Last week, the NY Gifted Education Examiner received the following email from a concerned, NYC public school parent:
I want to share with you my experience with G&T testing.
Last fall I applied for G&T testing for my twin boys. Since their primary language is Russian I was happy to find out that the test is offered in several languages including Russian! I registered them to take a test on a weekend and was confirmed to have Russian tester.
To my surprise two days before the test I got a letter from the school saying that the test will be conducted in their school during regular school hours. I called the school office and learned the test will be in English! Nobody told them it was requested to be done in Russian nor they have Russian speaking testers.
The Office of Assessment stated that public school students can not select the language for the test! Those options are for private school students, ESL students or the kids who are not in school!
I guess not all kids are created equally. Some have more options and rights then the others.
Obviously, it's pointless for my kids to take the test in English. They would barely understand the instructions or the questions.... And, then compete with other kids who took a test in their own language.
In response, the NY Gifted Education Examiner wondered: May I ask you, if your boys couldn't pass the G&T test in English, then what would you have done if they'd passed it in Russian and ended up placed in a G&T classroom? How would they have been able to do the work if their language skills were lacking?
The response is below:
You brought up a very valid point. We were talking with my husband a lot about it. To test the kids in Russian (Spanish, Cantonese, etc) or English?
I think it's a much broader topic then looks at first sight.
Yes, the kids are going to an English speaking environment in elementary school, regardless if it's a G&T or Gen Ed class. I think what works for kids at that age is that they catch up with English within a year. I hear it from all teachers in New York. In our city we have kids from all countries, speaking many different languages before entering kindergarten.
That's why I think that the English language proficiency is not an issue here. G&T test is geared to identify general mental development of a kid, logic skills and common sense. Which doesn't depend on spoken language. I have many friends with kids who don't speak any English prior to school and get into 97-99% on G&T. The kids do very well in class.
The problem that DOE created is that they set different rules of the same game for different kids. Some kids have a right to take the test in their primary language while others don't. The test results don't reflect the language spoken but only percentile. So the kid get placed in a G&T class based on common knowledge and logic skills.
It's not only kids are not given equal rights and opportunities. It created a situation when low income parents have less rights for their kids. Since kids who go to private schools always have the right to choose the language.
In our class there are many Spanish speaking kids. Did they get tested in Spanish? (That's one of the languages that's on a menu). No. They were tested in English. Did they understand the questions and instructions? I doubt.
It's a clear discrimination. Not providing equal rights an opportunity from government (DOE)? I would never thought it was possible.
In my opinion the test should be administered in English only. Or, all kids have an access and an opportunity to take a test in their language.
In my personal situation, I registered kids to take a test in Russian. I had no doubt that they would be able to perform well in English class. Plus, the test is taken a year before they go to school. Some parents use this time to expose their kid to English (and, what we did). For me it was more important to identify the development of my kids and being able to provide them with stimulating environment in a school so they wouldn't get bored. Acquiring English proficiency has never being a problem.
Do you agree? Is this discriminatory, and should it be changed so that all kids are tested in English, or all kids are tested in the language of their choice? Let us know!