TA applicant face proficiency test

By Mark Indreika

In order to ensure English proficiency in NIU classrooms, the Advisory Committee on Effective Classroom Instruction will be recommending a minimum Test of Spoken English (TSE) score which some foreign students will have to attain before they can become Teaching Assistants.

Assistant Provost Lynne Waldeland said from now on all foreign students who apply for TA positions at NIU will have to pass the TSE first.

Waldeland said the committee will be sending its recommendation to the Graduate Council once it has finished some last minute research.

She said the committee is currently investigating which groups of foreign students other universities are testing, and which of these groups are being exempted. Waldeland said some foreign students, those who come from countries where English is already spoken, will not have to be tested.

Other state schools using the TSE are Illinois State University, University of Illinois and Northwestern University, Waldeland said.

Waldeland said once the minimum score is established, individual departments will have the option of setting higher TSE score minimums for their TAs. She said the nature of a single department might necessitate raising the standard. For instance, scores for an English 104 instructor might need to be higher than for a science lab teacher.

Waldeland said the committee also will be making a recommendation to Provost Kendall Baker that NIU become a testing site for the TSE.

The TSE is normally given in the student’s home country before he comes to the United States. However, there are three TSE facilities in Illinois.

Director of Testing Services Norman Gilbert said he hopes NIU will become a testing site because it would give foreign students who fail the test in their home countries a second chance once they have lived here for a while.

Waldeland said in order to assess the proficiency problem at NIU, department chairmen are being asked to report any student complaints by the beginning of next week. She said the committee will begin looking at the reports by the end of October.

The Bulletin of Information for Test of English as a Foreign Language and TSE states, “The major purpose of the Test of Spoken English (TSE) is to evaluate the spoken English proficiency of people whose native language is not English.”

The bulletin states there are seven parts to the 30 minute exam. The test requires students to answer questions about themselves, read a printed page out loud, complete partial sentences, construct a story about a series of pictures, answer questions about a single picture, answer questions on general topics and give a short presentation as if they were speaking to a group of students, the bulletin stated.