Friday, September 20, 2013

Mildly disturbing

I learned something yesterday, while in discussion with a fellow-faculty in another department.

We have a lot of International students. In the past, I had some really great students from other countries, but of late, I've had some who really struggled.

Well, I found out why. My campus either no longer or never required the TOEFL (Test of English for Foreign Language Speakers) for International Students. So if you meet the other criteria, whether or not you speak English well enough to cope, you're in.

I find this disturbing. I have a couple of students this semester who apparently have either French or a tribal language as their primary language and who do not speak English well. They have misunderstood directions on the homeworks, and I'm dreading grading the first test. (Couple this with the fact that they are frequently absent because of work pressures, and you've got a problem).

The thing is, I feel like we're committing malpractice against these students - admitting them, therefore tacitly saying, "You have a chance at success" when that chance is actually lower than it could be, if they added that extra hurdle of the TOEFL. We've also been told that under ADA, we cannot allow students who are non-English speakers to use dictionaries in class unless we allow ALL students to use a dictionary in class.

The thing is, dealing with this is above my pay grade, so to speak. I can't refuse to teach students with a poor grasp of English - not only would some interpret that as me being a xenophobe, I'm sure it runs afoul of some ruling somewhere. But I hate seeing students who are clearly smart earn poor grades because they do not understand.

I suppose this is a personal-responsibility thing, that people need to figure out, "Wow, I am really in over my head" and do something - but I suspect dropping out is not a possibility, they'd lose their visas. We don't have any kind of support group for English learners (the larger campuses I have been on did). (I'd consider trying to start one, but I have so much on my plate right now I know I couldn't do it).

I like getting the international students because many of them have good work ethics and want to do good over in their own countries, but when someone really can't understand's frustrating.

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