Friday, April 03, 2009

The Education Front: Should immigrant children get a TAKS exemption?

Exempting students from standardized test assessments does not mean that the state is no longer able to assess the performance of immigrant and ELL youth. First, TAKS tests are a diagnostic instrument. There are better ways to assess students, especially those who are second language learners. A Compensatory Multiple Measures assessment that takes into account portfolios, teacher evaluations, GPA, in addition to performance on standardized tests is an example of an alternative assessment that not only better serves ELL and immigrant youth but ALL students.


Mon, Mar 23, 2009
William McKenzie | Dallas News Op-Ed

Here's a tough call: Should Texas legislators exempt students who are not proficient in English from the TAKS test?

Democratic Rep. Mike Villareal's bill on this subject is slated to come up for review in the Texas House Public Education Committee Tuesday. Rodger and I have talked about this subject before, and I confess real ambivalence. I'm a testing/accountability hawk, so I generally don't like to make testing exemptions. It's real easy to start shortchanging kids when you do that.

But here's the reality: Kids who come here from Mexico in, say, the ninth grade with limited English skills really are at a disadvantage. Some readers may think they or their parents should never have come in the first place, but that's not the point. They are here, the state has an obligation (and a self-interest) in educating them and schools in Dallas and elsewhere have to figure out the best way to get them learning in English and at grade level.

Both are tough because some immigrant children are behind in learning in Spanish, much less English. This is a daily reality for many teachers across the state.

There's also data that shows kids take up to five to seven years to really learn in another language. I'd like to think it could be done faster, but what if that is how long it takes?

I'm really stumped on this. If you give a ninth grader four years of TAKS exemption, then they basically can get out of school without ever taking the state's achievement exam. How's that fair to them, if the world they're going to live in requires at least the skills high school provides?

So, what would you do? What do you think is realistic in situations like this? I'm particularly interested in hearing from educators.

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