Thursday, June 07, 2001

State seeks fast track for testing

Federal law calls for yearlong wait

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Kentucky is trying to stave off a federal law that requires students of limited English proficiency to take part in comprehensive assessments after a single year of schooling.

        It is a significant issue for districts that have had a sudden influx of migrant and refugee families, Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit said Tuesday.

        “It's something that tends to impact districts overnight,” Mr. Wilhoit told the Kentucky Board of Education.

        The state has been allowing two-year exemptions from assessment for students whose English skills are limited. Some principals think two years isn't enough, Mr. Wilhoit and others said.

        Federal law prohibits blanket exemptions based on time spent in U.S. schools. The Department of Education is seeking a waiver of the law for another year. The idea is to buy time to train teachers and administrators to cope with students who can speak, read and write little or no English.

        Kentucky has about 5,900 students of limited English proficiency, according to Department of Education figures. About 30 percent, the largest single group, are Spanish speaking. The largest concentrations are in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and Northern Kentucky.

        But some can be found in most districts now, and they can arrive suddenly. “If it's not your problem today, it will be tomorrow,” said Helen Mountjoy, chairwoman of the state board.


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