Thursday, March 30, 2017

College Board Allows ELLs to Use Dictionaries, Gives No Time

Our school is administering the SAT and PSAT on April 5th. With approval, students with IEPs can get time and a half. However, if you DON'T KNOW ENGLISH, too bad for you. You are expected to use a word for word translating glossary and hope for the best.

On a very basic level, this is absurd. If this test is designed to measure college readiness, it doesn't begin to do so. In fact, you have no idea how much knowledge or readiness a given student has when you give them a test in a language they don't understand. Such absurd and misleading use of testing is more or less and American tradition. I've read of speakers of other languages being classified as mentally deficient due to their lack of knowledge of English.

I'm just a little bit put out by this, as ALL of my students are beginners in English. In fact, most of them are taking these tests. What on earth their performance is supposed to prove? I have no idea. It's been a while since I've examined an SAT exam, but I'm pretty sure not knowing English is a fundamental disadvantage. In fact, I deem it cruel when they make newcomers sit for the NYSESLAT, the preposterous piece of nonsense that NY State purports to be a measurement of language acquisition. This is even worse.

I don't know how much College Board is getting for this citywide administration, but whatever it is it's too much. They're raking it in hand over fist for AP classes, and lots of schools let pretty much anyone take them, whether or not they sit for tests. I have an issue with a profit-motivated entity having this much sway over college admission, and maybe Harvard University, which just dropped its SAT requirement, does as well.

I've got some serious issues with stupid, and I can think of no other way to characterize this decision. If we're being reasonable, imagine that you and I are taking a test. You understand the language way better than I do, but I'm permitted to use a translating dictionary. Doesn't it stand to reason that every moment I spend using the dictionary is a moment lost to me? Is that so hard for the geniuses at College Board to comprehend?

I hear they are sticklers about fairness. If the test gives you 45 minutes, you damn well better not take 46 minutes. That would give your group an edge on every other. Given that, how can they allow ELLs to spend valuable test time looking up words? In fact, why the hell not give the test in other languages? Since they've so carefully estimated the precise measurements for how college-ready people are, why can't they find a translator?

Would that give an edge to my students? If it did, there are issues with the test. Actually I can understand how vocabulary might not be precisely translated, but they could make up for that with good translation. If I can read 100 Years of Solitude in English, College Board can translate its tests.

If they don't, they ought to give up any and all pretense of this test being fair. If they think it's fair, they can go to China with a dictionary and take college placement tests over there, with no extra time. I'll bet we'd discover a whole lot of the geniuses over at College Board are not college or career-ready after all.
blog comments powered by Disqus