Teacher’s CSAP protest raises valid question about testing | AspenTimes.com

Teacher’s CSAP protest raises valid question about testing

Last week an Aspen Middle School teacher presented his school district and the entire state of Colorado with a conundrum: If a test isn’t fair to all students, then why give it?

Spanish teacher Sam Esmiol earned himself a partial suspension last week when he refused to administer the Colorado Student Assessment Program test. He claimed that the tests, which kids in grades 3 though 10 take, discriminate against Spanish-speaking students and treat teachers unfairly.

Surely Esmiol’s argument has made it harder for district officials to administer the tests, which they are bound by state and federal law to do. The eleventh-hour protest made Esmiol a thorn in the district’s side, but we hope that doesn’t prevent district officials, parents and students from hearing his message.

Esmiol does, in fact, raise a question that should concern anyone involved in public education. How do we fairly and properly teach and track the progress of students who don’t speak English well?

Like it or not, English Language Learners make up a larger and larger percentage of Colorado’s collective student body. And if we don’t have a true measure of their progress (or lack thereof), then we’re setting ourselves up for a social and educational crisis.

Right now, teachers like Esmiol must translate English-language CSAP tests for Spanish-language speakers. By subjecting tests to this kind of translation, however, the state is effectively destandardizing the CSAP. And, as Esmiol points out, it’s putting teachers in a difficult spot.

It doesn’t make sense for teachers to translate tests this way. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense for Spanish-speaking students to take tests in English before they’re proficient in English. It goes without saying that Spanish-speaking students must learn English, but it does nobody any good for them to take tests they cannot understand.

We recognize that Esmiol’s line of questioning opens a can of political and educational worms. If Colorado begins providing CSAPs in Spanish, then it must arguably do the same in dozens of other languages. That’s a huge project with a huge price tag. Still, the bottom line ought to be the fairness and effectiveness of the tests; if the state isn’t getting a fair and accurate measure of students’ skills and knowledge, then the test isn’t serving its purpose.

Sam Esmiol may not have chosen the perfect way to question Colorado’s standardized testing program, but his questions are valid. We hope the Aspen School District and the state of Colorado will take this opportunity to explore the efficacy of CSAPs and their role in a society that is changing rapidly and dramatically.

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