Students Concerned about Montgomery College ESOL Testing

by Mai Thy Pham

This year, many of the students who took the English placement test at Montgomery College are concerned about their poor results.

In past years, Montgomery College gave the CELT test for the students who are not native English speakers. This test has three different parts and each part is timed separately. But this year, Montgomery College gave a different test, called the Michigan Test. It also has different parts but they are all together in one timed section. Most of the students were not familiar with the Michigan Test. "I spent most of my time on the first part and didn't have time for the reading," one student said.

The results of the test are used to place the students in one of Montgomery College English levels. There are many different levels for non-native English speakers. The lowest is Continuing Education courses, which is non-credit and the students cannot get financial aid.

After that are EL courses (EL 101, 102, 103, 104), also non-credit courses but students can get financial aid for these classes. If the students are placed in the lowest EL classes, it takes approximately two years before they can take the regular English course.

To some students, that is wasting time and money. "I really want to learn English but I don't want to spend a lot of time on those EL non-credit courses," Mimi Yesehawlul said. "I think that I can do well if I take the regular classes." Another student agrees with Mimi on this point. "I know that college regular English is much harder than high school regular English. But that will make me work harder and put more effort to it. I think that I could learn English more easily while taking regular courses," said Hahana Woldu.

When students who are no longer in ESOL received their results, they were discouraged. "I feel very bad when I am in regular English for two years in high school and now I am placed into the Continuing Education Program at MC," Hahana Woldu said.

Another student who is taking advanced placement and honor classes in high school also has the same thought. "I expected at least to be in level EL102 or EL103, but they put me into the lowest level which is EL101," Vu Pham said. "I think that MC should look at the students' high school records not just look at the result of the test that they give," he said.

Another problem that students spoke about is dealing with different campuses. "One campus has one idea and the other campus has a different idea," Vu said. When he wants to find out the correct information, he has to go to the counselors at the Rockville campus after he talks to the people at the Takoma Park campus. If they both tell him the same thing, then he knows it's correct. But sometimes, they both give different answers. Silver International staff contacted Montgomery College about these questions, but we were not able to talk to anyone by the deadline of this issue. However, Mr. Bellino, the ESOL Resource Teacher, has spoken with Ms. Sharon Mandel, the coordinator of the American English Language Program at Takoma Park. "I believe the College is very concerned about this and wants to treat the students fairly," Mr. Bellino said.

Mr. Bellino received a message from Ms. Mandel which said that students who have not enrolled in any classes may re-test during the following quarter. Therefore students who took the test in April, can take the test again as early as June 16. Mr. Bellino also said that he was told they would be giving the CELT and not the Michigan Test.

Copyright © 1998, Silver International, Montgomery Blair H.S., Silver Spring, MD USA

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