Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Here is a CNN report on Arizona's crackdown on teachers with accents, which was previously discussed here at AAK!.


  1. 25 out of 1500 teachers reassigned. Racist witchhunt epic fail. Thanks for the update.

    If that Irish fellow subbed for my classes one day, the kids would all probably look at each other bewildered, wondering what language he was speaking. There's a place in the ESOL curriculum for unfamiliar accents, but beginning level isn't it.

  2. Ah, Sonagi, you must have forgotten that venerable Korean saying (or maybe it was borrowed from somewhere else?) that translates to something like --"Bits of dust can gather into a mountain." We don't yet know how long this will go on or to what scale it will grow -- only thing that matters therefore is that teachers are being unjustly penalized for having accents that are inconsequential in the long run.

  3. The English expression "slippery slope" more aptly fits your attempt at a counterargument. Our courts occasionally convict and imprison innocent people, yet we maintain a judicial system anyway. Evaluation tools are only as valid and fair as the people who use them. Fear of making mistakes is not a good reason to avoid personnel changes that best serve the needs of students.

    How can you judge that the teachers were unjustly reassigned without listening to their spoken English unless you really think even heavy accents are acceptable for any learner? In any case your views are the uninformed opinion of a non-teacher. The bilingual/ESL professor's predictable PC claim that accents don't matter because of context shows faulty reasoning. First, beginning learners have very limited vocabulary and listening skills and thus very limited context. Second, it's not only a matter of comprehension but also modeling, especially for younger beginning learners.

    And the short run matters, too, JW. Teachers are held accountable for students not on grade level at the end of the year. LEP students who have resided in the US at least one year are expected to pass federally mandated assessments in reading and math.

    I used to have a colleague from Colombia. She had native-like proficiency in English and spoke clearly with only a slight accent. I never noticed her accent as an impediment until an administration of an annual English language proficiency test for young learners. One part of the exam required the students to identify the beginning consonant sounds of words. She read aloud a word that started with /t/, but most students marked /d/ in their books because her pronunciation of /t/ was unaspirated, like in her native language. The next day I read the same test aloud to another group. Most got it right. This was one particular test item that I happened to notice. Other consonants aspirated in English but not in Spanish include /p/ and /k/. All three are common phonemes.

  4. The woman in the video was flagged for her accent, an accent that was inconsequential in my view. Being flagged means that she is being penalized for the accent, whether or not other considerations combine to lead to the decision of her being re-assigned or let go. Her and many others being flagged for such a trivial accent is completely unjust. Furthermore, I want every or at least close to every lazy teacher in the USA who are destroying our K-12 education to be completely fired -- as in not going to work anymore --- before any of these accents are even considered to be worthy of penalty.

  5. "The woman in the video was flagged for her accent, an accent that was inconsequential in my view."

    She wasn't flagged for her accent. She was evaluated along with all other non-native speakers and deemed proficient. That is why she remains in the classroom. If unclear speech by some teachers was a concern, the fairest way to determine which teachers did not have native-like proficiency was to evaluate all of them. There's nothing wrong with raising the bar for tenured and continuing contract teachers, wouldn't you agree, JW?

  6. Sure, they are evaluating all non-native teachers because vast majority of non-native teachers most likely speak with non-native English pronunciation, therefore they are being flagged for having accents.

    Here's something for you to chew on

    "A new study from Israel shows that it may be easier to learn a foreign language from someone who teaches it in the same accent as your own."


    Like I said, a bilingual non-native ESL teacher can easily be more effective than a non-bilingual teacher. And from the perspective of what's best for the child, just the fact that the ESL teacher still retains some foreign culture as part of his identity can be a big help to the vulnerable child who still probably feels like an outcast in a new environment.

  7. That Israeli study is interesting, but it does not apply to the situation in Arizona as the students were adults literate in their native language. Every course I've taken in ESOL pedagogy stresses that heavy phonemic awareness and phonics instruction are appropriate for children but not adults, even adults who are illiterate. As I've said repeatedly, pronuniation matters not only in comprehension but also teaching sound-letter correspondence for reading and spelling. I'll give you credit for providing a link and not just giving your personal opinions as a non-educator.


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