Sunday, January 17, 2010

Education and Testing - for Advanced Comp

My best friend, Jen, and I are both teacher candidates. She goes to Emporia State in Kansas and wants to teach high school and college math, while I'm here and want to teach high school and college English.

Yesterday we were talking about our classes and we came across the topic of multicultural students and their disadvantages in the classroom. In both of our programs (and hopefully most programs across the nation) teacher candidates are required to do their internships/observations/student teaching in at least one school with a majority minority students or where a majority of the students are of a low socioeconomic status.  She and I were discussing how strange it is that so many teacher candidates struggle through those placements because they want to teach in middle to upper-middle-class suburban predominantly white schools. 

We talked about the various struggling school systems in each of our areas. Jen mentioned that in Kansas there are a lot of Hispanic immigrants and a high demand for English Language Learning (our ESL). We got to talking about standardized testing and how kids who don't speak English as their first language categorically score low on those tests.  I told her that I would love to teach ESL but don't have time (to stay in school for it). She said she thinks there should be separate tests for native speakers and ELL/ESL students. I agreed with her during our initial discussion, but then after talking to my mom about it, I realized that I don't know if that's the best solution to the problem. 

Of course, most of we teachers and teacher candidates believe that standardized testing is too rigid for many students and some entire districts. But, that initial problem is compounded when there is a language barrier. According to the Center on Education Policy, Kansas test scores for 10th and 11th graders in reading went down from 2006 to 2007, but went up in math. In Oklahoma, all of our scores went up. Sounds like a good thing, right? Until you look at the Oklahoma City (mostly urban) Public School district. According to our state department's district report cards in 2003 and 2009, "minority" students and boys score unsatisfactorily in reading, with the exception of Asian students, who excel with the Caucasian children and the girls. The majority of all races of students score unsatisfactorily in math, with the exception of Asians. U.S. Grant High School, an almost half-Hispanic school (according to Public School Review), has been on the list of schools that need improvement for four years running.

I don't know what to do about the problem. But some of us need to put our heads together and figure it out. 

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