Defiant Student in Storm Lake Gets Backing from Asian-American Group

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 31, 2009 1 min read
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The Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund is calling for the Storm Lake school district in Iowa to remove any references to suspension or disciplinary action from the record of a student who refused to take an English-language proficiency test. See my previous post about the matter, “A Storm in Storm Lake.”

The press release says that honors student Lori Phanachone has been mislabeled as an English-language learner because she said on a home-language survey that she speaks Lao. (Federal law requires school districts to test students who speak a language other than English at home in English proficiency upon enrollment.)

The release says that Phanachone is an honor student who has succeeded in mainstream classes. It says the district didn’t test her in English two years ago when she first enrolled in the district, but it has since required her to take an English-proficiency test. This school year she refused, and the school district suspended her for three days, according to the release.

The organization asks for clarification on how the district classifies students as ELLs on enrollment and to explain why Phanachone was considered to be an ELL. It asks the district to reclassify her as proficient in English if appropriate under Iowa and federal law.

I’m thinking, though, that it might be hard for the district to do that, if she won’t take the English-proficiency test.

It’s not clear if Phanachone has ever taken an English-proficiency test and failed it. It’s quite possible that she can do well in mainstream classes even if she can’t pass the test. I’ve met students in New York City, for example, who passed the state’s exit exam for English/language arts given to all students but failed the state’s English-language proficiency test that is only for ELLs.

Update: The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune provides a few more details. Further Update: Still more details.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.