Wednesday, November 29, 2006


That means "What?" for all you mono-lingual people. It's also about the extent of my Spanish. I can understand a lot more than I can speak. Anyway... Something interesting happened yesterday and this is how I responded:

To Whom it may concern:

I am not sure to whom my questions should be directed. I am hoping this will somehow make it to the correct person. On Tuesday my son, Alec "X", brought home a letter from the ESL program. Let me start by saying the letter was written in Spanish. I don't speak or read much Spanish. My husband does, but only because he served an LDS mission in Venezuela. (He is actually ½ Samoan.) I called the ESL coordinator listed on the letter and she told me Alec had been tested to see how well he could converse, write and read in English. Apparently he only scored as "fluent in English" on the oral part of the testing. She said that he scored "well-below" the reading and writing levels for his grade. My questions are: How is that possible? Alec has never scored below grade level in any subject- ever. Especially not so low to make people think he didn't understand English! He has always tested at or above grade level and at this time has all A and Bs according to his report card on the Power School website. The woman I spoke with asked if Alec had ever lived with a Spanish-speaker. I told her that his biological father spoke limited Spanish (slang) and his step-dad was fluent to which she replied those were the reasons Alec's English was delayed. I informed her that neither of these men spoke Spanish to Alec. Our home is and always has been an exclusively English speaking home. I would like to know why was Alec tested by ESL to begin with? Who asked that he be tested? Is there a concern with his reading and writing abilities? Because I have not been made aware of any concerns and last time I checked the Power school site (yesterday) he has a B in reading and composition. Is he behind his grade level in any subject? I am really bothered by the fact that he was tested by ESL at all without my being informed 1st. Was he tested because of his last name? Was it assumed he was a Hispanic child that couldn't speak English well (and his mother couldn't possibly READ English) because of his last name? I honestly feel these are the reasons he was tested. It was assumed he came from a Spanish-speaking home (obviously since the letter sent home to his parents was in Spanish) and I think these preconceived notions swayed scoring. I'm a little irritated and a little offended.
Alec is a bright, funny, smart, English-speaking student. His biological father is Hispanic, however Alec prefers to tell people that he is Samoan (like his step-dad) and uses the last name "Y" about 90% of the time. He does not speak Spanish. He has never spoke Spanish. If he knows any Spanish at all it was learned off "Dora the Explorer." I speak more Spanish then he does- and that doesn't say a lot. I am waiting to hear back from the ESL coordinator, Penny "W", but she does not know Alec personally nor his situation. I would like some answers to my questions from the people who work with Alec on a daily basis.

Thank you for your time.
Tori "Y"

Am I over-reacting? Maybe. I think I'm offended mostly because I KNOW he was tested because of his last name. He wasn't tested because he was scoring low on reading or writing or seemed to be having a hard time understanding English. The coordinator saw a Hispanic-sounding last name and assumed he came from a home where English was not taught. That pisses me off. I think it was discrimination and the fact that they sent home a letter in Spanish irritated me more. The letter didn't even have an English translation on it! THAT made me mad. How rude to assume that because his last name is a Hispanic last name he could not possibly speak correct English. That's wrong, right? How many other kids have been singled out and tested because it is assumed English is not the language spoken in their home? Do they test children with Asian sounding last names? Samoan last names? Russian last names? I doubt they pull "John Smith" out of class to test him- although plenty of children raised in English speaking homes do not speak, read or write correct English. Ugh. I'm bugged.
And for the record: I'm not against my kids knowing Spanish or any other language. That would be awesome if Alec spoke Spanish also, but we live in the United States so of course English is the language with which I am most concerned. I wish all my children had some experience with another language. I did introduce Isabel and Taj (and now Livie) to American Sign Language. They aren't near fluent, but Taj can do hundreds of signs. I can only hope my older boys learn another language in high school or in preparation for a mission. I feel like I jipped my kids a little. I probably should have had Sei speak more Spanish to them when they were little. I have always been impressed by ~j.'s children. They are fluent in both English and Spanish because her husband speaks Spanish to them. I guess Sei and I were kinda sidetracked with getting married and having 5 kids right off the bat. ;) I don't know, but that has nothing to do with this post. I'm rambling now...
Let me know if you think I over-reacted. Then I can write you a mean email too. ;)


Azúcar said...

That is just BIZARRE. I would be furious as well.

I'm sure you're right about the assumption of ESL. I grew up in a house where my Spanish mom spoke Spanish to me, I learned German from living overseas, and then English from living here. I was NEVER tested like Alex was and I was at school mainly here.

I don't have a Spanish last name because my dad is American. However, I grew up with at least two sometimes three languages at home. Such a shame that I wasn't tested because we know how not gud us spenish spekers r.

Suzanne said...

You are completely justified in your feelings. I would be outraged!

Why didn't Alec's school teacher inform you before he was tested? You were left out of the loop and that was wrong. You should have been contacted before any testing was performed and it only should have been done with your consent. (Not that you would need to consent because he didn't need the testing.)

Maybe Alec needs glasses and that's what caused him to score so low. That happened to a friend because the child didn't want to get glasses so he didn't tell anyone. Just a thought...

Hopefully in the future Alec's teacher will be your advocate and let you know what's going on in the classroom. Good luck getting this resolved! :)

I've tagged your for a Christmas Meme! You can find the instructions here

Tara said...

!IJOLE! (I don't know how to make an upside down exclamation mark).

I think you are right and aren't being mean. I would have called them up and spoke in a really thick accent. JK. Did you ever get a translation for what the letter said? Did you ask Alec what they asked him on the test? Maybe he just spaced it or something. But couldn't they tell just by talking to him that he speaks English fluently?

No Cool Story said...


I'm so glad you won't be writing me a mean e-mail: I agree with you, they tested him because of his last name.
Both my kids were born in Mexico, we moved to the States when they were 2 and 5 months old, they have spoken English their whole lives and know no Spanish (sorry, please don’t beat me up).
Years ago when my kids still had their Mexi last name, Firstborn brought a letter home informing us that he would be tested for ESL. Que? I said, the kid knows no Spanish whatsoever, so I called the school and said “thanks but no thanks, it’ll just be wasting your time trust me”. It was good for a laugh, since it took me 2 years of “Buenos dias niños” to figure out that, all that time, they had no idea what I was saying.

Does it have to do with funds? Maybe they want to be very thorough? It’s really weird.

Tori :) said...

YAY! Thanks for letting me know I'm not crazy for being bugged.
Azucar- That is so awesome you can speak so many languages!! How do you do the accent mark over your "u."
Suzanne- Alec wears glasses already. I would like to see the actual test and his answers. I honestly don't think he scored low, unless he was in a total hurry or they couldn't read his handwriting. (Which is totally a possibility... I think he's gonna be a doctor!)
Tara- I asked Alec about the test but he's a guy and was like, "I don't know. They asked me what some words mean..." Sei kinda translated the letter. Basically it said Alec could be in ESL if I wanted him to be. I should totally let him just to be a dork.
NCS - How do you make your ? marks upside down?? FYI- I love how proud you are to be an American. It shows in every one of your posts!

tara said...

I totally think you are justified in being mad... I would HOPE that wouldn't happen in TX but I'm not surprised it happened in Utah. Some people just DON'T think. And don't feel bad that you haven't taught your kids spanish. It really irks my husband all the time that he doesn't speak Spanish (he speaks Portuguese b/c he served a mission in Brazil) he's learned a bit, but he needs it almost daily at the hospital... and alas, he speaks Portuguese (sort of... it's been a few years, w/ no use)

No Cool Story said...

Just hold "Alt" while typing 168 (on your number pad onthe right of your keyword) then let go, and ta-da:
Alt + 168= ¿
Alt + 173= ¡
Alt + 164= ñ
Alt + 163= ú
Alt + 160= á

Tori :) said...

You, NCS, are a freakin' genius! So are you Azúcar.

s--max said...

I agree ~ you were totally justified. Kudos to you for not brushing it off as "a misunderstanding." It certainly needed to be addressed. Make sure to update us on the situation.

Robin said...

That's gay. I'd be ticked.

Gina said...

I would be writing a letter and MORE! I would be so freakin' livid...

~j. said...

HOLY CRAP!!!! What a load. PLEASE let us know what happens with this. I want to know what the school has to say for themselves. I'm a huge letter-writer, both to complain AND to compliment, and you can BET that the school would have gotten an earful about this. Man oh man oh man...

Anonymous said...

You might just want to check the paperwork you filled out when you registered Alec for school. If anywhere you listed that any other language is occasionally spoken in the home, federal law requires that the child be tested by ESL. Yes, they do that for Asians, Europeans and the like, even if the last name is Smith. Now, if you didn't check that any other language was spoken even occasionally in your might want to talk to someone.