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Editorial: ELLs Are Not Served Well by Current Testing Practices

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The unintended consequences of high-stakes testing and accountability systems for English-language learners outweigh any benefits that standardized tests might have for such students, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco and Carola Suarez-Orozco argue in a on-line collection of commentaries on standardized testing published by the New York Times this week. The two are co-directors of the immigration studies program at New York University.

The significant increase of test scores in New York City each year over the last seven years on the state of New York's mathematics and reading tests is the backdrop for the discussion, "What Do School Tests Measure?"

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It's not just ELL's that are harmed by high stakes, standardized testing. It hurts almost everyone, yet the teacher quality leaders think the tests are just fine.

Marcelo Suarez-Orozco and Carola Suarez-Orozco make a lot of sense. Let me add one more thought. As an elementary school teacher of English language learners in a public school, I spend at least 7 weeks of the school year (that's about 20% of the year) giving practice standardized tests, and actually giving the standardized tests to all our 2nd - 5h graders. Included in those 7 weeks is 4 weeks of giving the English language learner test that is mandated by the state (which is mandated by NCLB) to all of our ESOL students. Even the kindergartners have to know how to mark answers ("bubble in") in test booklets. ESOL students are especially hard-hit by standardized testing because they have to take the standardized tests that all students have to take as well as the English language learners standardized test that only they take -a double whammy that cuts down on their instructional time. To me, the loss of time I have with my language-learning students is a very, very serious problem that someone needs to address.

In my opinion, high-stakes testing is especially awful for students who are unlucky enough to go to schools where majority of students are low income. Such schools fear not making AYP and at least in my school, the instructional consequences were appalling (lots of low-level drill practice, workbooks, test pressure). Absolutely, the ELLs are hurt by loss of learning time because they take more tests than others. It is a huge problem.

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