Marybelle Ferreira De Oleo 0

testing newly-arrived immigrants in English in NYC public schools is a crime against humanity

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SAY NO to the unfair practice of testing new immigrants within just a school year of being enrolled in a NYC public school. Demand that the NYSED stops testing newly-arrived students in English Language Arts before they have been given the opportunity to first learn in that language.

The direction of current educational reform in New York City, which is grounded in greater accountability, is closing the door to learning and educational opportunities for immigrant children and youths.

In the past, English Language Learners were required to take the English Language Arts (ELA) exam after being in the United States public schools for 3 years. However, more recently with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, these students are being forced to take this test without knowing English. This practice is making the opportunity and achievement gap more difficult to close.

What can we do about this problem? The most effective way of narrowing the academic achievement gap that unfair testing practices are creating would be to ensure that all children, regardless of their language or background have access to secure, stable, and cognitively stimulating environments in early childhood and an equal access to education.

Testing newly-arrived immigrants in English Language Arts before they have had the opportunity to first learn in that language is unfair, academically unsound and immoral. It is a crime against humanity! It is a crime because if we allow this practice to continue, this population will be consigned to live in misery, end up dropping out of school, filling up our jails, joining gangs, unemployment, drugs, a life of crime and ultimately their death! If new immigrants are not first given the opportunity to learn, and if the NYSED does not allow schools to provide all students with an equal opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to succeed in our complex society then their hope for social mobility dims.

 A high-stakes test is any test that has major consequences or is the basis of a major decision with a clear line drawn between those who pass and those who fail. Initially, the main goal of high stakes testing was to increase student achievement and to improve instructional focus and the alignment of instruction to standards. These tests were also designed to increase instructional efficiency and allocate resources to improve student performance and reduce the achievement gap. However, the research informs us that high-stakes testing policies have had a disproportionate negative impact on new immigrants and students with disabilities. One of the major causes contributing to the high incidence of dropping out of high school among immigrant students is high-stakes testing. Current high-stakes testing policies have too many unintended consequences for new immigrant students:

•High-stakes testing policies have worsened the quality of schools and have created negative effects that severely outweigh the few positive benefits associated with high-stakes testing policies.

•The negative effects of high-stakes tests on immigrant students and students who do not speak or have not yet acquired the academic English needed to succeed and to perform well academically and on tests, are well-known and unquestionably disastrous. However, the United States continues testing its children, regardless of their English language acquisition, years of education in their native countries and/or status as SIFE (students with interrupted formal education) or who have been identified as English Language Leaners (ELLs) who are also students with disabilities (SWDs).

•These tests have unintended consequences such as narrowing the curriculum taught, increasing dropout rates and contributing to higher rates of retention in grade, especially among ELLs.

•Other unintended consequences include academic demoralization among teachers and students, teaching to the test rather than to the standards, and the inappropriate allocation of school resources such as targeting students near the cutoff while ignoring students not near cutoff levels.

•Firing educators and closing schools are part of the latest trend. And, as if enough damage has not been done, next year new laws on testing new immigrants will be worse. This new law will handicap our children even more and create greater opportunity and achievement gaps. 

Testing children beyond their educational ability and pressuring them to perform well in a second language goes against the research that has consistently shown that, in the best of situations, it takes from 4 to 7 years for an individual to learn the academic language in a second language, so, why are new immigrant children being mandated to take exams in a language that they do not speak?

Don’t allow this unfair practice to continue harming and humiliating our children!

Since our children cannot defend themselves, let us defend them and show them that we care. Let’s all in unison say STOP!


Marybelle Ferreira De Oleo, Ed.D.


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