The untested

In New York, school officials can exempt children from immigrant families from testing for five years, allegedly to protect them from the embarassment of doing poorly on an English test. The exemption also protects school districts from the embarassment of admitting that many of their students can’t read proficiently, observes the New York Times. Students born and raised in the U.S. are exempt if they’re “English Learners,” which means they speak English as a second language and test poorly in it.

Then last June, the United States Department of Education, enforcing the No Child Left Behind law, deemed New York’s substitutes inadequate and required all students in school for more than a year to take regular tests. Tests in 21 other states face have similarly been challenged.

That was bad news for Port Chester. Officials here now predict that when the January scores are published, the proportion of proficient students will drop into the 70s (from the 90s). They worry that their schools will be branded in need of improvement and suffer penalties. They worry that prospective homebuyers may opt for other towns. And they worry about the students’ self-confidence.

I hope they worry about how to improve their reading program so more students can succeed. English Learners don’t need false confidence in their ability to read and write fluently in English. They need teachers who will track their progress, analyze what they need to learn and teach them. They and their parents need to know how they’re doing. They need school officials who are accountable for the progress of all students.

About Joanne


  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Sometimes I get furious. Anyone who has lost the fundamental concept of the reason for public education should immediately seek employment elsewhere.

  2. There is a book “An Open Letter to Teachers”
    I don’t recall its author, I don’t recall if
    it has a subtitle.

    I don’t recall the page, but it explicitly
    states that the purpose of schools is NOT
    to educate, that the purpose of any school
    in the entire world is NOT to educate. The
    purpose of schools is to socialize its

    The book was used as a text at SJSU’s
    college of teacher education back is 1996.

  3. freerangelife says:

    “They worry that their schools will be branded in need of improvement….”

    RathER, I’d say.

    Curbing illiteracy among the native and immigrant poor was one of THE top justifications for the establishment of compulsory, tax-funded schooling in America.

  4. I would argue that it is fair to consider separately students who can’t speak, read or write English in deciding whether an entire school has failed to achieve AYP. But those “English (not yet) learners” should have extended to them the NCLB opportunities to obtain supplemental tutoring in English and to change to another school that might serve them better — even if those remedies are denied to others in the school who CAN communicate in English.