Senior to attend conference to share concerns about testing for ESOL students
Senior Abhishek Sinha will be one of three students to represent high school English Language Learners (ELLs) at the Fifth Annual Celebrate Our Rising Stars Summit that will be held tomorrow in Washington, D.C. A former ESOL student and an ELL himself, Sinha will share his views on what it is like to be an ELL and hopes to especially address the difficulties these students face with standardized testing.
The Summit will be held at the Hilton Washington Hotel by the Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA) of the U.S. Department of Education.
Each year, the Summit is hosted in hopes of making the No Child Left Behind (NCBL) Act of 2001 a success, as the act aims to encourage high levels of academic success for ELLs, according to the OELA summit web site. This year, it will be held from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, with part of the last day dedicated to hearing the voices of ELLs, so they may offer insight about the challenges and successes these students face.
Sinha was chosen to speak at the event along with two other seniors from local schools. According to ESOL resource teacher Joseph Bellino. Sinha is the first student in 15 years to be placed in Honors English after finishing ESOL. "They wanted students who were successful," Bellino said.
Along with Sinha will be seniors Karla Rivera from the Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. and Maritza Q. Martinez-Garcia from J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax, Virginia. The panel moderator will be Blair graduate Jose Palacios.
To accurately represent the views of Blair ESOL students, Sinha has been speaking with them to get their opinions. He has asked the other students the questions that he thinks will be asked of him during the conference. Sinha said that during the session, he aims to convey the voice of these students to the nation. Of his list of issues he wants to address, Sinha says standardized tests like the HSAs, which are required for graduation, and the SATs are at the top of his list.
Bellino was given a list of suggested topics to be addressed by the panelists during the conference, including academic achievement, support by the greater school community, balancing family responsibilities and school, parent support for students' education and access to technology. "The purpose of a [student] panel," Bellino explained, "is to let people know how"laws that they are interpreting or laws that schools are interpreting, how is it affecting students"[and] to get an idea of what are the things that we should be doing that we are not doing."
Sinha believes that while these tests might be a good way of assessing the level ofstudents, they are unfair for the ESOL students, who are at a language disadvantage. He does not believe regular students and ESOL students should be tested the same way. "The government should make some kind of examination different for ESOL students," he said. "At least make a difference in English if not in other subjects." Sinha does think, however, that all students are offered equal opportunity in school and sometimes it is just a matter of taking advantage of resources like tutoring that can help a student do better.
On the topic of the government getting involved in education this way, Bellino believes both positives and negatives result from it. "Many people talk about how ESOL students in their schools were being completely ignored until the government started to pay attention to them and told schools that they are accountable for those students," Bellino said. But, some students are not able to enroll in school or they drop out of school, because they have no way of passing these exams.
While Sinha said he is nervous about going to the conference and presenting in front of a crowd, he is still excited for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the ESOL students. "The government will know what is actually going on in the school with the ESOL department and what kind of trouble they are facing and they can work on it," Sinha said, "because it is really hard for the government"to find out what is going on unless they hear the voice of an ESOL student."
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