September 2007 Archives

L.A. Unified Officials: Pre-kindergarten ELLs Need Programs, Too

Leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District would like to see the No Child Left Behind Act reauthorized so that money distributed to states for language-acquisition programs can be used for early-childhood education. That's one message that David L. Brewer III, who has been superintendent of the school system for nearly a year, and several other district officials took to Capitol Hill this week. Such a provision is not in the "discussion draft" of the House Education and Labor Committee. I heard the school district officials' views when they stopped by Education Week's offices this morning to talk with ...


Should Portfolio Assessments Be Encouraged?

It's a good time for educators and experts in the field to debate what kinds of alternative assessments for English-language learners work best, since assessment is dominating discussions about reauthorization of provisions for such students in the No Child Left Behind Act. Don Soifer, the executive vice president of the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank in Arlington, Va., has been trying to get the word out that the institute opposes the use of portfolio assessments for ELLs for accountability purposes. Portfolio tests base test scores on samples of student work. The institute issued a 10-page report—writer Robert Holland's...


Defense Authorization Bill Moves Forward Without "DREAM Act"

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, was unable yesterday to get enough support from other lawmakers to include the "DREAM Act" as an amendment to a U.S. Department of Defense authorization bill, according to an e-mail message sent to me by his staff. The amendment would have provided a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or serve in the military for at least two years—and meet certain other criteria. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, however, voiced his support for the DREAM...


Update on the "DREAM Act"

CORRECTION: The following blog item that I posted earlier this afternoon contains an inaccuracy. The "DREAM Act" that Sen. Richard J. Durbin hopes to introduce as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill currently being debated on the U.S. Senate floor doesn't offer in-state college tuition rates for undocumented students. That provision was contained in an earlier version of the amendment but was removed in the version of the amendment filed in the Senate last week. ORIGINAL BLOG ENTRY It won't be at least until next week that the "DREAM Act," offering some college tuition help for ...


Revitalizing Indigenous Languages

Knowing that I'm particularly interested in the education of Native American children as well as children from immigrant families, one of my colleagues here at Education Week drew my attention to the fact that Sven Haakanson, an advocate of the revitalization of the language and culture of Alutiiq people in Alaska, has received a $500,000 award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. (See an article in the Anchorage Daily News about the award.) Mr. Haakanson is an Alutiiq and a trained anthropologist who educates the public about his people as the executive director of the Alutiiq ...


Native Americans With Limited Proficiency in English

I've been here in Rapid City, S.D., most of the week attending an "Indian Education Summit" hosted by the South Dakota Department of Education. Because of the loss of indigenous languages in Indian country, most American Indian children these days speak English as their first language. A local educator here (who declined to tell me his age except to say he's lived "many winters") told me, for example, that he's one of the 2 percent of Lakota people who are fluent in Lakota. In a breakout session about teaching strategies that take into consideration the culture of Native Americans, ...


Speaking English with Difficulty

Five percent of elementary and secondary school students in the United States both speak a language other than English at home AND "speak English with difficulty," according to a report released recently by the National Center for Education Statistics. (Corrected from earlier version of post.) Those are the children to whom this blog is devoted. I usually call them English-language learners. The 157-page report, "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities," says that 20 percent of all school children in the United States are language-minority children, which means they speak a language other than English at ...


Is English Learning Slowed Down with Bilingual Education?

I'm returning to an issue I mentioned in an earlier post, about whether providing the option for students to take tests for many years in their native languages—and by extension, whether offering bilingual education—results somehow in a slowing down of students' learning of English. I raised this issue when blogging that U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has objected to a provision in the House Education and Labor Committee's "discussion draft" for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act involving English-language learners. The provision would permit school districts to give ELLs state tests in their native languages...


ESL Teachers Who Use Technology

An article of mine published in Digital Directions, a new publication of Education Week, highlights viewpoints from teachers on the benefits and challenges of using technology with English-language learners. For example, some say it's best to highlight the interactive aspects of new technology to help the students practice their language skills. Please use the comment section on this blog to share any insights you have about using technology with this group of students....


Policies Concerning Undocumented Students

The Education Commission of the States has just released an up-to-date list of which states provide in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants enrolled in their state colleges and universities. As of June, the document says, 10 states had passed legislation that enables students living illegally in the country to pay the in-state rates. They are: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington. I've met some high school guidance counselors or teachers who have told me they sometimes end up trying to help undocumented students research ways to finance a college education. Whether a state ...


Testimony on ELLs and the "Discussion Draft"

I've been out of the office for a couple of days, so it's only now that I draw your attention to testimony by various organizations before the House Education and Labor Committee regarding provisions for English-language learners proposed in a "discussion draft" for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act. Two civil rights groups—the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund—seem to have had the ear of members of Congress shaping reauthorization issues for ELLs all along, so it's not surprising that representatives from those groups testified on Sept. 10 in favor...


Taking a Break in an ESL Cafe

I've been writing a lot more about education policy on this blog than I intended. Part of the reason is that it seems that every time I turn around, someone has new ideas--or more proposals--on how to reauthorize provisions for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act. So on Friday, at the end of the work week, I took a break and browsed Dave's ESL Cafe, a Web site that's been around longer than the seven years I've been writing about ELLs for Education Week. Dave Sperling launched the site, which evolved from an online "ESL Graffiti Wall," ...


House Committee Releases Draft For Reauthorizing Title III

The House Labor and Education Committee has released a discussion draft for reauthorizing the Title III section of the No Child Left Behind Act that charges the U.S. Secretary of Education with figuring out a method to identify English-language learners that can be used to reliably distribute funds for such students. Title III is the section of the federal education law that authorizes funding for English-acquisition programs. A summary of the discussion draft says that requirement is meant to address recommendations contained in a December 2006 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office pointing out problems with the ...


Secretary Spellings Criticizes ELL Proposals

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings doesn't like some of the provisions for English-language learners in a preliminary proposal by leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee for reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. (See previous post, here.) In a letter she sent today to Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from California who is chairman of the committee, she criticized the proposal that school districts could let English-language learners take tests in their native language for up to five years, with the option of extending that time by two more years on a case-by-case basis. "That's ...


A Prize for 'Social Innovators' Older Than 60

Until this week, I'd never heard of Jose-Pablo Fernandez. He's the former director of the Mexican Institute of Houston, and he just won a $10,000 Purpose Prize for his creation of a program to teach computer courses in Spanish to parents at the same schools their children attend. The program, which also encourages parents to get involved in their children's education, is now offered in 110 schools and community centers in Houston, San Antonio, and Beaumont, Texas. The Purpose Prize is given to people in their "second half of life working on critical social issues," according to a press ...


Arizona's Evaluators Say Some Teachers Don't Speak English Well

State monitors overseeing Arizona's programs for English-language learners have been out and about visiting classrooms, and they report that some teachers educating such students don't have a command of the language, according to an Aug. 31 article in the Arizona Republic. The evaluators, who based their conclusions on visits to 32 school districts last school year, also said that in a dozen school districts, teachers were sidestepping state law by teaching Spanish in the classroom. (In Arizona, state law permits bilingual education only under very restricted circumstances.) Note that the article is based on anecdotal information from the state's report, ...


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