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 Yorkâ€™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 studentsâ€™ 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.