Standardized Testing for ELL Students

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State tests continue to be the reflection of the students’ knowledge obtained during the school year from a variety of different courses. With the growing population of non-English speakers, the question arises as to whether state tests accurately represent English Language Learners (ELLs), students who are improving their skills in English. For long-term results of fluency and comprehension, the state tests should be administered in other languages due to a multitude of reasons: interference of already established effective methods of teaching English, the fact that standardized testing solely in English doesn’t represent true proficiency for ELLs, and the failed enrichment methods.

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The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, through the administration of standardized tests in English, deepened the gap between Americans and Native Americans. This Act [required] assessment testing”which is tied to federal funding”to be entirely in English (Klug, Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?) and required that 100% of all students be academically proficient by the end of the 2013-14 school year (Zehr, No child left behind: Did Bush get it right?). Many Native Americans attend immersion schools, where English is slowly learned and tested after beginning to learn the Native language; so, the students would be fluent in both languages.

Unfortunately, going against the immersion schools, the NCLB Act disregarded this method; these schools struggled to meet the new requirements since English fluency comes much later in their curriculum. Even so, this method of full immersion–administering tests in Native languages and English–eventually proved to be more useful than testing solely in English since immersion students are scoring with or above their non-immersion peers on standardized tests, even in English (Klug, Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?). Eventually, the students were able to meet the NCLB requirements with just a few hours of English practice a day utilizing their Native language. Unlike immersion students, many Native American students were not doing well in traditional public school settings, where they were dropping out at a rate roughly twice the national average, all due to the lack of test practice in their Native language before the introduction of English testing (Klug, Native American Languages Act: Twenty Years Later, Has It Made a Difference?). Proficiency in tests administered in English does not represent true comprehension or fluency for ELLs. For example, the Korean education system focuses primarily on academic achievement through high test scores and grades. Much like the American system, many schools require a certain level of English proficiency (Cho, Issues Concerning Korean Learners of English: English Education in Korea and Some Common Difficulties of Korean Students).

When students are put through conversational practice for application of their achieved skills, they seem to lack the ability to converse; they only know how to take tests. During lessons, [pupils] have scarcely any conversation sessions, despite having three or four classes per week and indeed while teachers have a good knowledge of English grammar and reading many are not fluent speakers of English (Cho, Issues Concerning Korean Learners of English: English Education in Korea and Some Common Difficulties of Korean Students). Indeed, affluent ELLs could do the same to invest time and money for tutoring centers or institutions to become proficient in the standardized tests themselves. Unfortunately, they would be lacking fluency much like the students of Korea. This would contradict the whole goal of the test itself; ELLs would be left helpless in the future. By providing the students with the test in their native language, they can fully grasp the curriculum or course and then proceed to grasp the test material in English. This would ensure applicational skills for the students and long-term results. The Latino population is the fastest growing population in America starting from the 2000s. Statistics from 2015 show that about 21% of Latino eighth-graders were proficient or advanced in reading, up from 17% in 2009 (Mather et al.). Even though there is an impression that the Latino population has improved vastly, in comparison to the White population of 2015, these numbers seem nonexistent since White eighth graders were more than twice as likely as their Latino counterparts to be proficient or advanced in math (Mather et al.).

Many schools disregard the capabilities of state tests administered in other languages due to the fact that they claim to promote school readiness through high-quality early childhood education programs”such as Head Start”which contributes greatly to children’s cognitive, physical, and neurological development (Mather et al.). Surely, with this enrichment program, the Latino population would have higher proficiencies on standardized testing due to improved fluencies in a shorter period of time, but only about 54% of Latino three- to five-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2014, compared to 60% of Whites and 63% of Blacks (Mather et al.). Clearly, the efforts to involve these students were not enough, nor do the families seem aware of these benefits. If even this long-term method proved to be inefficient, the only way of improving test scores would be through taking tests in other languages, simply due to their late starts in English education; the Latino students would have a chance to bolster their understandings of the subjects and slowly transition with other students. Even Herman, a senior scientist with CRESST, the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards & Student Testing at UCLA, claims that translated tests can be beneficial for certain groups of students, particularly those at the middle or high school level who had a strong foundation in their home language before coming to the United States (Roth et al.). Unless the government and the school system are keen on continuing their lacking efforts and the poor representation of the ELLs, students should be given the option to test in their native language until they are able to achieve complete comprehension of their courses.

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