Common Core Hurts New Language Learners

Common Core Hurts New Language Learners

Katherine Peng, Contributing Writer

The new Common Core State Standards Initiative has drawn significant controversy among students, parents, and teachers across the United States. Jose Luis Vilson, a math teacher in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, was exposed to the Spanish language at a young age; however, as a child, most children at his school spoke only English. Jose found himself slowly abandoning Spanish as his mother prioritized academic success over cultural acclimation. Despite taking Spanish as an elective in both middle school and high school, Vilson had completely abandoned his mother’s native tongue by his late teenage years. Vilson defines bilingualism as “an exercise in constant transition and preparation.” His main argument centers on the educational system’s belief that the transition to a new language ultimately determines the success of an English Language Learner.




Vilson states that Common Core tests have made the circumstances even harder for English Language Learners as they must take their first English standardized language exam exactly one year and a day after they matriculate, or enroll in the school. However, as Vilson points out from personal experience with teaching non-native speakers, it takes roughly around four to five years to fully learn a new language. He believes that it is ridiculous that new English learners are flooded with statewide examinations shortly after their enrollment in school. Vilson presents the challenge that teachers of newly arrived English Language Learners must all face; there is an inherent difficulty of teaching the English language for all English Language Learners of different levels of language attainment. New language learners are not set-in-stone molds that can be kneaded to produce unblemished outcomes, but rather unique individuals who have their own paces and levels of learning a new language. There are students who come to the United States with strong language skills and are familiar with the English language, and there are also students who have never touched upon the language in their native countries. Thus, Vilson’s point is that while teachers must simultaneously introduce the foreign language to new learners, it is distressing that they must have the mindset of passing standardized examinations in order for English Language Learners to be successful in the classroom. Vilson points out the general, but imperative questions that need to be answered in the educational system, “Do they speak English or not? Which exams do we believe in?” This controversial topic culminates into the underlying issue of defining “success” for English Language Learners.