June 2016 Issue - English Language Learners
June 28, 2016

Educators share feedback on NYSESLAT

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

The state's annual exam for English language learners is somewhat better — but still needs to be dramatically improved, educators told State Education Department officials looking for feedback.

NYSUT set up a Web conference on the New York State English as a Second Language Test (NYSESLAT) in early June so that SED officials could hear directly from educators who administered the test during April and May. The state is required to assess the English language proficiency of all K-12 ELLs, who make up about 9 percent of the state's student enrollment.

Educators from around the state shared both positive feedback and constructive criticism on the newly revamped exam. Teachers said the test's new format for kindergarten is improved, but many voiced concerns about the test's length, difficulty and the continued over-testing of ELLS.

Oceanside's Betsy Weinman noted it's unfair to "double-down" on testing for ELLs. She and others reported that by day three of the test, students had no more stamina — especially after just finishing similar state tests in English language arts and math.

Educators suggested the state could consolidate the NYSESLAT testing into one day and get the same diagnostic information.

Other concerns included: the robotic nature of recordings for listening passages; volume control issues; confusing questions; complex directions; a lack of test accommodations; and developmental appropriateness of the test materials.

One teacher voiced concern about the nature of test questions, saying NYSESLAT is supposed to be a language acquisition test, not a reading test. "It felt like the ELA," said another.

Teachers raised questions about culturally biased questions, where students were asked about Chinese New Year and chopsticks — or needed background knowledge of "Elvis."

SED's Juliette Lyons-Thomas said educators' comments were helpful and would be taken into consideration. SED is in the process of doing a survey and she encouraged teachers to follow up on the education involvement portal on SED's website.

NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, whose department arranged the webinar, thanked educators for their insightful comments and promised to follow through on the issues raised in continued conversations with SED.