Sunday, August 06, 2006

It's Magic

Got a problem? Make a new law.

From now on there will be no more snow on weekends. From now on, there will be no more power failures on hot days. From now on, everyone will speak only perfect American English.

A long time ago, immigrants would be given IQ tests and classified as retarded. Well, their scores were no good, weren't they?

In a typical and predictable act, the federal government has declared that testing the English ability of third to eighth-grade ESL students was unacceptable. They must be tested the same way native speakers are tested. They will, therefore, know just as much English as we do.

By magic.

In my school, maybe 90% of the kids who took the NY State English Regents exam passed. Only 55% of the ESL students passed the same test. This was regarded by our administration as a failure that must be corrected. Personally, I didn't buy that. What could they expect? The kids didn't know English. Still, it was regarded by the federal government as a failure that must be replicated wherever possible.

Previously, students who had been in an American school for fewer than three years were exempt from the regular test.

That's not good enough for Margaret Spellings.

Perhaps Ms. Spellings ought to fly to Korea, study for one year, and try to get through college. If my students can do it, why can't she? Here's why, actually:

Christine Rossell, a professor of political science at Boston University, called the federal law completely unrealistic and illogical when applied to students with limited English skills.

Dr. Rossell said students should be tested upon entering school, but the results not used for compliance with the federal law until a child has been in an American school for five years.

Making high school ESL students take the Regents exam was a terrible idea. Because we had to teach them to pass the test, there was often no room on their programs to study English. They can't pass the test until they know English. But they won't have space to study English until they pass the test. Don't worry, though. Margaret Spellings will fix it. With the same magic Rumsfeld's been using in Iraq.

Here's one more thing you won't read in the Times--teachers like me can sometimes use little tricks and show kids with little English how to pass the Regents exam.

But they still won't know English. We can do better for these kids.

Unfortunately, the US government wants, needs, and demands failure in public schools, which happen to be a huge and inconvenient drag on Steve Forbes' tax bill.

You may as well go back to giving them IQ tests in a language they don't understand.

Meanwhile, you want good test scores? You want a good school? Just keep the ESL students out.

That'll be the next big thing. In schools that utilize that approach, scores will skyrocket. NYC Schools Chancellor Klein will praise the principals of those schools, lambast the teachers in the others, and claim victory for mayoral control.

But he believes in magic. And, like Margaret Spellings, he wants you to believe in it too.

Do you believe in magic?

Thanks to Schoolgal and Norm
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