ESL component under consideration


Instructor Nancy Zink helps Mindy Han, 47, with her word pronunciations. (Photo by Travis Jenkins/The Inquirer 2010)

Despite concerns about a new computer-scored test, the English department is not ready to spend money on an upgrade that would identify students who lack English language fluency.

“Is this the time to buy a new test when we have no money?” said English professor Irene Menegas, who believes any potential money to buy this test would be better used towards student services and tutoring.

After enrollment sharply dropped in English as a Second Language classes at the beginning of spring semester, some English professors questioned whether the new Accuplacer test was incorrectly recommending non-native speakers for the wrong English classes.

In a recent online meeting, a representative of the College Board, which makes the test, showed the department how an additional program could be purchased that would allow better identification of such students when they take the assessment test.

The current test seamlessly switches to an ESL test only if an entering student answers enough questions incorrectly on the reading test, Menegas said.  

If installed, this new program would ask the student at the outset if they went to high school in the United States and if English was their first language. Those who answered no to both questions and received a low score would then be directed to the ESL test.

English department chair Nancy Zink said the department would apply for money from the Basic Skills Funding Initiative, if it decides to purchase the test, but such funding is available for only one semester.

“If we were flushed with money,” said English professor Heidi-Goen Salter, “then I’d say sure, buy the test. But if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Although no decision has been made, Learning Center coordinator Keri-Dulaney-Greger said it is unlikely the component will be purchased at this time, but both departments will continue to look at the component for future consideration.

Contact David Matteri at [email protected]