ISAT | Threaten to keep kids home rather than take new state exam
BY ROSALIND ROSSI | Chicago Sun Times
February 13, 2008
Angry Chicago Latino parents threatened Tuesday to keep their kids home on test day next month if state education officials insist on giving students who are still learning English an achievement test in English.
Facing threats of federal sanctions, state officials were ordered last October to give the same state tests native English speakers take to some 60,000 Illinois public school kids who haven’t yet mastered English.
During a news conference Tuesday at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, about two dozen Latino parents charged that the test mandate is “unfair,’’ “anti-immigrant’’ and “anti-bilingual education.’’
They were joined by State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), who said the federal government was “trying to take this program [bilingual education] away from us’’ by forcing children to take a test in English before they are fluent.
“This is a way of attacking children who don’t understand the language,’’ said Martinez, who is pushing a resolution to delay the test for a year.
Previously, Illinois kids in bilingual education programs for less than three years took an alternative state test in English.
But last October federal education officials ruled that test did not meet federal No Child Left Behind standards. They ordered Illinois bilingual education students who have been in public schools for more than a year to take the same tests native English speakers take, starting March 3.
Speaking through a Spanish-English translator, parent Erika Soto said her third-grade daughter is “very smart, but because of this test, she is going to be labeled a failure. So how is she going to feel?’’
Parents raised their hands in agreement Tuesday when asked if they would keep their children home rather than have them take the new test.
“We have to push them to pay attention and if this is the way to get them to pay attention, I will do it,’’ said Leticia Barrera, parent of a Monroe Elementary third grader.
Barrera’s daughter, Arely, said she did poorly on practice tests, and is worried she’ll tank the real thing.
“I’m scared,’’ said Arely, age 9. “I think I’m going to fail. I’m not prepared to do the test.’’
State education officials have crafted a long list of test accommodations, including more time, having proctors read directions aloud in students’ native language, and allowing proctors to transcribe student answers in English to questions that require written responses.
Schools choose the accommodations they want to use, but they must provide the proctors and get them trained first.
Barbara Radner, director of DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education, questioned how proctors could transcribe student answers to math questions that often require kids to draw or graph an answer. How can they read aloud to a class a bunch of test questions that not every student may answer at the same pace, she wondered.
“How many hours is this going to take?’’ asked Radner. “We have here Exhibit A of what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind.’’
Officials from Chicago Public Schools, Cicero District 99 and Schaumburg District 54 sent an angry letter to state education officials late Monday, demanding, at a minimum, that kids who are still learning English be allowed to answer written questions in their native language.
The new test mandate, according to the letter, is “patently unfair and damaging to students, teachers and schools. It puts administrative interests ahead of the needs of children and that is bureaucracy at its worst."
A HELPING HAND
Some test accommodations offered to kids who are still learning English* but will be taking state tests in English next month:
* Extra time; more breaks.
* For third- through eighth-graders, small group or individual testing.
* Scripted test directions read in native language. Upon request, proctors of third- through eighth-grade tests can repeat those directions or provide non-scripted directions in "simplified'' English.
* Scripted test questions read in English by proctors or English audio recordings of third- through eighth-grade math and science tests, and all 11th-grade tests.
* Third- through eighth-graders can get "glossaries" that translate non-key English words into native languages in math and science.
* For questions requiring written responses, students can dictate answers in English to proctors, who will transcribe them in English onto answer sheets.
* Officials are trying to provide directions and glossaries in Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Urdu, Korean, Pilipino/Tagalog, Cantonese, Gujarati, Vietnamese and Russian.
Source: Illinois State Board of Education