Do Regents policies penalize college-able immigrants and non-native speakers?

Changes in admissions policies are undermining students who are immigrants and non native speakers. These students have been successful in the past at Georgia Perimeter College. (AJC File)

Tim Brotherton is an educator who has been working with English language learners in the United States and overseas for over 30 years. He lives in Decatur.

In this piece, he says admissions tests now being required at Georgia State University-Perimeter College are closing out a large population of immigrant and refugee non-native speakers of English who have historically been very successful at graduating or transferring to four-year institutions.

His concern: As part of a move to streamline remedial education, the Board of Regents has lumped motivated non-native speakers of English who may have only been in the country a few years with native speakers who have other reasons for not being college ready.

By Tim Brotherton

Changes implemented quietly this semester for new applicants to Georgia State University-Perimeter College are denying admission to many immigrants and refugees who would have been admitted in the past.

The standards have come down from the Board of Regents and have not been challenged by GSU. They are closing out a large population of immigrant and refugee non-native speakers of English who have been successful at graduating or transferring to four-year institutions for the past 30 years.

There is ample data available showing that these students, after completing Perimeter’s English as a Second Language Program and gaining full admission to college level coursework, are more successful and have higher grade point averages than other Perimeter College students.  Many have transferred to Georgia Tech, University of Georgia and Georgia State. Others have successfully completed dental hygiene and nursing programs.

Georgia, and its economy, will be the losers if nothing is done to correct a policy change that limits their potential. So far, no one seems to care.

Three changes in testing are causing the problem at Perimeter. First, the minimum TOEFL — Test of English as a Foreign Language — score for admission is being raised from 460 to 500. Second, the Georgia State Test of English Proficiency, which provided a pathway to admission for many local high school graduates with limited English proficiency, is no longer being accepted for admissions. Third, and most important, the Accuplacer, a new test for admissions, is being used for most of these students. It is not designed for non-native speakers and is excluding a great number who would have been admitted before.

As part of the Regents’ move to streamline remedial education, the changes have closed the door to many highly motivated non-native speakers of English who may have only been in the United States a few years before entering college. The vast majority of these students are graduates of metro Atlanta high schools.

Before now, they were admitted to Perimeter and were allowed to take some college-level courses, for example math, while working to get their English language skills up to college level. Many will now be denied admission, period.

While no one knows exactly how many students will be impacted, it will probably be in the hundreds each semester. These English as a Second Language students will now have no affordable option to continue their education. DeKalb College/Georgia Perimeter College had always been a place where students could come to follow their dreams when there were perhaps no other pathways open to them. It was a true access institution.

When Georgia State University took over, there was an open and voluble promise to maintain GPC’s mission as an access institution. The promise now rings hollow.

 

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

What I think that we all can agree that recent immigrants are usually highly motivated.  


If we don't help the development of strong English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, particularly in the younger immigrants, then we're postponing the time by which they will reach their full potential.


I'm not sure that Perimeter College is the best place to impart these ESL skills.  The technical college system probably isn't the best place, either.


Where's there's a specific need, maybe the best answer would be a specific solution along the lines of a few, specially created, immersion ESL facilities under common administration where the SOLE focus would be the learning of the four English language skills, so that the ESL students pick up these skills quickly and move on to other schools that they're best fitted for.  


Students mainstreamed at too low a level of competence tend to earn grades that reflect their low level of English skills rather than what they would have earned as students working in fluent English.  Many drop out once they've run out of money.


There are many students in the access schools who also arrive with woefully low English language skills but speak English as a native language.  By this, I mean those with verbal SAT scores of 400 or below, the lowest 16% of SAT takers.   These students make up an entirely different group -- perhaps the bottom third of public high school graduates. (We get from 16% to 33% if we assume that the many students not bothering to take the SAT aren't stellar performers, either.)


Above a certain floor, these native English speakers can take remedial courses in a 2 year school access school within USG.  Some are "late bloomers" who needed a different environment from their high schools to grow.  These  will go on to graduate, but the real problem lies in the public school systems from which they came.  It might be that the best solution over the long term is to figure out what are the primary groups of students and their particular needs, then supply schools built for their particular needs.


What we may want at the end of all this is a dynamic system of built-for-purpose schools that all perform well, but don't block technical school graduates from moving to the more elite academic institutions.  


What we have, now, seems to be too many institutions that seek to be all things to all students, but don't perform all that well for any particular category of students.


Perimeter College strikes me as trying to perform better for a slimmer slice of students, which is a step in the right direction, so long as the GA system provides effective alternatives for those who PC no longer admits.








Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

Concerning " By this, I mean those with verbal SAT scores of 400 or below, the lowest 16% of SAT takers." 


Students with 400 or below verbal SATs can't get into Perimeter College and  other 2-year access schools, now, but not long ago these schools had open admissions.. The issue of how to work with these native English speaking students remains.

Dungeo
Dungeo

Without real data, this information is hypothetical.


The best option is a technical college where non-collegiate level courses should be offered.  Georgia Piedmont Technical College is next door to the PC Clarkston campus.

Tcope
Tcope

The solution to this problem is easy. Work on your English skills and retest. The state should not be spending money teaching prospective college students English. There are plenty of non-profit organizations out there teaching English to recent immigrants.

JayeW
JayeW

@Tcope Non-profit organizations do an excellent job of teaching adult ESL literacy to recent immigrants. I know because I have taught ESL in several of these non-profits in the Atlanta area. However, the level of academic English proficiency needed for success in institutions of higher learning requires unique linguistic and skill specific training. 


A two-year access institution is the ideal place to offer non-native English speakers, many of whom are Georgia high school graduates,the opportunity to take their linguistic abilities in English to the next level, a level that even many native speakers of English never master. Students pay regular tuition to take ESL courses, and, yes, at public institutions the state does invest in students' education. And the state is getting a great return on their investment in non-native English speakers' college success. National data shows that immigrant and refugee students in colleges and universities across the country graduate at higher rates than their native speaking peers. It's a win-win!

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Georgian citizens must be rejected from these colleges, in favor of these "immigrants".  Now!  


In the name of caring and fairness. 


Seriously?  Somehow actual US/GA citizens getting these slots means (and I quote) "Georgia and its economy will be the losers"...??


Do you guys think before you publish this crap?  Does the idea that an actual citizen gets REJECTED for every immigrant that gets accepted not matter?  


Wow.  And now we know why we have Pres Trump

JayeW
JayeW

@dcdcdc Many of these immigrants are also naturalized U.S. citizens or citizens to be (they are Green Card holders or permanent residents). At an access institution or a 2-year college, immigrants students are not being admitted at the expense of US/GA citizens. Access truly means access for anyone who applies and meets the minimal admissions standards.

readcritic
readcritic

@dcdcdc It is an affront to the U.S. worker who is paying major tax dollars only to have a social welfare redistribution of his hard earned money going to support those who break the law and enter this country illegally. Illegals' demands and needs are never-ending. The states issue illegals a driver's license without any means of identifying their illegal status and then they use that to apply for medical, dental, optical, housing and food subsidies. They use it to vote illegally. The fraud is totally out of control at this point. With as many as 11 million illegals in the country and more coming daily, our education system is overloaded and costing homeowners major property tax dollars. The rich can afford it, the poor are living it up, and the middle class works until they drop. Where will it all end? Is there any relief for the legal citizen worker just trying to survive? Our poor veterans are treated abominably, but bleeding hearts scream to help the illegals. Enough!

kaelyn
kaelyn

I wonder if higher admisssion standards across the board are the explanation. A friend's son was recently denied admission to GSU, but was told he could enroll at Perimeter and then continue at GSU after two years if his grades were up to par. He's not happy about it, but that's life.

I don't know how difficult it is to raise a TOEFL score forty points, but is it any different than studying for the ACT or SAT? There are minimum scores for native speakers, too. If the tests can be taken more than once, I don't see the problem. Even an access institution has to have minimum entrance requirements.

JayeW
JayeW

@kaelyn Achieving fluency and accuracy in a language that is not your mother tongue and thereby raising one's proficiency score on an English proficiency test like the TOEFL is a lot different than studying for the ACT or SAT. There is really no comparison.

kaelyn
kaelyn

I disagree that there's no comparison. There are plenty of American born kids who struggle mightily with getting minimum standardized test scores. The similarity between the two is that both are faced with obstacles that, although not easy, can certainly be overcome.

JayeW
JayeW

@kaelyn I am speaking as an educator who has worked with both populations, and there is truly no comparison. 

kaelyn
kaelyn

Point noted. I'm speaking as someone married to an immigrant, and the sky is the limit for immigrants with a great work ethic and the determination to succeed.

Btw, I've also worked with refugees. I'm amazed how many live their lives believing where there's a will, there's a way.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Jules: What country are you from?

Brett: What? What? Wh - ?

Jules: "What" ain't no country I've ever heard of. They speak English in What?

Brett: What?

Jules: English, m*****f****r, do you speak it?

"Pulp Fiction"


time for reform
time for reform

Why should scarce college resources be expended on remedial English for those unsuited to take on college level work?

Furthermore, the marketplace will soon come up with affordable alternatives.

liberal4life
liberal4life

@time for reform 

The point is that those non-native speakers who need remedial English may be perfectly college ready in other subjects like math, chemistry, physics, etc. Many native students who need remedial English (and those who barely made the minimum above the cut line) are also weak in math and whole bunch of other subjects. The question is who has better chance of successfully completing college education.

JayeW
JayeW

@liberal4life @time for reform ESL and remedial English are not comparable. Non-native speakers don't need remedial English; they need intensive linguistic training in the target language. 

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@time for reform By your argument, we could also get rid of public schools and the technical and USG systems.


Certainly, the marketplace would  soon come up with affordable alternatives