Four years ago, the Illinois State Board of Education adopted English language proficiency standards for grades K through 12 public school students. Like other states (and DC), the Illinois program focused on "English Language Learners," and was designed to: "[Promote] equitable access to language support services for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds [and thus] assist them to become lifelong learners, able to contribute to and function in a multicultural and globally competitive world." Fulfilling a Department of Education order that conditioned Federal aid under the No Child Left Behind law, the Board this year eliminated the partial exemption of non-native speaking students from taking the statewide annual "tests that measure the performance of students and schools against the Illinois Learning Standards," the results of which would be "used to measure adequate yearly progress (AYP) for all public schools." (ELLs who have been US residents for less than one year will be exempted from the reading comprehension portion of the exam.) To ease the transition, the Illinois Board of Ed granted ELL's a number of accommodations intended to assist their taking the tests, including:
- Extra time; more breaks.
- For third- through eighth-graders, small group or individual testing.
- Scripted test directions read in native language. Upon request, proctors of third- through eighth-grade tests can repeat those directions or provide non-scripted directions in "simplified" English.
- Scripted test questions read in English by proctors or English audio recordings of third- through eighth-grade math and science tests, and all 11th-grade tests.
- Third- through eighth-graders can get "glossaries" that translate non-key English words into native languages in math and science.
Angry Chicago Latino parents threatened Tuesday to keep their kids home on test day next month if state education officials insist on giving students who are still learning English an achievement test in English.Chicago's mayor-for-life--Richard M. Daley, son of the former mayor-for-life--sided with the protesting parents.
Facing threats of federal sanctions, state officials were ordered last October to give the same state tests native English speakers take to some 60,000 Illinois public school kids who haven’t yet mastered English.
During a news conference Tuesday at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, about two dozen Latino parents charged that the test mandate is “unfair," "anti-immigrant" and "anti-bilingual education."
They were joined by State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), who said the federal government was “trying to take this program [bilingual education] away from us" by forcing children to take a test in English before they are fluent.
"This is a way of attacking children who don’t understand the language," said Martinez, who is pushing a resolution to delay the test for a year.
Previously, Illinois kids in bilingual education programs for less than three years took an alternative state test in English.
But last October federal education officials ruled that test did not meet federal No Child Left Behind standards. They ordered Illinois bilingual education students who have been in public schools for more than a year to take the same tests native English speakers take, starting March 3.
Speaking through a Spanish-English translator, parent Erika Soto said her third-grade daughter is "very smart, but because of this test, she is going to be labeled a failure. So how is she going to feel?"
Parents raised their hands in agreement Tuesday when asked if they would keep their children home rather than have them take the new test.
(I note that the Illinois Board's announcement of the broadened testing was issued in 11 languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, Gujarati, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu and Vietnamese. That's less objectionable than California's practice of "print[ing] their ballots in seven languages [former link expired; more recent example here], despite English language proficiency being part of the citizenship exam--and citizenship still is a prerequisite for voting.")
How did we get here--"where advocating teaching English to immigrant children in public schools (or questioning free health care for illegal aliens) is evidence of racism and the melting pot an antiquated and somehow offensive idea confined to 'BusHitler" conservatives'"? I am not "anti-immigration." How could I be? My father is an immigrant, as were both maternal grandparents. My dad:
entered America with assets totaling 86 cents and knowing no English; became a citizen; went on to college and graduate school; then worked -- and was taxed -- for over 30 years. I salute anyone who, like my Father, follows the rules. I'd even support expanding current quotas.Millions have moved here, contributing to a "brain drain" in Germany and the U.K.. Remember the Vietnamese "boat people"? They're welcome, all.
For various reasons, it's different now. Why do "Europeans who have no intention of moving to America feel it’s beneficial to learn English, but millions of [immigrants] living here in the United States don’t?"
This isn't a knock against other countries or cultures. Just a plea to drop the hyphens and identify with the USA. Take the test like the rest of us--playing hookey is no way to learn English.