Monday, July 15, 2019

Double Whammy for ELLs in NY State

I've written quite frequently about CR Part 154, which the geniuses in Albany revised so that ELLs would get less direct instruction in English. MaryEllen Elia and the Regents decided it was discriminatory that ELLs were in classes by themselves learning English. What a waste of time, they thought, leaving them in classes with other language learners. So they cut direct langauge classes by a factor of 33-100%, and decided to take another approach.

The new NY approach is sit around, do nothing, and hope for the best. In a way, it works. For one thing, the most recent iteration of the NY State English Regents exam is a piece of crap. It measures neither reading nor writing. It isn't called a Common Core exam anymore, but that's what it is. In NY State, because Common Core exams were so unpopular, the geniuses in Albany removed the name Common Core. They just left the tests the same and hoped no one would notice.

They've accomplished several things here that benefit taxpayers. First, they cut services to the most vulnerable students in the state, saving districts a ton of money that may have been frittered away teaching newcomers English. After all, who needs English in the United States of America? There are plenty of jobs washing dishes and collecting aluminum cans that require no English at all. Second, they saved the taxpayers the unwanted expense of rewriting a test.

Now sure, you'll say, a teacher like me can write a test in ninety minutes. But what do I know? I'm just a teacher. We need to run tests by psychometricians and people with doctorates. We need to find out what people in offices think about them. Then we need to run all sorts of tests. We need to place questions on current tests to test the tests. Now sure, after we do that the tests may still be total crap, but we'll have spent millions of dollars developing them. So you see, NY State, by allowing the crappy tests to continue, has saved the taxpayers millions.

Now sure, counselors may look through college application letters and notice that even their very best scoring students can't write their way out of a paper bag, but what difference does that make? After all, they'll get accepted somewhere anyway. And if their college application letters are crap, at least the colleges will be 100% certain the students themselves wrote them.

Then we come to the test that ELLs take to demostrate their English level. This test is called the NYSESLAT. Here's what teachers I speak with have been noticing--our students are lower than they ever were before. I notice it too. Last year I taught an advanced class for the first time in ten years. This is because there were fewer beginners. Why?

The NYSESLAT says that students I used to teach as beginners are no longer beginners. That's no accident. NY State sets cut scores any way it golly goshdarn pleases and needs to show progress. So lo and behold, ELLs are scoring higher and doing better. My beginners, who often used to be false beginners with more background knowledge than we expected, are rank beginners. The false beginners, who truly need what I have to teach, have been placed higher.

In fact, I had a whole lot of beginners in my so-called advanced class. They couldn't produce a coherent sentence in English. This notwithstanding, they'd tested out of English instruction and passed the ridiculous English Regents exam. For those who didn't, it was my job to teach them how to pass the Regents exam. This came, of course, at the expense of learning reading, writing, or English, all of which they required.

I'm really baffled as to why educational activists statewide seem not to give a damn about ELLs. It mirrors the Trump administration's indifference to newcomers. Maybe they don't know. Maybe they don't care. Only time will tell.
blog comments powered by Disqus