Bill introduced to help students learn English, stop cheating


EL PASO, Texas — A bill written and put forward by El Paso state representative Mary Gonzalez is aiming to prevent another cheating scandal from hitting school districts not just in El Paso, but the entire state of Texas.

HB 2004 would allow English language learners to not have their performance on standardized tests count toward their school's ratings for at least two years. The bill would also require English language learners or recent immigrants to be enrolled in a U.S. school for at least 60 consecutive days to count toward a school year of enrollment.

The bill has quickly garnered support.

"It starts addressing the needs of limited English-proficient students and makes sure that the current system that's in place, when it comes to testing and accountability, doesn't create a situation where individuals can either manipulate, or cheat the system," said Canutillo ISD Board President Armando Rodriguez. "We're looking at hopefully three years, research and some of the lawsuits that are in place say that it takes about four years for a student to transition from their dominant language to the native language."

Rodriguez isn't the only one who thinks the current system is failing students. 

"That's what's killing testing scores, are these students that come in from wherever they're coming, they don't know how to speak English, then all of a sudden they are tested," said Arlinda Valencia, the president of the Ysleta Independent School District Teacher's Association. "The bill lets the children come in and really focus on learning English and then they take the test."

HB 2004 is the newest in a series of bills that have been introduced to combat cheating. Other bills are aimed at reducing the number of standardized tests from 15 to just five, and getting rid of bonuses for scoring well on standardized tests.

"I think our guys are doing a great job in Austin, they are really looking out for El Paso. We've had a lot of downs, a lot of stuff that's gone down, and it's kind of left a black eye on El Paso, and our legislators are out there trying to fix things, to where it's going to help everyone, not just El Paso, but everyone across the state," Valencia said.

HB 2004 is being sponsored by a state senator, and had the support of the Texas Association of School Boards. The bill now heads to the House floor, and representatives from the office of Mary Gonzalez told KFOX14 they are very confident that it will pass.

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