Untapped Possibilities

Intersectionality Theory and Literacy Research

Authored by: Maneka Deanna Brooks

Theoretical Models and Processes of Literacy

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138087262
eBook ISBN: 9781315110592
Adobe ISBN:


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As soon as I began to read the directions for the English language proficiency assessment, Alex shouted, “I know English. I don't wanna take this fucking test! I take this test every year!” He threw his unopened exam booklet onto the floor. Since he was being disruptive, I asked him to spend the rest of the class in the office. While he sat in the office, his classmates finished the reading and writing portions of the test. Later on that day, I spoke with Alex about his behavior during the test that constituted part of the criteria upon which a determination about his English proficiency would be based. He explained to me that he was incorrectly classified as an English learner (EL) because (among other reasons) he was an English speaker. He then waited for my justification of his categorization. I told him what I had learned about language proficiency in my teacher education program. I drew on Cummins's (2000) popular theoretical distinction between Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). I explained to him that his English abilities were “surface fluency” (Cummins, 1979, p. 231). I shared that if he had academic English proficiency, his performance on the requisite standardized assessments would be sufficient to be reclassified as English proficient.

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