Education Letter to the Editor

The English-Only Test Doesn’t Measure Up

December 12, 2017 1 min read

We read the Oct. 24 article “‘English-Only’ States Balk on Tests in Other Languages” with great interest. We wanted to see what the rationale is for such a practice in light of substantial evidence against it. Consider the following: Federal laws require statewide assessments in students’ first languages. There is a large volume of research supporting these laws, including two federally funded meta-analyses showing the significance of students’ home languages in acquiring an additional language.

Further, learning about students’ literacy and academic knowledge in their native language provides educators with invaluable information to support students’ acquisition of English. Assessments should be administered in students’ native languages until it is demonstrated that they have acquired enough English to successfully demonstrate these skills in English. However, translating tests into students’ home languages is not enough. It’s critical to ensure that it is equivalent to what is being measured in English.

According to a research report from Educational Testing Service, policies and practices vary greatly by state, and there is little evidence that what is translated is equivalent to the English version. Only when we take these factors into consideration can we be more sure that we are using promising practices with one of the nation’s fastest growing and most diverse segments of our nation’s student populations.

Debbie Zacarian

Amherst, Mass.

Judie Haynes

Wycoff, N.J.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2017 edition of Education Week as The English-Only Test Doesn’t Measure Up