April 2007 Archives

Today--April 30--is designated by the American Library Association as a day to highlight the importance of helping every child learn to read regardless of his or her linguistic or cultural background. It's called El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros or Children's Day/Book Day and is a day in which libraries in several hundred locations will feature bilingual literacy, according to Melanie Anderson, a lobbyist for the American Library Association. Her association will hold an event to highlight bilingual literacy today in the U.S. Capitol at 3 p.m....


Jorge Bustamante, an independent expert from the United Nations, begins a three-week mission today to examine the rights of migrants and immigrants in this country. His official title is the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. According to the April 27 press release from his office, he comes at the invitation of the U.S. government and will try to see firsthand what the conditions are for migrants and immigrants by visiting border areas near Nogales, Ariz., and San Diego, Calif., as well as several cities that are popular destinations for immigrants. I'm curious about how much Mr. ...


The speech that Tom Horne, Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, gave at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, in which he criticizes implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act for English-language learners, takes me back to the 1970s. I remember how in that decade, my high school teachers talked about various kinds of dysfunction in Russian society, such as how people at times had to stand in long lines to buy bread. In his speech, Mr. Horne compares implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act with attempts by the government of the former Soviet Union to micromanage the Russian economy. ...


Alexander Russo's post today on This Week in Education piqued my interest regarding how the Virginia Department of Education is instructing school administrators to include English-language learners in testing this spring. I've previously noted that after several Virginia school districts put up a good fight in defiance of a federal mandate to give the state's regular reading test to beginning English-language learners this school year, the districts now have agreed to comply with the requirement. The writers of an editorial published in the Washington Post today opined that the Virginia districts did the right thing by backing down. I got ...


It may seem obvious that immigrant youths who are "out of school" aren't going to get much educational help, but a couple of researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California suggest in a research brief and study that educators should try to figure out how to reach such youths anyway. The researchers define out-of-school immigrant youths as young people ages 13-22 who are born abroad and don't have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate. They note that the mission of the federal migrant education program officially expanded in recent years to include out-of-school immigrant youths. ...


Most presenters at a session about the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on English-language learners at an American Educational Research Association meeting in Chicago April 9-13 were sharply critical of the federal education law, according to their slide presentations from that meeting that have been posted by the Institute for Language and Education Policy. For example, in his case study about two Cambodian 5th graders who take the regular math test of Texas after attending U.S. schools for 6 months, Wayne E. Wright, an assistant professor in bicultural-bilingual studies at the University of Texas, San Antonio, ...


Three months after the Fairfax County, Va., school board passed a resolution permitting administrators to defy a federal requirement to give the regular reading test to some beginning English-language learners, school officials have announced a turnaround on that position, according to an article today in the Washington Post. [Update follows.] Spokesmen from the Arlington and Loudoun County school systems in Virginia told me today that their school districts, which had also resisted the federal mandate, have also decided to comply with it. Fairfax County Superintendent Jack D. Dale told principals that they should follow federal requirements and use the test ...


When the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, convened a meeting on English-language learners and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act recently, they invited two of the same five people who had testified last month before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Those two were Cornelia M. Ashby, from the Government Accountability Office, and Peter Zamora, the co-chair of the Hispanic Education Coalition. The meeting was April 10. But the Senate staff also chose two panelists who hadn't yet made presentations on Capitol Hill regarding reauthorization of NCLB. ...


The U.S. Department of Education, which is in a tug-of-war with several Virginia superintendents who are protesting a federal mandate to change how their school districts test beginning English-language learners, met with those chiefs on April 13 to discuss the impasse. Maria Glod, of the Washington Post, reported in an April 14 article that a solution wasn't reached. The Virginia superintendents and school boards resisting the mandate will have to decide soon what they will do for the spring testing season. Paul Regnier, a spokesman for Fairfax County schools, which could lose $17 million in federal funds if it ...


The U.S. Department of Education has posted descriptions of some of the guides it expects to have ready this summer for states to better include English-language learners in large-scale testing. The guide for native language assessments, for example, is expected to answer such questions as "When do the numbers justify the cost?" and "What states have the most experience in using native language assessments?" More information from the Education Department on the LEP Partnership, an initiative of the federal government to help states on testing issues for English-language learners, is available here. Also, see my March 15, 2007, post "Who's...


One year after students from immigrant families organized school walkouts to protest some of the proposals in the U.S. Congress to change federal immigration laws, most of those students aren't doing the same this spring. In a March 26 article, the Dallas Morning News noted how Gustavo Jimenez, who organized walkouts among fellow high schoolers last spring, has been concentrating on finishing his senior year, working a part-time job at J.C. Penney, and making plans to attend a community college in the fall. He has continued his interest in activism, though, by lobbying for passage of the DREAM ...


A new research brief about children in immigrant families contains some interesting observations that indicate education policy can make a difference in whether children of Mexican heritage go to preschool. The researchers from the State University of New York at Albany who wrote the brief say that in Mexico, where preschool is free, 81 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2005. By contrast, in 2004, 55 percent of children in Mexican immigrant families living in the United States participated in preschool. (Preschool is NOT free in most places in the United States, though the researchers don't say this ...


A bill that would require Colorado students, starting in the graduating class of 2012, to show they are competent in English before they can get a high school diploma is working its way through the Colorado legislature. The Colorado Senate passed the bill, SB 73, on March 20, and it has been introduced and assigned to an education committee in the Colorado House. A March 20 article in the Rocky Mountain News tells about the bill, which requires each of the state's 178 school districts to decide how it will determine if its students have mastered English. Sen. Chris Romer, ...


For at least the second time, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has hired someone for an important post in the Arizona Department of Education whose views on the education of English-language learners were widely publicized in statewide controversies related to such students. Last month, Mr. Horne hired Kelt L. Cooper, 47, a former superintendent of the 6,400-student Nogales Unified School District, as the director of technical assistance for English-acquisition services of the state department of education. Mr. Cooper said in an interview with me this week that he was offered the job after he testified in federal ...


Joe DeSantis, the director of communications for a public relations firm working for Newt Gingrich, passed on some additional information about the former House Speaker's study of Spanish. The classes are being provided by an Atlanta-based institute, Bilingual America. (The institute's name seems a bit ironic, given that Mr. Gingrich reportedly said last weekend that "allowing bilingualism to continue to grow is very dangerous." But of course, I have to remember that he's offered a clarification for what he said last week.) Mr. DeSantis says that Mr. Gingrich has studied 100 hours of a 280-hour Spanish course offered by the ...


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who reportedly equated bilingual education with "the language of living in a ghetto" in a recent speech, has offered an acknowledgement on You Tube that his words "produced a bad feeling within the Latino community" and that "the words I chose to express myself were not the best." This Week in Education made note of Mr. Gingrich's clarification yesterday. What's most surprising to me about Mr. Gingrich's acknowledgement, though, is that he offers it in Spanish. What I just wrote in the previous paragraph is a translation that appears in subtitles on the video clip ...


These days, if you pay attention to issues affecting English-language learners, it's hard to overlook what used to be a little known fact about them--that most are not immigrants but rather were born in the United States. Peter Zamora, the Washington counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, included this fact in his recent testimony on English-language learners and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee. (For more on Mr. Zamora's views about English-language learners, see my profile of him in this ...


This bit of news has received so much comment by bloggers that I need not add any more. I merely note that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich apparently equated bilingual education with the "language of living in a ghetto." He also reportedly said in a March 31 speech he made to the National Federation of Republican Women that "allowing bilingualism to continue to grow is very dangerous." The March 31 Associated Press article about the speech is here. Here's the Tennessee Guerilla Women's response. Likewise, "la bloguera" of the Adventures of the Coconut Caucus disagrees. For someone who agrees with ...


I'm not sure exactly when it was released, but the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the University of Minnesota has posted a "new" study on its Web site about how language-minority children spend their time before and after school and what difference it makes in how well they do in school. Language-minority children are those who come from homes where a language other than English is spoken; the researchers surveyed parents who spoke only English or Spanish. They surveyed parents or guardians of 9,583 children who participated in the 2001 administration of the National Household Education Survey Program ...


Some of you might remember that about this time last year, Arizona had racked up nearly $21 million in federal fines because the state's Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, couldn't agree on how to meet a federal court order in the case of Flores v. Arizona to pay adequately for the education of English-language learners. The stalemate finally was broken when Gov. Napolitano permitted to become law--without her signature--a measure approved by the legislature last spring to address the problem. But U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins then rejected the law, saying it didn't bear a "rational...


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