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Assessments for Hawaiian Language Immersion Focus of Bill

February 29, 2012, 8:43 AM HST · Updated February 29, 10:03 AM
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State capitol, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The House Committee on Finance will review a bill relating to Hawaiian language immersion today.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Mele Carroll of Maui would require assessments administered to immersion students in grades 3-6 to be developed originally in the Hawaiian language.

Under the current structure, 5th and 6th grade immersion students are required to take assessments in English, despite limited exposure to the formal English language.

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Meantime, 3rd and 4th graders are required to take a translated version of the assessment instead of one created originally in the Hawaiian language.

The bill has already gained the strong support of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which submitted written testimony saying immersion students are disadvantaged by the current assessment system.

Supporters of the measure have called the translated versions of the tests “highly questionable,” saying there are a number of “inherent problems” associated with translating assessments that create “inequitable challenges” for students taking the test.

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“An English reading test translated into Hawaiian does not necessarily measure reading proficiency in either English or Hawaiian and, therefore, does not accurately measure student achievement,” the OHA testimony stated.

Agency officials say the inability of these translated assessments to accurately measure student achievement not only impacts Hawaiian language immersion students and their schools; it also, OHA states, works to the detriment of the state school system, which could suffer as a result of what might appear to be poor student performance.

At the national level, Senator Daniel Akaka recently introduced a measure that would require states to develop standards-based assessments to accommodate “diverse learning styles,” which could be used in lieu of the general state assessments.

According to OHA testimony, “Preserving the status quo would perpetuate the marginalization and disparate treatment of our immersion students by the assessment process.”

The item comes up for review before the House Committee on Finance at 3 p.m. at the state capitol.

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