Mastery of English

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Aug 23 13:10:46 UTC 2005

>>From The Enterprise,

Mastery of English essential for grads

If students flunk a test, do you get rid of the test or work harder to
educate the students? The answer should be obvious, but there are still
too many people making excuses for students who do poorly on tests. With
more including Massachusetts requiring students to pass exams to graduate
from high school, we need to do a better job of teaching students and stop
making excuses.

The Center for Education Policy has just released a study that says
students who are immigrants fail to pass MCAS-type tests at a 30 to 40
percent higher rate than students born here. The suggestion was that the
tests were unfair to students for whom English was a second language.

"Do we want a lot of high school students who don't have diplomas ...
because they are still acquiring English?" asked one critic of the exams,
language educator Deborah Short. What is the alternative? Give diplomas to
students who haven't met the same standards as every other student? That
is not acceptable.

Short is absolutely correct when she says the failure to obtain a high
school diploma limits opportunities in life. But school districts have to
work harder to help these foreign-born students reach a higher level.
Handing them a diploma and shipping them out into the world does a
disservice to the students and to any potential employer who, in effect,
is defrauded by the diploma the student has received.

If it means keeping students back a grade, then so be it. If it means
summer course and after-school instruction, those also should be
considered. In fact, many school districts have such programs. The entire
focus should be on giving all students no matter their first language the
best education possible. Forcing a student to know the English language
before he graduates high school is a requirement that will pay him
dividends for the rest of his life.

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