I am one of those teachers described in the July 5 front-page article "Teachers Wary of New Exams." Juan, a fifth-grader in my before-school computer club, was one of the first to sign up. In three months, he learned how to use word processing and design databases, spreadsheets and Web pages using Hypertext Markup Language. He can surf the Web and capture graphics for his own use. He failed this year's Virginia technology Standards of Learning (SOL) test.
Neither of Juan's parents speaks English. Juan speaks Spanish at home and watches Spanish-language TV. Considering everything, his teachers all agree he has done well to master the language of his new country as well as he has. However, the nuances and cultural relevancy of the SOL tests are way beyond Juan's capability.
At the age of 20, I arrived in a new country where I thought the language was the same and the culture similar to my own. I soon found out how wrong I was. Australia and America may be much alike in many ways, but when I asked a co-worker to pass me a rubber and was swamped in a gale of laughter directed at me, I knew something was wrong.
Juan will be devastated when he learns that he has failed the SOLs. His parents will be sad. The school system in which Juan is placed will be angry and blame Juan's teachers and administrators and threaten them with removal. Much money will be spent and programs provided to help Juan achieve success. The only solution to Juan's predicament is time, and that he will not be given.
SALLY E. MacLEAN