Bilingual is Better

Tests for English Learners - Parent’s Anxiety

I am not a fan of our schools’ obsessive testing culture. Unfortunately, the system tests children as the only way to monitor their academic progress. As a parent of a student enrolled in the immersion program, I’d like to share my experience since I know many of you will go through the same process raising your bilingual kids.

My son attends an excellent dual language immersion program in northern California. As a Spanish speaker, I was told he would take a “special test” called CELDT  (California English Language Development Test), which is administered twice a year and would monitor my son’s progress toward acquiring English proficiency. In addition, he would have the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting), which is the standardized state test based on California’s academic standards.  Each state creates their own test, based on standards selected by a state committee, that relate to nationally recognized standards.  Test scores for each school are tied to federal funding and are part of a bill  (No Child Left Behind) passed by President Bush some years back.

In any case, my son was required to take these state tests starting in kindergarten and we were told that children in immersion programs will likely perform much lower than their English-speaking classmates the first years of immersion program but that they will “eventually” catch up.  Eventually? I could feel anxiety coursing through my body… Is he ever going to learn how to speak, write and read “proper” English? ¿Cuando?

You see, my son had little English exposure his first 5 years of existence; he attended full-time German preschool, his father spoke to him exclusively in German and his mamá exclusively in Spanish. I knew he would eventually learn English from his environment and friends but when schools tell you about testing, I have to admit my lack of experience and information made me wonder if the immersion program was the right place for my son. Certainly I am not alone, most native Spanish-speaking families I have talked to have the same questions and anxiety. Many of them, unfortunately, decide to not enroll their children in immersion programs. This fact makes it very difficult for communities, schools and districts to start, maintain and promote immersion programs since they do not have enough Spanish speakers willing to enroll. This must change and I will tell you why.

This week we received my son’s report card that proves what the teachers explained four years ago. My son is doing outstanding in both English and Spanish; his reading, writing and math skills are “advanced” – my nightmares of him speaking “ugly” Spanish and poor English were proved wrong. Not only is my son doing great, but most of his classmates (English and Spanish speakers) are doing fantastic. It is worth it! I hope more Spanish speaking families get over the fear and anxiety of immersion programs and more families could have the opportunity to bilingual education. However, this is a topic for another day. For more on immersion programs check our very first Google Hangout + conversation.

Are you experiencing testing anxiety or have questions on future testing? Please feel free to follow our conversation on SpanglishBabyPlayground. I am not a test expert but I am happy to share my experience on this topic with you!

{photo by  Enokson }

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