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Teachers at the International High School at Prospect Heights (IHSPH) gathered in front of the school last week to announce they would not give the New York City English language arts (ELA) performance assessment exam.
They said that approximately 95 percent of the students at IHSPH are English language learners. Thirty-five percent of students are classified as Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE), meaning they have missed more than one year of school.
“This test doesn’t benefit students, but it definitely hurts them, and that feels unfair,” said Anita Feingold-Shaw, a ninth- and 10th-grade English teacher at IHSPH. “Many of the students that took the test in the fall did not yet read or write in English. And yet, this test asked them to read pages and pages with no translation support and write an argumentative essay in English.”
More than 50 percent of parents decided their children would not take the test. Teachers at Prospect Heights determined there is a connection between the struggles of English language learners and immigrant rights.
“I watched students just put their heads down and give up. A few students even cried,” said Emily Wendlake, another ninth- and 10th-grade English teacher at the school. “Testing experiences like this make our students feel like failures and that school is not for them. We feel the consequences in our classes for the rest of the year.”
In a letter to Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina, 30 staff members from IHSPH said the test is unfair and disproportionately hurts students whose first language is not English.
“The ELA performance assessment actively ignores the need to make accommodations for students who are learning English, such as providing reading aloud and rephrasing instructions or providing translations, etc. Such accommodations for English language learners are routinely given in other testing situations,” the letter said. “We ask that Chancellor Carmen Farina remove the New York ELA performance exam in favor of an assessme nt created by educators who best know the individual needs of their students and classrooms.”