English-only test leaves some Oregon children behindh/t Fred Klonsky
by Wendy Owen, The Oregonian
Sunday September 13, 2009, 5:44 PM
Forest Grove teacher Lourdes Medina watched two of her third-grade students break into tears of frustration as they tried to complete the state assessment test in reading last spring.
They were excellent readers, but they couldn't comprehend the test, which for the first time in three years was offered only in English.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act allows students to be tested in their native languages, but the U.S. Department of Education decided the commercial Spanish test that Oregon used -- Aprenda -- did not meet federal requirements. So the state cut it last winter.
As a result, the number of third-graders meeting or exceeding state benchmarks for reading dipped at some schools in Forest Grove, Woodburn and Beaverton, making it appear as if fewer students met "adequate yearly progress." The results were released in August. (For all Oregon school ratings and test scores, visit schools.oregonlive.com.)
"It is a disadvantage for our children whose first language is Spanish," said Yvonne Curtis, Forest Grove superintendent.
No Child Left Behind requires schools to make adequate yearly progress on statewide assessments in math and reading and breaks students down by categories, including race/ethnicity, special needs, language and poverty. Students in each category must meet 60 percent.
Cornelius Elementary School in Forest Grove was particularly hard hit. Its third-grader reading scores dropped from 73 percent meeting or exceeding the benchmark to 51 percent in the past year. About 70 percent of the K-4 school's 400 students struggle with English.
"It was devastating," said Cornelius Principal Perla Rodriguez. She added, however, that there were technical complications at her school that contributed to the drop in scores.