Monday, August 07, 2006

New York, New Rules

The testing rules have changed in New York state. Previously, immigrant students had up to three years in New York's school system before they were required to take the English Language Arts test. Now, it's one year:
Ordered by the federal government to improve its testing of students who speak limited English, New York State said yesterday that all children enrolled in school in the United States for at least a year would be required to take the state’s regular English Language Arts exam. The test is given annually in the third through eighth grades.
The DOE statement is here. Some folks, not surprisingly, are unhappy about this:
Educators are questioning why they should give a test to children who, by definition, are not ready for it. "It's like taking an MRI to find out your cholesterol," said Angela C. Pagano, director of Title I and ESL in Yonkers. Pagano is part of a statewide committee that will discuss how to improve the testing system.

"No one wants to take a test that they don't understand," said Estee Lopez, another panel member, who directs English language learning in New Rochelle schools. "I think that raises stress levels, and I'm concerned about that."
Obligatory quotes (later in the same article) from testing opponents aside, this is a thorny issue. New York is following this route after being criticized for their current testing program, which may have allowed those still learning English to fly under the testing radar. However, the public backlash from this one-size-fits-all approach might poison the debate over this change - even if some students do better under the higher stakes, the media will focus on those who don't. The Journal-News article also notes:
To help limited-English students next year, the state is considering special allowances like letting them look up translations of words and taking extra time.
These allowances are part of the rules for the current exam, so perhaps they will move from possible accommodations to mandatory ones.

(Cross-posted at