About a dozen students protested in front of Storm Lake High School this morning to show support for a student who refused to take an English proficiency test. Senior Lori Phanachone wouldn’t take the test last Friday, saying it was "insulting and degrading."
Her sister Lisa was one of the protesters. Lisa Phanachone says, "The test is for English language learners and about half of the people who take that test are not learning English, they know English. Me and my sister, we grew up speaking English so it’s not new to us."
She says the test has kindergarten-level questions. Both girls were born in the U.S., but are of Laotian heritage. Lisa says she’s taken the test in the past, but won’t take it again. She was joined at the protest by Storm Lake student Jamie Cords.
Cords says: "The test is very discriminating. It should be based on somebody’s GPA rather than what their language is. If they’re just going to target minority students because they don’t speak English at home, that’s not really fair." School officials say the Iowa-English Language Development Assessment is required under "No Child Left Behind" to assess English proficiency of students whose first language isn’t English.
High school students who were proficient on the test the past two years weren’t required to take it this year. Superintendent Paul Tedesco issued a statement Thursday saying the district isn’t pursing expulsion nor will it deny graduation to any student based on behavior in the English language testing.