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Author Topic: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?  (Read 5738 times)

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ewu

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English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« on: March 17, 2009, 09:11:05 PM »

Iowa teen is refusing to take an English Language Development Assessment. As a condition for federal funding, students who do not mark English as their primary language must pass this proficiency test. Lori Phanachone is required to take this test despite being born in the US and her 3.9 GPA, not to mention her full English fluency.

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090306/NEWS02/903060369
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2009/03/05/news/local/754d93a7a005ccb3862575700009cc99.txt


Your thoughts? Should she need to take this test? Should she have refused to take it? What would you do?
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PyronIkari

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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2009, 10:41:26 PM »

It's more of a paper issue. It pretty much exists to establish that "this person can speak English and doesn't need ESL". It's all about money in the end. It's not racist, it's just to state "despite this student speaking English as a second language, they are proficient in it, so they will not need special classes and will be able to participate in regular classes". By this, the regular school will get more money for their regular schools, and will not need to use said money for "ESL" and other "special" needs for their students.

The kid in question is just being stupid. Hypersensitive and looking for an excuse to be a victim.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2009, 01:19:45 AM »

no it's not racist.  this country needs a primary language and that language needs to be english.
If a government is going to give you federal funding, you better oblige in proving you can at least speak to them.
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ewu

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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2009, 08:15:53 AM »

Well then, if you don't speak English well, then you can go back to whatever country you came from? That is racist and a very easy line of logic when you establish a mandatory language requirement. The problem is that it comes from the assumption that immigrants automatically don't speak English well. and that if you don't speak it well you do not belong in American society, you CANNOT contribute to society.

My issue is that these laws are based on assumptions that are culturally and racially based, not to mention are inflexible for special cases. The language requirements can be paralleled to the jim crow voting laws. Not to mention such a requirement specifically targets immigrants. Either everybody takes the exam or there is more correlated criteria like main language of education. I speak almost exclusively Chinese at home, does that mean my English is remedial? What about if you "voluntarily" state that you are Asian or Latino then you must take the proficiency test? or if you are not Asian you need to take a test to start in a higher level math class?
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 08:21:28 AM by ewu »
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2009, 11:40:44 AM »

How can it be racist?  Your post clearly states if English isn't your primary language, they must take an english proficiency test.  It has nothing to do with race.  I put asian as my ethnicity all the time, do they ask me to take an english test? no.  why? english is my primary (and at this point, only fluent) language.  You'd have to label it linguistic racism if anything.  Why would you give federal funding to someone who can't even read your constitution without translating it? 

And yes, if you're not going to take the time to learn the local (unofficial) language of America, how dare you try to become a citizen.  If a weeaboo went to Japan and tried to become a citizen without knowing any Japanese, do you think s/he'd be able to get it? I don't know the citizenship rules there but I would assume no.  If America didn't bend over to political correctness and just officially say English is the primary language, we wouldn't be having this discussion.  I bet if another country with no english said you need to be able to pass a (insert language) proficiency exam, people would oblige.  I know if I move to another country, I expect myself to learn the local language quick.

Run by me how this is similar to jim crow laws?  Jim crow laws were clear colored and black racist segregation.  Can you change your race? No.  Can you learn a language? Yes.  I see apples to oranges.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2009, 03:46:22 PM »

@JT: from what I was told its really hard to be a japanese citizen, pretty much any foreigner is usually tacked on with a visa (for either work, school or visiting) or a marriage visa (if a foreigner marries a japanese person).

As for the english assesment test, I put Hispanic on my forms when they ask for it in school. But since the primary language spoken at my house is english in elementary school I didnt have to take the ESL test. Its mainly for the whole "If your going to an american school then you should know the language" its the same with other schools overseas as well, its not really racism more like to see how well your written and oral skills so they can be in a regular class without any help or "special classes" like pyron said
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2009, 07:37:00 PM »

I'm not entirely clear on my opinion on this-- as I grew up in the Bay Area, which has a slew of different races and heritages, I had thought that pretty much everyone had to take an standardized English proficiency test of some sort, by some point. My first language was always marked as Mandarin/Putonhua. I had to go to an ESL program in elementary, but it didn't follow me to junior high or high school.

It is NOT racist, because it'd be plausible to test a student of their English proficiency, based on that English would not be their first language. It is based on the fact that she put down Lao as her first language, but not because she is Laotian. It would be the schools concern to make sure whether or not they are in need of help in improving their English, as schools feel the responsibility to aid their students into becoming functioning citizens of our country-- and without English, in an English-speaking country, people would typically struggle (both in working in our country, and attending school).

However, it IS slightly biased to issue her the test as the school should already know whether or not they should be concerned with their English based on her school performance, but the fact that it was recorded that English is not her first language, it isn't of racism to have her take a test proving that her English is fine. That, by itself, is a legitimate reason, and not racist.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2009, 08:06:11 PM »

You guys are missing that this isn't for the schools themselves. These tests are done for the gov't/boards/city, etc. The teachers know better, but it's for demographics and polling. A school with 1000 students and 200 of them don't speak english, don't need supplies for 1000 students, seeing that 200 CAN'T USE THEM.

It's not exactly racist, because it's not aimed towards race, it's about language. Now, if she had to take a test, BECAUSE she was Asian, no questions asked... that'd be a different story.

If anything, taking the test is to prevent racism. It's to prevent just sticking her into ESL classes because English is not her first language.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2009, 09:14:36 PM »

A lot of parents and students get angry when we require testing for any student who does not list English as their primary language.  However, the test is not to place the child, it is not to limit the child, heck the classroom teachers don't even get to see the scores.  The test results are made available to the ELL teachers and to the district only.  It is to designate how many ELL teachers we get to have in our schools, based off of how many ELL students we have.  Placing a child into ELL requires a whole other mess of paperwork.  Even after a child is put into ELL there are several different levels that they can qualify for based on their specific needs.

We could say that testing everyone, English Language Learner or not, for English proficiency would make it all fair.  However, cost and accountability are a HUGE issue there.  My school district saved something like $100,000 this year by cutting one assessment test for one grade.  I can't imagine the cost associated with a district wide assessment test.

Also, to be fair ALL students (regardless of race) are tested for language, physical development and mental development when they are enrolled in Kindergarten.  Students who have changed their status or are new to a district are simply being assessed at a different time.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 09:35:20 PM by BrightHeart76 »
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ewu

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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2009, 10:04:50 PM »

Why isn't does the parent and the child not have a say in their education, especially when there is a clear answer? Why is ti not the teachers determining how a child is to be taught? why is the federal government making the decision on the basis of something as inconsistent and varying as "primary language" at home?

Its not the test that is the issue, but the criterion that the big bad government is using.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2009, 10:16:14 PM »

Why isn't does the parent and the child not have a say in their education, especially when there is a clear answer? Why is ti not the teachers determining how a child is to be taught? why is the federal government making the decision on the basis of something as inconsistent and varying as "primary language" at home?

Its not the test that is the issue, but the criterion that the big bad government is using.

Because the teachers don't control the funding that go into a school, the board and the government do.

This issue isn't about what kids learn, and where they go, but where funding comes from.
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ewu

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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2009, 10:32:00 PM »

and there's an issue with that. Instead of sitting on my ass and accepting something that I think is wrong, I'm speaking out, doing what I can, and ultimately placing myself in a position where I can make a difference.

Not saying that you are not, but its my way of doing what I want and I am sure you have your's too:)
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2009, 10:36:20 PM »

Why isn't does the parent and the child not have a say in their education, especially when there is a clear answer? Why is ti not the teachers determining how a child is to be taught? why is the federal government making the decision on the basis of something as inconsistent and varying as "primary language" at home?

Its not the test that is the issue, but the criterion that the big bad government is using.

I'm sorry, but this post makes very little sense to me.  Of course a parent has a say in their child's education.  If a parent does not want their child included in an ELL class, that's it the child is not included.  A parent is a child's most important advocate.  When it comes to cirriculum that begins at a Federal level, then state, then county, then school and then individual teacher.  However, when it comes to a child's specific needs those are most closely observed and addressed by parents and teachers.  Goodness knows the Federal Government is not concerned with Johnny's spelling problems.

Primary Language is used because it is generally accepted as the language a person is most fluent and most comfortable with.  If this language is not english then the test is required to see if the student needs additional support to become fluent in english.  If a child tests as fluent, that's it, nothing else to be done, thank you for your time now go back to class.  However, if this child needs support then likely the school needs extra funding from the government to accomidate that's childs needs.  That is why the government requires the test.  Without the test there would be no way to distribute funding for ELL education to the correct schools.  Primary Language just gives us a way to identify the students most likely to need ELL classes.  It is not the only way we identify students in need of ELL, it is just the most common way.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2009, 11:55:00 AM »

 I can see why she would be angry about this, but if she does not have to take it then it will only set precedence for many others NOT nearly as proficiant as she is to get out of it as well.

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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2009, 12:24:44 PM »

The way I see it is she's one acting like a racist.  No one is being excluded or single out to take the test.  It's not really a pas or fail test, just a test to see how many students (of all groups) are proficient in english, and how proficient they are.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2009, 04:42:13 PM »

Its too bad you don't get what this bright and young high schooler understands. On paper its about money and ESL, but root to the issue is how non-Americans (read: non-whites) are perceived. When you speak another language at home you can't speak English well. When you have yellow skin you will speak with an accent. When you are Asian you can not be American.

The motivations behind this requirement are the same that spawn comments like, "oh wow you speak English so well", "when did you come to the US?", "Where are you from?; California; No, where are you REALLY from?"

Her stance is not on the benefit or the aim of the requirement. Her stance is regarding the principal of the requirement and assumptions that are legislated with out regard to any other factors. The requirement creates an artificial demographic that does not take in account the individual's background.

People are more than their answers on a form. They should be evaluated as such.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2009, 05:39:22 PM »

OK I am so sick and tired of people assuming that I'm racist because I'm white.  If you have a better way to identify the majority of students in need of ELL (by the way ESL is an incorrect title for these programs because many of the bright and motivated students in these programs are learning their 3rd or 4th language, not their second) let's hear it.  And don't think that students who speak Swedish or French at home don't get tested too, cause ANY language other than English gets tested. 

Racism is judging people based soley on their race.  Your post is racist "read: non-whites".  It's too bad that you can't see past your own experiences to see that sometimes people are honestly trying to act in the best interest of everyone, even if it's not always easy.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2009, 07:11:15 PM »

Nope not saying that you are racist because you are white. I am saying that you don't see the racism because you are white, because you are not exposed to the treatment that some people of color have faced. Racism does not need to be blatant and race based. Racism is inequality because of your race. Rolled in is unequal treatment of immigrants.

The principal of this matter should be that you are to take an evaluation test and join ELL programs if you are in need of the program. The test should not be administered only because English is not your primary language at home, it should be administered either to every student or to only those that have been decided by a teaching professional that they are in need of taking the test.

I understand that people are acting in the best interest of everyone, but the constraints of society and a person's personal experience limit them from understanding the secondary results of their actions. And so the only thing to do is to do it and find out what happens and if side effects pop their heads up, but to be open to these opinions and be willing to entertain solutions.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2009, 08:12:16 PM »

Nope not saying that you are racist because you are white. I am saying that you don't see the racism because you are white, because you are not exposed to the treatment that some people of color have faced. Racism does not need to be blatant and race based. Racism is inequality because of your race. Rolled in is unequal treatment of immigrants.

The principal of this matter should be that you are to take an evaluation test and join ELL programs if you are in need of the program. The test should not be administered only because English is not your primary language at home, it should be administered either to every student or to only those that have been decided by a teaching professional that they are in need of taking the test.

I understand that people are acting in the best interest of everyone, but the constraints of society and a person's personal experience limit them from understanding the secondary results of their actions. And so the only thing to do is to do it and find out what happens and if side effects pop their heads up, but to be open to these opinions and be willing to entertain solutions.

Uh, it's not because she's white, because I completely agree with her. You're LOOKING for a reason for this to turn into race, when it has jack nothing to do with race, or immigrants, or anything for that matter. It's solely about what their primary language is. It all stems from what one marks as their primary language. If it's English, then there's no reason to test them. If they mark otherwise, that's a flag that "maybe they may need special classes for the English language". In which case the government NEEDS proper paper work for funding to be allocated in a specific way. The government needs this documentation.

If cops are looking for an African American suspect reported to be in a specific area and they only stop African Americans... is that racist? They should stop every race... regardless, even if they don't care about every race, only African Americans.

That's basically what this is. The government doesn't care about those that primarily speak English, they only care about students who speak English as a 2ndary or 3rd or 4th language, as these are the ones that *MAY* need these special classes. These classes aren't special ed classes, they aren't for idiots, they're for students that need special classes to learn English because it isn't their primary language. So if someone says "English isn't my first language" it is recorded by the government as "a non-primary English speaker". In which case they *NEED* documentation stating that they *NEED* or *DO NOT NEED* to be put in ELL classes. They have to know either way.

Regardless of whether or not they end up in the class, they have to have this documentation for budget reasons... and frankly it's only a good thing. It, at the very least, means that the government is attempting to monitor and help students that need help.

Is it racist? Not at all. Is it discriminatory? Nope.

This isn't even about "immigrants". A black kid had to take this test. Why? Because his primary language was Japanese. He was born and raised in Japan and came to the States when he was 7.
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Re: English assesment test: Racist right or right for the kid?
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2009, 08:59:34 PM »

This is off subject, but I think it follows the natural progression of this debate.  How do I not see racism?  If anything I can see it from two different sides.  I see it as someone whose family has a long and dark history of hate and I see it as someone who works in an area where I am in the minority and many of our families refuse to work with me or treat me poorly because of it.  I may not have been degraded for my race as a child, but being born with both a physical disability and a speech impairment I've been judged and treated like dirt by people who didn't understand me for 32 years now.  

I can't pretend to know how racism has effected you or anyone else.  However, please don't assume that I don't see and understand the effects and existence of racism and judgment from people who can't see how the world is less fair for some people.  I know what it's like to have teachers say, "She tests well but she must have some mental disability.  Have you heard her talk?"  I tested in the top 3 percent in the nation, I also had nerve damage to my lips, cheeks and tongue.  It may not have been judgement based on race, but it was judgement brought down on me by teachers I loved and respected who never bothered to learn why I couldn't talk.  We won't even go into how cruel kids can be.  I have at least a passing knowledge of the mental and emotional toll taken on someone who is being treated unfairly because of natural events out of their control.

One of my favorite racist moments took place in college.  My Professor was a strong and proud Latina.  On the first day of class she was lecturing on how a child's environment strictly limited their ability to achieve in life.  She was expressing to us that many of our students would come from poor background and broken families.  This Professor informed us that as much as we may try our students would never reach the level of achievement we would hope to see from more affluent families.  We were all struggling with this concept, but the class was very respectful.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, this woman slams her hands onto my desk and screams, "You have only achieved anything in your life because you are a middle class white woman!  And we all know that!"  Bear in mind I had not spoken in class and she did not even know my name.  She only knew what I looked like.

Back on subject.  The down and dirty truth of why we test students instead of leaving it to the teachers is because a lot of teachers would rather chew their own arm off then to do the paperwork and probing required to enroll a student in special classes.  It's not pretty, but it's true.

Also, language acquisition and fluency are very tricky to notice and diagnose.  Is Johnny having a hard time with vowel consonant vowel patterns?  Or is he having a hard time with English as a language?  Is Johnny a quiet young man who speaks softly.  Or is Johnny trying to hide that he is struggling?  It can take weeks or months for a teacher to see the pattern and recognize where Johnny's difficulties lie.  Even longer for new and inexperienced teachers.  

I mentioned a few posts ago that a parent is a child's greatest advocate.  I mean that whole heartedly.  However, a parent can be blind to a child's educational needs.  They see ELL class as being remedial or labeling their child as "not as smart as the other kids".  Parents want their child to be perfect and smart.  I'm not saying their wrong.  I'm saying that many parents cast a blind eye to areas that need attention or are embarrassed to ask for help because they are afraid we will label their child.

Many children fear that if someone realizes that they are struggling their friends and teachers will think they are "stupid".  These children create some very creative ways to hide the difficulties.  Unless a teacher is VERY good they may not realize this until the child has effectively "fallen thru the cracks".  We strive to help kids who might need more help as quickly as possible.  Testing is the quickest and most effective way we've found so far.  

Why can't a student tell us they speak fluent English and forgo the test?  For the same reason that a student can't get straight A's and then skip CRT testing.  The test does not exist to torment the child, but to give us documented results of their understanding of a subject.  Maybe a student thinks their English is perfect, but the test shows they have a bellow grade level weakness with their use of plural nouns.  With a few extra classes this can be addressed.  It's very hard to be subjective about your own knowledge, the test helps by creating documentation of your strengths and weaknesses.  

In a perfect world teacher, parents and students could identify problems and work towards a solution.  The world is far from perfect and laziness and pride create havoc.  While many students can be identified by parents and teachers, many would also fail to be recognized.  Testing helps us catch more kids who need extra help.

Testing is by no means a perfect solution.  However, it is currently the best one we have available.  You mention being open to options and entertaining solutions.  How else do we assure that we are helping as many students as possible?  How else do we assure that what funds are available make it to the schools that need it the most?
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