When I was growing up, my family spoke mostly Spanish, but everyone at my school spoke English. Since my mother prioritized academic success over cultural acclimation for me, I found myself slowly abandoning Spanish.
Taking Spanish as an elective in middle- and high school helped me make technical sense of the written language, but by then I had abandoned my mother’s native tongue in full, uprooting a small sense of my position in my extended family.
Bilingualism is an exercise in constant transition and preparation. In school, how one flips from one language to another ultimately determines an English language learner’s (ELL) success.
Before the Common Core came into play in New York State, bilingual education was already fraught problems and peril. But the Common Core tests have only made things even harder. English language learners take their first English standardized language exam a year and a day after they matriculate. Experts say it takes four to five years to fully learn a new language. But in New York, after a year and a day, all bets are off. English language learners are given a battery of tests for reading, writing, listening, and speaking over a two-week period, in a season already packed with exams for math, science, social studies, and regular English. The New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) is a strenuous exam on its own. Students listen to English narration and are asked to respond in written form. Students are also assessed individually for speaking the language and reading extended passages. It boggles the mind that with such an exam, this set of students also has to take the mainstream English test.