The University of Utah plans to require its foreign teaching assistants to pass an oral English test before they can teach.
Beginning fall quarter 1993, teaching assistants whose native language is not English will be required to take the "Test of Spoken English" or the "SPEAK Test" at a licensed international site.This is the first time the U. has required English proficiency. The requirement was developed by a U. teaching assistant committee. The U. Board of Trustees heard a report on the new requirement Monday.
Prospective teaching assistants who score below 180 must pass an English as a Second Language course with a "B" or better before they can become U. instructors. Those who pass one of the tests but score below 250 will have to participate in a two-week U. workshop that evaluates English skills and teaches about the expectations of American students.
The new mandatory test of conversational English is part of a two-year-old effort to improve the level of instruction provided by U. teaching assistants. Last fall, when U. administrators outlined some of these efforts to the U. Board of Trustees, trustee John Price reported he had received numerous complaints from students about teaching assistants who don't speak fluent English.
"We took that to heart," Richard P. Steiner, associate dean of the graduate school, said in explaining the new requirement.
But Price didn't like the beginning date of fall 1993. It's not soon enough, he said.
Price said he's heard of students, particularly those in math and the sciences, who will sign up for several classes, monitor them and then drop the classes where the instructors speak fractured English.
Steiner said the 1993 starting date stems from the fact that many of the U.'s financial arrangements with teaching assistants have already been made for this fall.