Language Education Policy Studies
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Testing System as an Obstacle to 

Minority Language Rights

The testing system, called the accountability system, by its nature serves to maintain the existing social structure and continue to widen the historical gap between poor and rich, mainstream and minorities. The testing system uses unified tests to evaluate students’ performance but neglects the essence that every student has their own different talents and experiences. Accountability is not equal to testing. Denying students’ linguistic talent and divorcing the curriculum from children’s experience and culture are not accountability; they are ways to exclude the poor and minority students from the mainstream society (Shohamy, 2006).

Bilingual programs, whether Spanish-English or Chinese-English, have emerged mostly in white, middle-class communities rather than in predominantly Latino or Chinese communities in the U.S. From the view of language as communicative tool, learning another critical language, in middle class parents’ view, adds opportunities for their children to increase upward mobility in the future. In contrast, bilingual education in Latino or other minority communities, where their home language is not only for communication, but is also part of their identity, world signal a formal recognition or legitimization of their language and culture. However, bilingual education for minorities is currently not an additive bilingual education which can maintains their home language and learning English at the same time; rather, its goal is to replace their home language with English as quickly and ruthlessly as possible to fit certain testing criteria; then students and schools can have good test scores to meet district, state and national standards.


Minorities whose mother tongue is not English try to abandon their mother tongue to learn English to eliminate the guilt and shame of not speaking English as their first language. The NCLB policy and testing system act as gatekeepers, screening out the minorities’ knowledge and their languages; such testing does not allow diversity. Students receive no credit for speaking their home language and knowing their home culture (Shohamy, 2006). Language rights are civil rights in the U.S. (Garcia 2009).  Bilingual education for students whose mother tongue is not English should be additive language education and cognitively appropriate; however, in the current situation, ensuring language right for minorities is not in the agenda.


Language as part of minorities’ identity has become blurred. More and more minority young generation in the U.S. construct their identities without home language. Their language identity is deprived by the unequal education. Under the neoliberal agenda, young minorities internalize the ideology that, without speaking the main language in society, they will lose their competitiveness in the future. In addition, under the neoliberal agenda, Asian Americans, as the so-called “model minority,” have overall better academic achievement among all the groups; however, in the wider society, Asian Americans are still excluded in perhaps subtler ways from the mainstream society, and many of the obstacles were set intentionally to block the prosperity of Asian Americans. For example, Asian students and families are known for placing great emphasis on achieving high exam scores; as a result, in urban areas deemed to be more or less Asian, exam-preparation course fees and exams fees themselves can be twice the average. On one hand, the society was designed to exclude certain groups; on the other hand, its institutions promote, in words only, the message that every individual’s struggle can lead to success in this “free” society. When Asian groups strive for this success, and have achievement in some domains, more new policies are implemented to suppress their growth. 


Jia Lee - Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015

‪Standardized Testing: The Problem with America's Education System

A teacher describes why she left teaching in public schools... Common Core


García, Ofelia. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective.           Malden, MA ; Oxford :Wiley-Blackwell Pub.


Shohamy, E. G. (2006). Language policy: Hidden agendas and new approaches. London:             Routledge.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Zhu, Yanli.  (2015). Testing System as an Obstacle to Minority Language Rights. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date).