A bill that would require Colorado students, starting in the graduating class of 2012, to show they are competent in English before they can get a high school diploma is working its way through the Colorado legislature. The Colorado Senate passed the bill, SB 73, on March 20, and it has been introduced and assigned to an education committee in the Colorado House.
A March 20 article in the Rocky Mountain News tells about the bill, which requires each of the state’s 178 school districts to decide how it will determine if its students have mastered English. Sen. Chris Romer, the chief sponsor of the bill, has said that the bill will help to get school district officials to talk about how to prepare foreign-born students for the workplace, according to the Rocky Mountain News article. But interestingly, the bill says that “each student” must show competency in English to graduate, not that only English-language learners must show mastery, or that only foreign-born students must show mastery.
Thus, it seems to me that if the bill should pass, all students would have to show mastery in English. I have to wonder if some native speakers of English--who struggle with reading, for instance--might fail to show such mastery.
The bill specifies that school districts cannot use students’ scores on statewide achievement tests as the criteria for mastery of English. It doesn’t say if school districts could use Colorado’s English-language-proficiency test to determine mastery of English. I rather doubt that the school districts would give the English-language proficiency test--which is designed for English-language learners--to native speakers of English.
Many states require students to pass an exit exam in English in order to get a high school diploma. Colorado is not one of those states.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.