May 2007 Archives

There doesn't seem to be anything really surprising in the official guidance (Word doc) that the U.S. Department of Education has released spelling out how schools should implement testing and accountability provisions for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act. (Read the corresponding regulations published Sept. 13 in the Federal Register.) I picked up one detail that was new to me: the clock starts ticking as soon as English-language learners (the Education Department calls them limited-English-proficient students) enter U.S. schools for the three-year time period that they are permitted to take state tests in their native ...


Washington Post writer Maria Glod interviewed quite a few children for her story published today about how Virginia's change in testing policy for English-language learners is affecting children. She focuses on school districts that lost their battle against the U.S. Department of Education to extend the policy that was in place through the current school year. Lots of stories about education policy don't quote students, so it's refreshing to read their observations. See my earlier posts, "Virginia's Definition of Test Participation," and "Fairfax County School Officials Back Down in Testing Impasse."...


Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, aims to soon be able to give interviews in Spanish, according to an article inThe Politico, based on an interview with his private Spanish tutor. A couple of months ago Mr. Gingrich offended some Latinos by equating bilingual education with "the language of living in the ghetto," according to news reports. He later appeared in a video on YouTube in which he tried--in Spanish--to clarify his comments. See my earlier posts, "More on Newt Gingrich's Spanish Lessons," and "Newt Gingrich Offers an Apology of Sorts." At the time ...


The Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank in Arlington, Va., has published a paper that implies that some school districts in California should be reclassifying more of their English-language learners as fluent in English each year. In the 2005-2006 school year, California's school districts, on average, reclassified 9.6 percent of English-language learners as fluent, the paper states. It features case studies for several districts, including the 19,600-student Alvord Unified School District, in Riverside, Calif., where the reclassification rate in the 2005-2006 school year was 1 percent, and the 89,000-student Long Beach Unified School District, in Long Beach, ...


My last blog entry is wrong in telling what a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled regarding testing of English-language learners in California. After talking with lawyers for both sides of the case, I conclude that the article I posted from the Santa Cruz Sentinel overstates the reach of the ruling--and I distorted it further in my characterization of the article. (Matt King, the journalist who wrote the article, told me today that he wrote it based on what he took directly from the ruling in which "the judge made it very clear that he believes the state is acting ...


A San Francisco judge has ruled in a case that is being very closely watched in California that the state doesn't have to provide its standardized tests used for the No Child Left Behind Act in Spanish or languages other than English, according to an article published today in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The article notes that plaintiffs in the case, Coachella Valley Unified School District v. California, argued that California has "violated its duty to provide valid and reliable academic testing" for English-language learners. The judge disagreed. The article says it's not clear if the attorneys for the eight ...


I keep an eye out for whether English-language learners know about and participate in extracurricular school activities, so I took note this week that one of the top winners in a national writing contest about the importance of diversity in schools is an English-language learner. Laura Machado, 11, a 5th grader at Maupin Elementary School in Louisville, Ky., was selected as the top winner in the category of children under age 12 for her short piece, "Nations Are Gardens." Laura told me in a telephone interview yesterday that she moved to the United States from Cuba three years ago without ...


Six large education organizations--including the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National School Boards Association--contend that any measure reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act should ensure that educators won't have to test English-language learners until after they show "comprehension of English." They don't spell out how many months of instruction would enable the average English-language learner to be able to understand English or how educators would determine if students can do that. View the groups' May 18 statement on reauthorization of NCLB here....


A research-based initiative being piloted in 15 schools in six school districts in California requires participating schools to commit to "bilingualism, biliteracy, and multiculturalism" in teaching English-language learners, according to Jan Gustafson, the director of the project, called the PROMISE Initiative. (Its long name is: Pursuing Regional Opportunities for Mentoring, Innovation, and Success for English Learners.) Six Southern California county offices of education launched the initiative three years ago with a federal grant of $500,000. The pilot project started in September. Each of the six school districts pays an annual fee of $10,000 to participate. By 2009, the ...


Motivating English-language learners to use their Spanish is a bigger challenge than getting them to improve their English in some two-way immersion programs, according to a book published recently by the Center for Applied Linguistics. The book, Realizing the Vision of Two-Way Immersion: Fostering Effective Programs and Classrooms, profiles four schools with two-way immersion programs, also known as dual-language programs. These are programs in which children who are dominant in English and children who are dominant in Spanish learn both languages in the same classrooms. In many school districts, such programs have become the favored model of bilingual education. (I ...


Some teachers of English as a second language and professors in the field are trying to convince Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to veto a bill that some other teachers have worked very hard to get introduced and passed. The bill, passed earlier this month by both the Florida House and Senate, would decrease to 60 from 300 the number of in-service hours of English-as-a-second-language training required of reading teachers who want to work with English-language learners. The idea for the bill came from the Clay County Education Association, which represents 2,500 teachers and is affiliated with the Florida Education ...


Some of my sources have been telling me that I should look into how the break-up of large comprehensive high schools into small schools is affecting English-language learners. Well, Samual G. Freedman, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, has beaten me to doing some very concrete reporting on this topic. He wrote a piece that ran in the New York Times on May 9 focusing on how English-language learners apparently aren't being served as well as they were before Columbus High School in the Bronx became part of the small-schools movement. The story of the numbers alone is interesting. ...


Cristina De León-Menjivar of the Napa Valley Register has written a series about how the Napa Valley Unified School District in California has responded to provisions for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act. "Despite the district's solid record of success getting newcomers up to speed in English quickly," she writes, "overall that student population is a drag on the district's test scores." I notice that some of the educators in the Napa Valley school district were adept in slipping into interviews their views about how they'd like to see the federal education law altered. For example, in ...


I hear a lot of talk about how provisions for English-language learners in the the No Child Left Behind Act are indirectly making it more difficult for schools to offer bilingual education programs. I checked out this premise for an article that runs in Education Week this week. What I found was that it varies greatly from state to state whether NCLB has put a damper on bilingual education programs, because state policies differ so much. For example, in states that offer some tests in students' native languages--which is permitted by the federal law--bilingual programs are having an easier time ...


The National Council of La Raza and more than 100 other advocacy and education organizations have sent a letter to President Bush expressing "deep concern" over how workplace raids by immigration authorities have been conducted--and how they could negatively affect the children of undocumented workers who are rounded up in the raids. The May 7 letter notes that 3.1 million children who are U.S. citizens have at least one undocumented parent. A copy of the letter was also sent to Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Here's an excerpt: "In the aftermath of ...


I found it refreshing to read in the Carnegie Reporter, a magazine of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, an article about educating immigrant students that didn't mention the No Child Left Behind Act. The article makes a case for why it still makes sense to provide a free K-12 education for undocumented immigrant students. It relays the context in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in Plyler v. Doe that schools were obliged to educate such students. Not doing so, the court said, would promote "the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our ...


A report released by EdSource today could provide leverage for adminstrators who are trying to get teachers to buy into the idea that it's worth their time to examine student test data and use it to make decisions about their teaching. (I can already hear the groans of teachers who worry about losing their creative spirit.) The study, "Similar English Learner Students, Different Results: Why Do Some Schools Do Better?," marries the results of a survey of California principals and teachers about their practices in educating English-language learners with how well their English-language learners perform in California's accountability system. Interestingly, ...


A book and a couple of films gave me some insight recently into the challenge that immigrant children face in adjusting emotionally to U.S. culture, which can affect how well they do in school. The book was A Home on the Field, by Paul Cuadros, who writes about the lives of undocumented youths who were members of the soccer team he formed and coached at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City, N.C. When the team took a state soccer title, the boys felt, psychologically, that they had something to contribute to their new community. TIME Magazine ran an ...


It's a tricky matter for educators to determine if an English-language learner has only a language issue that affects learning--or a disability. In last week's Education Week, I wrote about Missouri's efforts to help educators improve how they evaluate English-language learners for special education, an area where Missouri has a problem with underrepresentation. Ten percent of English-language learners nationwide receive special education, compared with 13 percent of all children, according to data from the 2004-2005 school year collected by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. I came across a document in my reporting that ...


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