Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Should You Have Command of "American" English to Graduate?

From New London, Connecticut comes a story that the district there will make " knowing American English" a requirement to graduate from their high schools by 2015. 


"We know from colleges and employers, that our students are going to have to know how to read and write in English if they are going be successful," Supt. Nicholas Fischer, told the Day. 

That is not to say that the school is instituting an "English only" program in which where students are told they can only speak English in the schools. New London's program is a literacy program in which students will be required to achieve a certain level of English reading and writing literacy by the 10th grade. 

The school system will offer several ways for students to fulfill their English language requirement and they have until the age of 21 to meet it. "

I'm thinking some of this is driven by district costs but they may very well feel kids are not being served by graduating without English-language competency.  (And, if you call an elevator a "lift", I guess you get dinged for not speaking American English.)

I have mixed feelings on this issue (particularly for newer immigrants - is it the kid's fault he gets here in 10th grade?) but I feel that, in some ways, districts drag out the process of learning English well enough to receive instruction and/or pass state tests.   Maybe this district is doing some kids a favor and some kids a disservice.

What do you think?


dan dempsey said...

It is required that to graduate a WA student pass the OSPI tests in Reading and Writing or complete projects to demonstrate skill. These tests are in English not some other language. .... Am I missing something that is going to be required in the Conn. HS that is not required in WA statewide already?

seattle citizen said...

Right, Dan. A student who arrives here speaking another language as an eighth grader is required to have mastered tenth-grade Reading and Writing standards before they graduate. So they have four years to learn ten years worth of standards.
This is easier for those who are literate in their native languages, and very difficult for those who aren't.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is an English as a second language issue. This sounds like a slam at those who speak what are considered to be dialects of plain, white, middle class English.

I could be wrong.

- just sayin'

seattle citizen said...

Just sayin, I'm wondering why yoiu have that impression, that it's directed not necessarily at second-language learners but at those who might not speak "the king's English."
I don't see that in the quoted material.

Jan said...

seattle citizen: I had the same thought as "just sayin," and when you ask, I had to wonder where I had gotten my idea as well. I reread the post, and I think it was from the phrase "American english," which seems to imply not the distinction between say, English and Cambodian or Vietnamese, but one between, say "American" english and -- what? British English? (sorry, I can't believe spelling colour, favour, and honour with "u's," calling sweathers "jumpers" and elevators "lifts," is a college entrance crisis). But there are other "dialects" of English that are probably looked on with greater disfavor, at least by many colleges, Fortune 500 companies, etc. -- though I don't know what they are called. I thought this was what the author of the original article was driving at.

Benjamin Lukoff said...

It would be nice to see the full policy.

Anonymous said...

If you are "foreign" looking, speak with an accent and halting English, you are doomed in America. If we are to send our HS grads out into the work world, then we need to make sure they have a command of American English. They need to know how to speak, read, and write it. Outside of mainstream America, kids can revert back to another language or their local dialect and colloquial style.

You need to fit in. Twice the burden.

-English is my 2nd language

SolvayGirl said...

I have worked with plenty of intelligent, educated people who look "foreign" and/or speak with an accent and/or halting English. I think it depends on the prejudices of the employer and where you are.

I remember working with a very competent woman in San Antonio who, though born in the US, told me she "thought" in Spanish and had to translate her thoughts into English before speaking—that's got to be tough—but she did her job very well and her employers valued her.

SolvayGirl said...

Clarification: The woman I spoke of was referring to complex thoughts—especially those related to business. She though more quickly in Spanish and could internally problem-solve better in that language in her brain, Make sense? It did to me at the time of the discussion with her.