Is it fair for non-English speaker to pass ECA in order to graduate?

(kehlei) Tanghra Lal Tlan Chhuaha le (orhlei ) Lal Than Puii cu Saya Mike Klopfenstein khanah miring ca an cawn lio a si.  (Left) sophomore Lal Tlan Chhuaha and (right) sophomore Lal Than Puii learning Engling in Mr. Mike Klopfenstein.

Andrew Tapp

(kehlei) Tanghra Lal Tlan Chhuaha le (orhlei ) Lal Than Puii cu Saya Mike Klopfenstein khanah miring ca an cawn lio a si. (Left) sophomore Lal Tlan Chhuaha and (right) sophomore Lal Than Puii learning Engling in Mr. Mike Klopfenstein.

Grace Iang, Reporter

After a foreign student has been in school for more than 180 days, they are required to pass the Math and English End of Course Assessment in order to graduate. Students who take the Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State (ACCESS) test and score 4.9 or lower are considered as an English Learner (EL) student. Study shows that it takes about seven years to acquire a language, however many of the EL level I and II have lived America for only less than three years.

There are students who believe that this process is unfair such as sophomore Siang Hnem, who is level I and has only lived in America for nine months. Having more time and knowing the question on tests but not knowing ways to understand, a person cannot answer the question how they want to, Hnem says.

“If we don’t understand the question, we don’t know how to answer it,” Hnem said. “Even if we understand the question, we can’t answer it as much as we want to.”

She says even though she gets another chance to take it if she doesn’t pass, it is not fair for the seniors who do not pass. There have been and are some seniors whose last chance to pass the ECA is this year. After this round, the guidance counselors will meet with any senior who do not pass, and they will go through what the waiver process would be. They would get a graduation with a waiver. However, if there are sophomores and juniors who do not pass this year, they will get another chance the following year.

Senior Thawng Bik believes that it is not fair for EL level I and II students to be required to pass the ECA to graduate. He says the language English is already hard enough, and now they have to take the test. He has a last shot at ECA, and he says he is worried he might not pass.

“I am concerned because I am afraid I might not be able to pass,” Bik said. “I will try my best though.”

For those who do not pass the ECA and do not have enough credits to graduate, they can take classes during the summer. However, even after they finish the classes, they will not be able to walk at the graduation ceremony with the rest of their classmates.

Hnem believes that they should get more test practices. Even though practices are not fun, they taught skills and ways of taking tests, Hnem says. Although she would love to see the tests to be in her own language, she feels that there is nothing to be proud of anymore if she passes without knowing the language the test was provided in.

“Taking it in Chin would be good too,” Hnem said. “However, I feel like when we graduate, we don’t really gain any knowledge and that’s not very beneficial for us.”

Assistant principal Amy Boone also wishes there were changes that could be done to testing so it will be less difficult for the EL students. The reason for tests being given to students are because federal mandates that schools have to have a pass-fail test. Giving EL students the extended time is about the limit that administrators can give to students at striving for success.

“I wish there was more that we could do but trying to set up small testing environment as possible and extended time is about the limit for what we can allow for students as far as trying to set them up for success and doing the best we can in the classrooms,” Boone said.

They get to test in the EL rooms with the teachers, which, according to EL teacher Brianna Kompara, is nice, because they feel more comfortable with her. Even with extended time and being allowed to use the dictionary, some seems to still struggle, Kompara says. This is the reason why she doesn’t know if ECA is the right test for them. However, she does think that there needs to be some kind of formal assessment, therefore changing the assessment for EL students would be something she would like to see.

Kompara teaches level I and II students academic vocabulary words, reading and writing skills along with test taking skill. What she really focuses on is giving them skills to learn how to learn or take test. According to Kompara, it’s a disappointment they tried hard but gained no credit.

“It’s sad seeing them work really hard and didn’t get any credit,” Kompara said.