More Students in New York Will Take
Regular English Test
New York Times
August 5, 2006
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Ordered by the federal government to improve its testing of students who speak
limited English, New York State said yesterday that all children enrolled in
school in the United States for at least a year would be required to take the
state’s regular English Language Arts exam. The test is given annually in the
third through eighth grades.
State officials said the decision would require about 90,000 children who speak
limited English to take the regular exam in January. Students will continue to
take the state’s math, social studies and science tests in a variety of
foreign languages, officials said.
They also said they could not predict how many schools might fail to make yearly
progress as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Law if many students
score poorly on the English test.
Schools that fail to make adequate progress can be branded as needing
improvement and sanctioned.
Previously, students who had been in an American school for fewer than three
years were exempt from the regular test. Instead, they were given the New York
State English as a Second Language Achievement Test, which was developed to
determine whether a child should receive special services as a limited English
New York had also used that test, known as the Nyseslat, to comply with the No
Child Left Behind Law, which requires that schools demonstrate adequate yearly
progress for their general student population and for subgroups of students,
including racial minorities, special education students and limited English
But a federal review this year found that New York’s testing system failed to
comply with the law. In June, the federal Education Department wrote to New
York, saying the Nyseslat “is not sufficiently comparable to the regular
English language arts assessment” test.
New York, Virginia and Colorado ran afoul of the federal law by using a
substitute English proficiency test instead of a so-called “content” test,
which measures student ability against uniform standards for performance at each
New York was told to correct the problem within a year or risk losing $1.2
million a year in federal education aid. Last month, New York officials convened
a panel on bilingual education to discuss possible alternatives, including the
development of an entirely new test, which would have cost millions of dollars.
In a memo yesterday to superintendents statewide, the deputy education
commissioner, Jean C. Stevens, said the state will continue to consider “alternative
ways of assessing” students with limited English skills. The federal
government has begun an effort to help states develop such assessments.
Ms. Stevens said students forced to take the regular test would be given special
accommodations, including extra time, separate testing locations, a third
reading by proctors of selections to test listening comprehension (they are
normally read only twice), and the use of bilingual dictionaries or glossaries.
Officials in New York City said they had no choice but to comply. “We
understand that this is a matter of law,” said David Cantor, a spokesman for
Chancellor Joel I. Klein.
But some experts on the federal law and bilingual education said the state
should have fought the federal requirements or, alternatively, developed a new
test specifically designed for non-English speakers.
Christine Rossell, a professor of political science at Boston University, called
the federal law “completely unrealistic” and “illogical” when applied to
students with limited English skills.
Dr. Rossell said students should be tested upon entering school, but the results
not used for compliance with the federal law until a child has been in an
American school for five years.