Captives of ESL

Immigrant students who pass New York’s Regents exam in English still can’t get out of segregated English as a Second Language classes, writes Samuel Freedman in the NY Times. They need 96 percent on the exit exam, which seems designed to keep students out of the mainstream forever. In theory, they get extra help in English as a Second Language classes. In practice, they get a slower, lower-level curriculum.

To put the disconnect between tests in human terms, consider Shoeb Mahbub, an immigrant from Bangladesh who graduated from Richmond Hill last year in the top 20 of more than 400 seniors. In high school, he read Steinbeck, Shakespeare and Machiavelli. He scored 89 on the English Regents. He earned admission to City College’s pre-med program. Yet he failed the E.S.L. test and was barred from taking a mainstream English class.

The same fate befell Kamil Losiewicz, an immigrant from Poland who is now a pre-med student at Queens College. “It’s really frustrating,” he said. “The amount of education I received wasn’t as high at it could have been. The reading assignments, the writing assignments in E.S.L. were really easy. I wanted writing at a high level, something that would help me in college. And by being with people in E.S.L. who don’t speak English well, it definitely kept me from speaking at a high level.”

No other exam taken by high school students sets the minimum passing score at 96 percent.

About Joanne


  1. I did one year of ESL when I came to America (that was before bilingual education took root in California Public Education System), and that’s all I could stand. Both ESL (the later version) and bilingual education are designed to teach as little English as possible, and safeguard unionized teacher’s job by not teaching the non-English speaking students.

  2. mike from oregon says:

    Welcome to stupidity personified – There is such a thing as reasonable expectations and a 96% doesn’t really fit into that definition. Someday, someone will have enough money to take this one to court and have a TRUE reasonable expectation brought about. Until then, the system has figured a way to ensure more teachers and more money to the district at the expense of students.

  3. I have personally experienced an ESOL teacher lobbying me for a referral of a student who was already known to be a monolingual English speaker, although somewhat slow in any language. “I could use some more work at X school.”

  4. Bluemount says:

    My son is slightly dyslexic and struggles with language. He successfully attended and loved a college level immersion Spanish class for 8 weeks and passed with flying colors, but he failed high school Spanish. He was once in advance reading, loved to read and write (poetry and stories). His language skills were above average until he got the help he needed.

    His specialized teacher explain some of the problem to me. The teacher has a Master’s in special education but, he told me his skill is really the stock market. It upsets him that the children make fun of his curriculum, his job is to teach children to pass with a score below 80% (he has told the children this). This guy does deserve a place in the system. He isn’t very bright, but he is a genuinely committed individual, who worked hard for the opportunity. As a coach he had a following but, sometimes argued with a few of the parents.

    The school’s social worker tried to organize the kids into protesting the teacher’s placement. He’s a tenured teacher and I seriously doubt the social worker is brighter. I told my son he had the choice between stupid and evil.

    Trying to make everyone in the US a professional based on their willingness to stick with an expensive program (college) attracts a mindless elitism. There is a mind-boggling amount of money in education design that needs to prove it is needed and well-invested.

  5. Mike in Texas says:

    As a coach . . .

    That explains it all. Coaches are untouchable in most school districts, especially if they are winning coaches. Here in Texas coaches are repeatedly allowed to have sex with students, and then move on to another school district when someone turns up the heat on them.


  1. Oh, we just put that on the brochures

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