Is English an "essential skill" in America?

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Non-English proficiency tests on table in Medford

Mail Tribune:  The Medford School Board is weighing an option that would allow non-native English speakers to complete state-required proficiency tests in their home language to graduate.
The board must decide by the end of the month whether to allow the policy change, which would allow only a small number of students demonstrate proficiency in tests using their first language. The board shared a handful of concerns about the proposed policy change during a work session Monday, but will not vote on it until a meeting later this month.
I want to make sure we’re graduating students with a quality education,” said board member Marlene Yesquen, who was part of a board sub-committee formed to study the policy change. “We would be diminishing the quality of our graduation requirement.”
Yesquen and board member Jeff Thomas shared concerns that the policy change may have been put on the table by the Oregon Department of Education as an easy way to raise graduation rates.
The state created the “essential skills” graduation requirements in 2008, requiring districts to phase in proficiency testing in various subjects for students, beginning with the class of 2012.
An Oregon Administrative Rule adopted in December of 2010 requires school districts to come up with a policy on whether they will allow the native-language proficiency tests. The district has until June 30 to make its decision.
The state estimates that between 475 and 825 graduates in Oregon each year might fall under the policy change, which would apply only to students that meet all other graduation requirements, according to Terri Dahl, supervisor of federal programs for the district.
It’s a tough decision,” said Dahl, who noted that although the state is asking boards to vote on the policy change this year, she wouldn’t be surprised if the policy becomes a mandate in the future.  Dahl said that as few as four or five students in the district each year might be eligible to use the native-language option.
Thomas said he was concerned that letting a student demonstrate subjects such as reading and writing in their first language might mislead students into thinking they could obtain a job in the United States at easily as a fellow high school graduate who speaks fluent English.  “These kids need to graduate with hope and knowing with what they’ve earned, they can be successful,” said Thomas.
The policy would apply to students that have been enrolled in U.S. schools for fewer than five years and who demonstrate an intermediate score on an English language proficiency test to show they are learning the language.  “We’re concerned that we’re going to hand a degree to a student that can’t speak English,” said Thomas.
The Phoenix-Talent School District approved the policy change last year and Dahl said most districts in the state are doing the same.  “It took some staff time, but it’s been well worth the effort,” said Teresa Sayre, director of instructional services for Phoenix-Talent.
Sayre said that while only one student was eligible this year, the ability to take the test in her native Spanish language was invaluable.  “For this one student, it’s making a world of difference,” she said.
Banking on the hope that students could become proficient even after graduating high school, board member Sally Killen said she supported the policy change.  “I hate to hold back kids and say the only time you have to learn the language is in high school,” said Killen. “I’m inclined to support this.”
Board Chairwoman Paulie Brading said she understood the concerns from other board members but supported the idea behind the policy change.  “I think students deserve to demonstrate their proficiency no matter what their language is,” Brading said.
The board approved a first reading of the policy Monday, but will vote on whether to adopt the change during a meeting later this month.
During my high school years, I took Spanish and visited Mexico several times.  I’ll never forget my teacher telling us, “You need to learn the language of the country you are visiting.”  Although I wasn’t quite fluent, I spoke Spanish during my visits as much as I could.  After high school, I attended the University of Mexico for one year.  After one month of living in Mexico, I was quite fluent in Spanish and spoke it all the time.  I can not imagine being able to survive in a foreign country without being able to speak their language (especially when dealing with the police – Americans were prime targets for bribes in Mexico).
If these children live and attend school in America, shouldn’t that now be their “home language”?  After one year why aren’t they able to speak in English?  It really doesn’t take five years to master the language.  Wouldn’t it make a world of difference if these children learned to be proficient in English while living in America?

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0 responses to “Is English an "essential skill" in America?

  1. HaHaHaHaHa
    This is so ridiculous, it’s funny. Except it isn’t. My country has become a mad house. 🙁

  2. Eyes Wide Open

    Why would we want anyone to speak English in this country? You don’t have to pay taxes, someone else will do that for you. You don’t have to work, someone else will do that for you. You don’t have to feed your kids, someone else will do that for you. You don’t have to provide your own housing, pay your own bills, get your own medical care, someone else will do all these things and more for you. So why should you have to speak English here? Can’t someone else do that for you?

  3. could you imagine if the knuckleheads in charge now would have been in charge lets say 100 years ago when the mass influx of italian, polish, russian, slavic, german immigrants came and each of these groups decided not to learn english but rather force everyone else to cater to them. holy mackeral if you can’t learn english you don’t need to live in america bye bye… no job no welfare no public aid learn the english language

  4. edward oleander

    I would have no trouble hiring an immigrant. I would never even consider hiring someone who doesn’t speak English. Period. I absolutely LOVE the diversity in this country… I love the additions to our arts, our culture, and our menus that new immigrant group bring us. But a nation must have SOMETHING in common EVERYWHERE to keep it whole and united… That something is language.
    My Father-in-law spoke nothing but Norwegian in his Wisconsin hometown, UNTIL HE WENT TO SCHOOL… It wasn’t, and still isn’t, a matter of social consciousness or political correctness. It’s totally about practicality and making a commitment to joining our American melting pot.

  5. Winston Smith

    Teddy Roosevelt said “either you are an American or not – no hyphenations. If you are an American, you speak our language: English.”
    If you insist on speaking your native language, feel free to do so – IN YOUR NATIVE COUNTRY!
    Here’s a part of the Immigration Law: “[the] Police Force, may carry out the following:
    Perform verification visits
    Cause a foreigner to appear before immigration authorities
    Receive and present complaints and testimony
    Perform migration inspection operations on routes or at temporary points different from established inspection locations
    Obtain such other elements of proof as may be necessary for the application of the Act, its regulation, and additional administrative provisions … the authorities of the country, whether federal, local, or municipal, and the notaries public and commercial brokers are required to request that the foreigners whom they deal with prove their legal presence in the country” FOR MEXICO!
    Mexican law considers “[i]legal entry a federal crime … penalized with imprisonment for up to two years, a fine from three hundred to five thousand Mexican Pesos, and deportation.” Repeat offenders receive even harsher sanctions of 10-year imprisonment and a fine of up to five thousand pesos and deportation.

    • edward oleander

      Seems to me that sneaking INTO Mexico is it’s own punishment. “Ha ha! You snuck into Mexico, now you have to LIVE there!” I mean, who in their right mind would want to? Except maybe drug runners, and they should just be shot on sight anyway…


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