How Long Should ELLs Be Allowed to Take Tests in Native Languages?

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 04, 2007 1 min read
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William McKenzie, a columnist for The Dallas Morning News, wrote a commentary this week that’s worth pondering over. He takes the same position that U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has taken that it’s simply “too long” to permit English-language learners to take tests in their native languages for five to seven years. (See “Secretary Spellings Criticizes ELL Proposals.”)

The “discussion draft” released by the House Education and Labor Committee for a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act proposes that schools be permitted to give ELLs state tests in their native languages for five years—up from the three years currently in the law—with the possibility of extending that time by two years on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. McKenzie says five to seven years is “way too long.” He says the proposal “just doesn’t pass the smell test.”

But neither Mr. McKenzie nor Ms. Spellings have backed up their views with research or case studies from schools that explain or illustrate why letting children take tests in their native languages for a possible seven years is “too long.”

I delved into this question a bit in a previous post, “Is English Learning Slowed Down with Bilingual Education?” As this issue heats up, I welcome further insights from readers.

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