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TX School Assessment Standards Unfair To Refugee Students

Abilene Independent School District is expressing it's concern over a change in the state's assessment accountability standards for English Language Learners, or ELL's.
Inside this Clack Elementary School classroom sit several young students eager for opportunity.
All of them are English Language Learners. Many are refugees. Some have little or no prior schooling.

Coming here, is a transition that takes patience and time.

"We have a really intense curriculum in the state of Texas, and it's the language barrier that is the highest obstacle they have to overcome," Explains AISD Director of Federal Programs Jeffrey Brokovich

The time before a district must be held responsible for those student's standardized test scores has run out, according to the state of Texas. And that has AISD, and it's growing population of refugees, extremely concerned.

"In the past, an English language learner student had up to three years of an exemption. A refugee student had up to a five year exemption," says Brokovich. "Under the new STAAR testing programs, there are no longer any exemptions."

Aysun Marshall has worked as an English As a Second Language, or ESL instructor for 6 years. A native of Turkey, she understands the difficulty of a language barrier.

"If they don't have good literacy in their own native language it becomes harder," says Marshall.

The question the district is asking is how can these students, all coming from different backgrounds, speaking over 25 languages, be held to the same standards as everyone else, in just one year?

"We're also faced with the realization of how unfair the assessment accountability system is toward these students and our district," said Brokovich. "But what we have to focus on is the immediate impact with these students."

"When they first come in I have to show them that I am here for them," said Marshall. "I'm their advocate. No matter what."
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