Rosalind Rossi, Chicago Sun Times, February 13, 2008
Angry Chicago Latino parents threatened Tuesday to keep their kids home on test day next month if state education officials insist on giving students who are still learning English an achievement test in English.
Facing threats of federal sanctions, state officials were ordered last October to give the same state tests native English speakers take to some 60,000 Illinois public school kids who haven’t yet mastered English.
During a news conference Tuesday at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, about two dozen Latino parents charged that the test mandate is “unfair,” “anti-immigrant” and “anti-bilingual education.”
They were joined by State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), who said the federal government was “trying to take this program [bilingual education] away from us” by forcing children to take a test in English before they are fluent.
Previously, Illinois kids in bilingual education programs for less than three years took an alternative state test in English.
But last October federal education officials ruled that test did not meet federal No Child Left Behind standards. They ordered Illinois bilingual education students who have been in public schools for more than a year to take the same tests native English speakers take, starting March 3.
Barrera’s daughter, Arely, said she did poorly on practice tests, and is worried she’ll tank the real thing.
“I’m scared,” said Arely, age 9. “I think I’m going to fail. I’m not prepared to do the test.”
State education officials have crafted a long list of test accommodations, including more time, having proctors read directions aloud in students’ native language, and allowing proctors to transcribe student answers in English to questions that require written responses.
Officials from Chicago Public Schools, Cicero District 99 and Schaumburg District 54 sent an angry letter to state education officials late Monday, demanding, at a minimum, that kids who are still learning English be allowed to answer written questions in their native language.
The new test mandate, according to the letter, is “patently unfair and damaging to students, teachers and schools. It puts administrative interests ahead of the needs of children and that is bureaucracy at its worst.”