Monday, June 18, 2007

English as a Second Language

This morning on my drive into work I heard a local news story on NPR (WLRN in Miami) about summer school for kids in elementary school (I believe it was 3rd grade). Thousands of children failed the reading comprehension portion of the FCAT. Most of these children come from homes where English is a second language. The children in this summer program scored a 1 (out of 5) and should be at around a level 3.

And it got me thinking...why are so many children failing these FCAT tests? Is it simply because the parents don't speak English? When I grew up in NY most of my friends were first generation American. Their parents were from Colombia, Israel, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan - I mean you name the country and I had a friend from there. But somehow we all excelled in reading comprehension despite the fact that our parents spoke a language other than English in the home.

So what is the difference? Is it simply that these kids aren't forced to speak English enough? Growing up in NY we didn't have an opportunity to use our parent's first language outside of the home - but I know that in Florida the case is exactly the opposite - you are encouraged to use Spanish every where you go.

So now that kids are being "left behind" and can't pass reading comprehension exams - is it time to make some changes? Change the test? Change how kids are raised?

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