August 2007 Archives

Oakland Unified School District in California this week opened its first school that enrolls only immigrant students. Called the Oakland International High School, it is modeled after international high schools in New York City for newcomers to the United States, according to a news broadcast by a California television station. The school aims to help English-language learners acquire the language and academic skills they need to graduate from high school and go on to college. The school was started with help from the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a nonprofit organization in New York City that gives support to eight ...


The House Education Committee has released a draft of a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act that provides both added flexibility and a couple of new requirements concerning how schools educate and assess English-language learners. For an overview of the draft, read the article by my colleagues David J. Hoff and Alyson Klein. Among the added flexibility is the opportunity for school districts to test ELLs in their native language for up to five years—up from three years in the current law—with the option of extending that testing for two additional years for children on a case-by-case...


Education Week published this week a story I wrote about educators' ideas for reauthorization of the federal migrant education program under the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 36 percent of the 685,000 children in the migrant education program are English-language learners. Most migrant children are Latinos. Don't miss the accompanying photo gallery, put together by Sarah Evans, Education Week's director of photography....


If you've read my blog items about states' attempts to estimate the cost of educating undocumented children, you'll appreciate a cautionary statement in a December 2006 report examining the costs and benefits of the presence of undocumented immigrants in Texas. In the introduction to education costs in "Undocumented Immigrants in Texas: A Financial Analysis of the Impact to the State Budget and Economy," Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a former Texas comptroller and the author of the report, writes: "Any estimate of state costs associated with undocumented immigrants is imprecise due to the difficulties involved in determining their numbers. In public education, ...


The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement today with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the ACLU says will improve conditions for immigrant children and their families at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which is a branch of the U.S. Homeland Security Department, followed up with its own announcement confirming the settlement and saying: "Indeed, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had already implemented many of the modifications contained in the final agreement." Part of the settlement agreement describes the kind of schooling the center will provide. ...


For the first time, Fairfax County schools failed to make adequate yearly progress goals under the No Child Left Behind Act, and district officials say it's primarily because they were required by the federal government to change their policy last school year for testing English-language learners in reading, according to a Washington Post article published Aug. 24. Officials from the Fairfax County school district put up a good fight last school year to get permission from the U.S. Department of Education to continue to give beginning-level English-language learners an English-proficiency test—instead of a regular reading test—for accountability...


Demographically speaking--if one can really speak that way--the U.S. Department of Education appears to have picked the right school district to give a grant for training teachers of English-language learners. It's in the metropolitan area with the fastest-growing Hispanic-student population in the nation, and many of those students likely are ELLs. Are you thinking Texas or Florida or California? Think again. We're talking Arkansas. The University of Arkansas, in partnership with the school district of Springdale, Ark., just received a federal grant of $1.3 million to train 100 English-as-a-second-language teachers over the next five years, according to the ...


It's been interesting to see how readers of this blog have expressed what they think of Diane Ravitch's definition for bilingual education that appears in her new book about education jargon. See my earlier post, "Plenty of 'Edspeak' to Go Around." Since some readers relayed what they presume is her philosophy concerning bilingual education or the education of Hispanic students, I asked Ms. Ravitch if she wanted to respond to comments. I also asked if she wanted to defend her definition or acknowledge that it could be improved. Here's what she said: "The definition of bilingual education in my book ...


In her book about educational jargon published in July, education historian Diane Ravitch includes a number of terms I hear tossed around in the field of educating English-language learners. I confess that I toss some of those terms around myself. In the preface of EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon, Ms. Ravitch writes that while a specialized vocabulary may help people working in a particular field to discuss "sophisticated ideas that are beyond the understanding of the average citizen," the result, "is to mystify the public." I applaud Ms. Ravitch for trying to translate educational terms ...


Saul Arellano may be one of the most well-known schoolchildren in the United States whose mother has been deported. Saul's mother, Elvira Arellano, 32, is an undocumented immigrant who lived in the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago for a year to avoid being deported and separated from her son, who is 8 and a U.S. citizen. The boy participated in rallies and met with Washington politicians and Mexican officials in a campaign to try to persuade U.S. immigration authorities to let his mother stay in the United States, according to a May 8 interview with the boy ...


Some Arkansas lawmakers are looking into how much it costs the state to educate children of undocumented immigrants. But at a recent legislative hearing, they couldn't get a simple answer from Andre Guerrero, the director of programs for language-minority students in the state. Mr. Guerrero told me in a phone interview last week that he was questioned for about an hour at the Aug. 14 hearing on the issue. "They wanted to know why we can’t collect data to determine if people are here legally or illegally—why we couldn’t ask for social security numbers and so forth,"...


A Dallas Morning News article published today explores whether schools should move toward replacing transitional bilingual education programs with dual-language immersion programs. The article tells how in Texas, some school districts are doing this. With transitional bilingual education, children receive some instruction in their native language while transitioning into English; such programs do not necessarily aim to have students maintain their native language. By contrast, dual-language programs aim for children to become literate and understand academic content in both their native language and English over the long haul. In many dual-language programs, children who speak Spanish and children who speak ...


Every once in a while, I hear of a situation in which a school district employee doesn't know that children are entitled to a free K-12 public education in this country regardless of their immigration status—and causes unnecessary problems for immigrant parents. That reportedly was the case with the assistant of the superintendent of the North Chicago Community Unit School District #187, in North Chicago, Ill., who is accused of telling a parent she couldn't enroll her child in school without providing proof of legal residency or work authorization. A regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and ...


Back in March, an official from the office of English language acquisition for the U.S. Department of Education told me the department was just about ready to send a two-year evaluation of programs for English-language learners to the U.S. Congress. It's now mid-August, and the report has yet to have been released. The No Child Left Behind Act requires that the U.S. Secretary of Education give an evaluation of programs funded under Title III, Part A, of the act to Congress every two years. (Click here for a description of the evaluation.) Title III is the section ...


I've been struck by the close relationships that recruiters for the federal migrant education program form with immigrant families. For one thing, they're more likely to find themselves visiting homes of families than many educators are. "I get invited to birthday parties, baptisms, and quinceañeras," Dorca L. Oyola, a native of Puerto Rico who recruits families for the federal migrant education program in Chester County, Pa., told me this summer while I was reporting on the program for Education Week. "I go and I recruit right there." Recruiting families means making sure they know that supplemental educational services are available ...


While the federal government requires school districts to communicate with immigrant parents "to the extent practicable" in languages they can understand, doing so is seldom a simple matter. An article that ran Aug. 13 in The New York Times provides insight into the challenges of translating school documents into many different languages. I wrote about the New York City Education Department's decision to set up a centralized office for translation and about efforts by other school districts to communicate with parents who don't speak English in October 2004. Readers, I'd like to hear how your school districts are trying to ...


I teach English as a second language to three immigrant women one night a week as a volunteer for the Literacy Council of Montgomery County, in Maryland, so I have a personal interest in the recent findings by researchers from the Migration Policy Institute on adult English-language instruction. I figure that some of you may have an interest as well because the researchers are talking about the parents of many of the children whom you serve. The 24-page study, "Adult English Language Instruction in the United States: Determining Need and Investing Wisely," spells out how much money it would cost ...


Many English-language learners have trouble reading cursive writing, so mainstream teachers can make life easier for them if they write on the blackboard in print letters. That's one of ten tips for how mainstream teachers can make slight adjustments in their teaching that will help English-learners to follow what's going on in the classroom, recommended by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (whose contract to operate has ended). ¡Colorín Colorado!, a bilingual Web site for teachers and families of ELLs, sent the list of ten tips out on a listserv yesterday. Among the other tips are reminders for teachers to ...


Immigrants to the United States often use the commercial mass media to help them learn English, and they are susceptible "to swallow the value system," warns Elizabeth Thoman, the founder of the Center for Media Literacy. She's quoted in an article posted on the center's Web site that makes the case that teachers of English as a second language should tap into the growing media literacy field to develop lessons. One goal of teaching English-language learners about the media would be to help them avoid being passive and vulnerable to media messages, and enable them to make good selections as ...


Arkansas will receive 26 percent less in federal funds to educate its English-language learners this school year than the previous school year—-or $891,770 less than the $3.4 million the state received for such students last school year, according to an article published today in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But last school year, the state got 90 percent more in funds for ELLs than it did in the 2005-2006 school year. The amount of federal funding a state gets is based on the count of ELLs in that state, and the fluctuations in funding for Arkansas, according to the ...


One of the recommendations of the National Association for Bilingual Education for reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act is that the law should base the participation of English-language learners in standardized testing on students' English-proficiency levels, not the amount of time that children have spent in the United States, as is the case with the law now. The recommendation says that English-language learners should at least be at the advanced level in English when they take states' regular tests for accountability purposes under the No Child Left Behind Act. Currently English-language learners must take their state's math test ...


In a commentary arguing that the United States should establish English as the national language, a couple of writers from the Heritage Foundation also claim that English immersion is more effective in schools than bilingual education. The commentary was posted today on the Tucson Citizen Web site. In the piece, writers Matthew Spalding and Israel Ortega imply that schools should use English immersion to teach children from immigrant families. Here's an excerpt: "The empirical data in favor of English immersion—the opposite of multilingualism—are overwhelming, with even its most vociferous opponents conceding its merits." Apparently as an example ...


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