth information on the development of the assessments in each modality.
Contextualized Reading Assessment
Levels Available:
– Intermediate-Low
– Intermediate-High
Contextualized Listening Assessment
Levels Available:
– Intermediate-Low
– Intermediate-High
Contextualized Writing Assessment
Levels Available:
– Intermediate-Low
– Intermediate-Mid
Contextualized Speaking Assessment
Levels Available:
– Intermediate-Low

History of the MLPA

The development of the Minnesota Language Proficiency Assessments began as an initiative of the Assessment Project at the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota in 1994. Building on a long tradition of proficiency-based language assessment at the University of Minnesota, the CARLA Assessment Project staff worked in close collaboration with the language faculty and staff at the University and K-16 language teachers involved in the statewide Minnesota Articulation Project to develop, field-test, revise, and produce the instruments. Throughout the process of developing the MLPA, CARLA staff enjoyed the following:
  • active involvement of the language teaching community throughout Minnesota;
  • national leadership of the University on issues related to proficiency-based language policies, requirements, and procedures; and
  • generous funding support from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Minnesota.
After many years of offering the assessments to schools and districts around the country, CARLA entered into a partnership with EMC Publishing in 2013 to further the important work of assessing language proficiency through the ELPAC (EMC Language Proficiency Assessments by CARLA). When EMC was aquired by another company, the agreement lapsed and these assessments are no longer available.

Information for Minnesota Language Teachers

The Minnesota Legislature established a World Language Proficiency Certificate that can be awarded to students who demonstrate proficiency at Intermediate-Low in all for modalities via a validated proficiency-based assessment.  The MLPA/ELPAC was approved as an instrument to show evidence of Intermediate-Low.  A higher-level certificate is also available to students passing the higher level MLPA/ELPAC battery.

For questions contact Academic Standards at the Minnesota Department of Education at mde.academic-standards@state.mn.us


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Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 - 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414