My thoughts on the Spanish TAKS, 2.21.07:
Someone has asked me to respond to today's Houston Chronicle article (http://www.chron.com:80/disp/story.mpl/ ... 68183.html) which reports that students taught in Spanish will now take a different type of Spanish TAKS. The passages on this year's TAKS tests were not originally developed in English and then translated directly from English to Spanish (i.e., transadapted) but were originally written in Spanish.
I don't know for sure what the philosophy behind this change is. If Texas is going to teach students Spanish in English class (which, of course, I am against), then they absolutely need to be tested with "real" TAKS Spanish text/questions. The Spanish TAKS should not be transadapted text but should be written in correct formal Spanish, following the rules for correct writing/speaking. The Spanish TAKS must also be written at grade level.
If, however, the intent is to dumb down the TAKS Spanish tests, basing them on "norms" (i.e., if everyone does poorly, then the scores are set accordingly), then the inflated scores on the Spanish version will eventually harm these students by giving them false indicators.
I agree with Valenzuela (please see link to Houston Chronicle article) that transadapted text is not a good way to test these Spanish-language students because much is lost in translation when a person goes from one language to another. Idiomatic expressions in English which are translated word-for-word into Spanish make no sense at all to the Spanish reader, and it is unfair to put such text/questions on the TAKS tests.
What I do not want to see happen, however, is for the Spanish TAKS to include reading passages which are more reflective of barrio Spanish (i.e., informal, conversational Spanish which is oft-times incorrectly phrased) than of formal Spanish. Informal Spanish is very appropriate to an informal situation, but the Spanish TAKS should be based upon formal (standard) Spanish. After all, teachers do not need to teach students informal English or Spanish; students already know that. What schools need to teach is formal (i.e., standard) English and Spanish which students will need to use in college and in the business/international world of work.
If we are going to expect students to read well-written passages based upon standard English in the regular TAKS tests, then we need to expect the same level of academic excellence in the Spanish version. In other words, the Spanish TAKS tests do not need to reflect Spanish dialect any more than the English versions need to reflect such dialect.
We also must insist upon the Spanish versions of text being written in wholesome, non-offending verbiage just as we trust the English versions contain. The public may not remember; but in the English TAKS several years ago, parents and teachers objected to a poorly written dialectical piece which was not punctuated correctly and confused students who had been taught how to punctuate correctly. Also present in the particular passage were unwholesome sexual inferences. Because of the concerns which were raised, the TEA pledged to read through the passages more carefully. We need to exact the same pledge from them regarding the wholesomeness and appropriateness of Spanish text in the Spanish TAKS.