Thursday, March 05, 2009

Student suspended for refusing to take English language test

Lori Phanachone, a senior at Storm Lake High School, refused to take the English Language Development Test and, as a result, was suspended for a week. Any student who marks that they speak another language besides English at home on their school registration form is required to take the test. I think this story hit a personal note since my own daughter was required to take this test on transferring into the public schools in high school. Here was my child, who had scored in the 99th percentile in the English standardized test that year, and spoke both French and Spanish fluently, asked to take a test of basic English skills. Obviously there is something wrong with this process if so many fluent English speakers are being singled out. I, as a parent, felt insulted. But I think the eloquent words of Lori Phanachone make the boldest statement against the ludicrous practice of testing anyone who speaks another language at home.
"For example, in the speaking part of the test the instructor asked me to describe the chair I was sitting in. Then I was shown a picture and asked to write one sentence about the picture. I have a 3.9 GPA and am ranked 7th in my graduating class. I was told that the test is to prove that I am able to speak, write, read, and comprehend English. My response was, "Have I not proved myself for the past 13 plus years? For the school and federal government to throw this test in my face, when I could have aced it in first grade, is wrong. Someone told me last year to put English as my first language when I registered for school, but I refuse to do so. I will not deny who I am and will not disrespect my culture or my mother,"

View the full article here.


class-factotum said...

Oh sheesh. Does anyone in that school system have any common sense?

About the Author said...

Yes. Where's the common sense?

Eve said...

This sort of thing happened to my son in Kindergarten in Colorado. We are bilingual French-English. Then, they said he failed (which they said most Kindergartners do since they don't get why this lady they don't know is asking them a bunch of weird questions - totally not "real world"). The whole thing was absurd. He is in the gifted program at school - so that is indeed conflicting, isn't it? The principal and his teacher refused to create a "remedial" program for him beacause it was so absurd. I was able to convince the school administrator to remove the results from his record (who knows what that would do following him around). Total wast of time and stressful.

I think this type of problem comes from a few things: 1) ignorance about the value of bilingualism, 2) tests that are poorly written, poorly administered and basically meaningless (or worse, detrimental to highly intelligent students), and 3) bureaucracy.

For my younger son, I will definitely NOT identify him as a bilingual on his registration materials when he starts Kindergarten, you can be sure.

Eve in Denver