ESL Students Take a Stand Against WIDA Testing

Rachael Schafer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Every year, students whose second language is English, or who have another language besides English spoken in the home, take the World-class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) test to further their knowledge of the English Language, and this test must be taken until the student reaches a score of 5, and until that score is achieved the test must be taken over and over again. Students who were pulled out of classes this year to take the test, are voicing their frustrations.

Sofia Negrete, Senior, said that this year she has taken all AP classes as she is preparing for college and this test only takes away precious time needed for those classes. She said, “I am very annoyed that I have to waste my time from my AP classes, [for] taking a test.” Education is priceless and many students are missing educational time on a test that they have already taken, and have taken since the kindergarten. Students taking the test can expect to miss up to three class periods for the test.

Along those same lines, Negrete told the story of a friend, who upon trying to take an English 1010 class was taken out of the class because English was not her first language. She described her friend’s frustration, when upon checking her ACT score saw that she had a high enough score to be in the class, but was removed due to the fact that English was not her first language. Some of these students within our school, feel that they are being held to a different standard because of the language that they speak. However, there are exceptions to cases like these. Glen Varga, assistant principal said, “There are exceptions. There are ways for students to stay in the class of their choice.” Students can appeal to administration to change their classes, and to test out of the ESL classes. But for these exceptions to happen, a students must score a five or above on the WIDA test.

Varga said that the goal of this test is, “simply to accurately monitor growth within the English language; and with that information, provide appropriate support to the students that need it.” This test is in place to catch those students who are struggling with different aspects of the test, whether they were born and raised in the States or if that particular student moved here from a different country. He also said in relation to many of these concerns that this test in no way was designed to be discriminatory. He said that, “It has nothing to do with race or anything, it’s simply if your primary language is not English you will be identified as an English Learner.” For those students who miss important classes to take this test, he explains that it is a difficult situation to be in. He said, “our hands are tied in a lot of ways, and we try to accommodate as best we can so you don’t miss class. But perform well on test, and it will help you out in the long run to not have to be put into classes that you don’t want to.”

Shelley Nudd,test coordinator, says that many students continue to take the test every year because they blow off the test, as they see no purpose for it. She explained differently saying, “We want them to be as successful as any other student that was born here in the United States.” The test not only assesses students speaking capabilities, but also assesses whether they know the English language very well. Nudd describes this test as something that furthers the students’ knowledge. She says, “we are trying to level the playing field.” English is a difficult language and Nudd feels this test merely prepares students for the future.

Giovanny Potupchik, Senior, is a second generation Cambodian-Russian descendant. He has always only spoken English his entire life. Because another language is spoken in his home, however, Gio and students like him also have to take this test. Potupchik disagrees with Nudd, saying, “Although students do blow off the test, it’s because they have a great sense of the English language. The test is also very ethnocentric, it speaks to us annoyingly slow because it is assumed we won’t understand otherwise. Even if I wanted to finish [the test] quickly, I wouldn’t be able to.”

One major issue is how often many of the students take the test. It is difficult to see the test as helpful as many students take it repeatedly. Nudd compared this test to the SAGE test in a similar manner, saying that many students do not see a purpose for the test in the moment. The test, while taxing and annoying as it may be, helps those students and goes more in depth into the English language, testing students on the function of the language. Another issue however, is who exactly is required to take the test. Students who don’t even speak another language (besides English), but who might have someone in their home who does, are being required to take the test. To those students, the test feels derogatory and unnecessary.

While there may be benefits to the WIDA test, the students taking it would like test administrators to reassess how the test is given and who exactly needs to take it.