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Archive for Friday, February 15, 1991

ENGLISH FLUENCY

February 15, 1991

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State university students and administrators clashed Thursday at a Board of Regents meeting over a proposal to raise English proficiency standards for instructors.

The Students' Advisory Committee, made up of university student government leaders, asked regents to raise testing standards at schools in the state system to the level established by Kansas University about 10 years ago.

Several regents expressed support for the students' recommendation, but the board voted to delay action until March.

Several university administrators asked regents to defer the matter until May, saying 30 days wasn't enough time to study the matter.

ANDREA Roberts, Emporia State University student body president, presented the SAC proposal to regents. The plan would:

Raise the minimum score acceptable on the Test of Spoken English from 220 to the KU minimum of 240.

Cut the probation period for instructors with borderline English skills from one year to one semester.

Include a student in the group who interviews prospective instructors whose primary language isn't English.

The reforms would primarily affect international graduate students, cost the state nothing and go a long way in improving educational quality, Roberts said.

Mike Schreiner, KU student body president, said KU's program had been successful and should be copied at other state schools.

"I've been in office since April, and I haven't heard a complaint," he said. "Much of this can be attributed to the higher standard KU has."

SCHREINER said the tougher standards hadn't damaged KU's ability to recruit international graduate students.

Asked to comment on KU's system, Chancellor Gene Budig said, "I think the system works well at KU."

However, Donald Wilson, president of Pittsburg State University, attacked the SAC proposal.

A score of "240 is not going to solve the problem. It is not going to weed out poor performers," he said.

Robert Ratzlaff, academic affairs vice president at PSU, said he had "no confidence" in the regents' English proficiency exam.

Wilson said he was concerned about the issue, but urged regents to authorize a study of the issue and development of a comprehensive reform proposal.

ALTHOUGH not all regents joined the debate on the SAC proposal, several expressed support for the recommendation.

"I support this wholeheartedly," said Regent Shirley Palmer, a Fort Scott elementary school teacher.

Regents Chairman Robert Creighton of Atwood said the board needs "to respond to student concerns."

John Montgomery, who began a new term on the board after previously serving several years ago, said students have complained for years about not being able to understand some teachers.

"Speaking as a former member of the board, this is probably the biggest complaint I got," he said.

However, Wilson said students hadn't properly informed university officials about their concerns regarding English proficiency of instructors.

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