Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Yes it's here, and my beginning ESL students need to take it, because no excuses. It's important the 
College Board know where you stand in relation to those of us who were born here. After all, if you don't know the answers, it's the fault of your unionized teachers who should all be fired with extreme prejudice. For goodness sakes they've been here 20 school days already, and if they can't learn English by then the state's probably right to do away with all that ESL nonsense altogether.

The College Board needs everyone to Be Accountable. That's why they sent the application material to the school, for thousands of kids, and gave only three days to prepare. In our school, the ESL students are given the materials to fill out in class so they don't have to do so right before the test. And this is indeed a job. First of all, I only got the materials yesterday.

Here's the thing with kids who don't understand English--it isn't easy to get them to follow directions. So yesterday, in my morning class, I organized all the students who had to take the exam. Then I started to explain what they had to do and wouldn't you know it? They didn't understand.

I then separated my kids into language groups--Spanish and Chinese. But here's the thing--I don't speak Chinese. I tried to get some colleagues to send me Chinese-speaking students to help, and they obliged. But the students my colleagues sent spoke Cantonese while my kids spoke Mandarin. As I was despairing of ever getting this done, having already lost quite a bit of my class, my Mandarin-speaking ESL colleague had the misfortune of walking down the hall. I dragged her into my classroom, and she assembled the Chinese speakers and helped them.

I huddled in back with my Spanish speakers and we managed to get through. But then there were the convoluted instructions of what to fill out and what not to fill out, which I hadn't read all the way through. I was fortunate enough to get a helpful administrator, better prepared than I was, to explain to us, and my Chinese-speaking colleague duly translated everything.

Fortunately, things went more smoothly in my PM class. I was able to borrow a Chinese-speaking student from the class next door, and she calmly guided my students through the process. The fact that I actually understood it enough to explain it to the young woman was helpful too. In the second period of my double-period class, one of my shy students confided in me that she was supposed to take the test and that I hadn't given her a paper to fill out. The same administrator who helped me in the morning came up and helped her.

I'm glad we got through this, but I question how much my non-English speakers benefit from sitting through a grueling exam with instructions far too difficult to follow. Is it that important for NYC to support College Board and its near-monopoly on testing? When is College Board, or New York State, or someone going to acknowledge that kids who don't know English have distinctly different learning priorities and needs than those who do?

Or is that too much to ask?
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