November 2007 Archives

There's No 'DREAM Act,' But College Aid is Available

"Citizenship Requirements" is a field of entry in the latest directory of college scholarships for "America's Latino students," published by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. For each listing of a scholarship organization, the directory says whether being a U.S. citizen (or legal resident, in some cases) is a criterion for eligibility. Quite a few private scholarship programs have no requirements in this regard (publicly funded programs are another story). Getting a copy of the directory in the mail reminded me that the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or "DREAM Act," was introduced but did not proceed ...


Those Reclassification Rates in California Again

Over at TESOL in the News, I came across a courageous attempt by a reporter to explain what educators mean by reclassification rates for English-language learners. This is the rate that children are reclassified from being English-language learners to being fluent in English each year. Often, when I ask superintendents or state officials what their reclassification rates were for the previous year, they tell me "I can get that," which I suspect is another way of saying they haven't paid much heed to the statistic. Not so in California. In California, because school districts must report the statistic publicly every ...


States Collaborate on English-Language Proficiency

About half the states in the nation are using one of four tests created by four consortia since 2002 to meet English-language-proficiency testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. A report edited by Jamal Abedi, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, released today tells a great deal about those tests. Mr. Abedi says they are a big improvement over tests typically used prior to NCLB in that they assess "academic English," the kind of English children need in order to learn subjects in school. (For a Nov. 28 Education Week article about the report, ...


Presidential Candidates' Views on Bilingual Education

Five Democrats running for U.S. president back bilingual education, and two Republicans running for the position oppose it. That's what the Hispanic Link Weekly Report learned when it posed the following question to the staff of 17 politicians competing in the presidential primaries that begin Jan. 3: "What is your candidate's position, if any, on bilingual education?" Hispanic Link Weekly Report, a national newsletter about Hispanic issues available only by subscription, published a summary of the views of the seven candidates who responded to the survey in its Nov. 26 issue. With permission from Hispanic Link, I post the ...


Lingro, an Open Dictionary

I don't keep up well on technical products for English-language learners, but Lingro, an "open dictionary" created by a new company—also called Lingro—seems useful for ELLs. The online dictionary was released Nov. 17. The site, lingro.com, which is also the dictionary, lets anyone read a Web page in English and click on a word on that page to get a translation. You enter the Web address for a Web page in a box on lingro.com and the words on the page become clickable. Unlike many online dictionaries, Lingro doesn't translate the entire text. So a student...


Info on ELLs Brought to You by Power Point

In my job of covering news about the education of English-language learners, my first preference is to get out into classrooms and observe students and teachers. My second preference is to attend a conference featuring educators and researchers who are talking about what's new in the field. That's how I get ideas on what classrooms I should visit. My last preference, I decided today, is to try to figure out what happened at a conference about ELLs by browsing the Power Point slides of the presenters. But if you'd like to give it a try, check out the presentations from "Academic...


How Do Other Countries Teach a Second Language?

Over at the Migration Policy Institute, some researchers have been examining how other countries are educating children from immigrant families. I'm not familiar with the work of the researchers who produced these studies, and I learned about the studies a couple of months after they were released. (Find the press release here.) But I didn't want to miss the chance to report a bit on what's happening with second-language learners outside of the United States. The findings of a survey of school language policies and practices in 14 immigrant-receiving countries, not including the United States, are particularly interesting. Gayle Christensen, ...


Standards for Preschool ELLs: It's a Trend

California is poised to be the first state to adopt a set of standards, which state officials call "learning foundations," for English-language development devoted to preschool ELLs, according to officials of the California Department of Education. The California standards spell out what preschool ELLs should know at the "beginning," "middle," and "later" stages of learning English for the areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Find a link to them here. In trying to figure out what kind of ground California is breaking, I found out that Maryland is set to adopt standards for English-language development that include the prekindergarten ...


A Portrait of the Immigrant as a Young Man (or Woman)

What's really unusual about Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society, a book based on a five-year study of several hundred immigrant students, is the in-depth profiles of 16* immigrants in U.S. schools. Anyone with any heart reading those portraits of foreign-born students, I believe, will likely conclude that it isn't easy being an immigrant. The authors categorize the participants in their study as "declining achievers," "low achievers," "improvers," or "high achievers." Even the profiles of high achievers have an underlying sense of loss as some students become distant from their parents in pursuing their American dream. ...


Immigrants Still Feel Welcome in Arlington, Va.

I've been reading so many stories lately in my morning newspaper, The Washington Post, about people who would like to stop the flow of immigrants—undocumented immigrants in particular— to their communities that I was surprised to see a front-page article in today's Post with this headline: "Immigrants Haven't Worn Out The Welcome Mat in Arlington." The article tells how educators in Arlington, Va., have really tried to figure out how to best teach immigrant students English and academic content over the years, and how the public schools are doing well. The article also notes that Arlington County received...


Critiques of Arizona's Take on Research

The Institute for Language and Education Policy—which says its mission is to educate the public on research-based strategies for English-language learners—has posted a 10-page critique of a 13-page document that an Arizona task force is using to justify changes in programs for ELLs. Also, the Washington-based Center on Education Policy released a report, "Caught in the Middle: Arizona's English Language Learners and the High School Exit Exam," today that includes the following recommendation: "The state's structured English-immersion models should be rethought to require school districts to implement instructional models that are truly research-based." That report quotes a task force...


Spanish for Native Speakers in North Carolina

Students in about 35 school districts in North Carolina have the option of taking a course called Spanish for Native Speakers, according to an article published yesterday in the Winston-Salem Journal. The students who enroll in the classes have been speaking Spanish all their lives, but many of them don't know the proper grammar for the language, according to the article. Many also have been speaking English all their lives, and one point of the classes is to help them become truly bilingual. These kinds of courses have been around for a long time, but there's been surprisingly little support ...


A Panel Discussion on Children and Immigration Raids

The Urban Institute followed up the release of its report, "Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children," commissioned by the National Council of La Raza, with a panel discussion on the topic of how children have been affected by workplace immigration raids. You can listen to the two-hour discussion held Nov. 8, co-sponsored by the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, online. I dipped in and out of the audio recordings of the panel presentations and didn't hear anything pertaining particularly to schools. The report, however, recommends that schools create plans to ...


What's in a Name?

If a child has the name Juan Carlos Hernandez Gonzalez, how should a school record that student's name in its databases? What if the name is Abdul Rahman bin Tariq bin Khalid Al-Alawi? A report prepared by the Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia for the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences gives some answers to these questions. It's called "Registering Students From Language Backgrounds Other than English." The report makes a point that I had never thought of, that if schools don't develop consistent rules for how students' names from various cultures are recorded, a child's academic history ...


School Leadership and Immigration

As a follow-up to a couple of blog entries I've written lately (here and here) about how schools have gotten caught up in law-enforcement actions by federal immigration authorities, I'll point you to an article in November's issue of The School Administrator, published by the American Association of School Administrators. In "Fighting for Immigrant Children's Rights," several school superintendents recall how they responded to immigration raids in their communities to make sure children were safe and cared for. (I wrote about this topic for Education Week in September). New to me was an anecdote about how educators at the Board ...


Bilingual Education is Addressed at Ed Department Conference

I mention in this week's Education Week how bilingual education got a lot of attention at last week's summit on English-language learners, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, in Washington. The educational method received very little attention at the previous five annual conferences on this group of students. I worry a bit about sounding like a broken record in continually reporting on whether the various entities of the federal government are giving credence to bilingual education, but the debate over whether it's better to teach English-language learners through bilingual education or English-only methods is highly political, and I'll ...


Deportations and School Life

With some communities seemingly making up immigration policy as they go these days, I've been reading more news stories about how schools are involved in actions by immigration authorities. I recently tried to answer the question in Education Week: What is a school to do in such situations? The latest incident involves a mother and two sons in Tucson, Ariz., who were deported (technically, they were "voluntarily returned") to their native Mexico after police found one of the sons to possess marijuana at school, according to an Associated Press story published today. The article said the boy's father was being ...


How to Make an English-Proficiency Test

This is a story about how states have been required to do something under federal law, and only NOW are getting a handbook from the federal government on how to do it. The No Child Left Behind Act required states, for the first time, to develop English-proficiency standards and tests and assess English-language learners every year in grades K-12. The English-proficiency testing is an extra layer on top of the requirement that all students, including ELLs, must take mathematics and reading tests in grades 3 to 8 and once in high school. (ELLs are exempted from taking the reading test ...


"Doing What Works" and English-Language Learners

English-language learners are the subject of the first entries on a Web site, Doing What Works, launched by the U.S. Department of Education today. I've been browsing the site to see what the Education Department, in this case, relying on research from the Institute of Education Sciences, considers to be best practices for teaching ELLs. The entries focus on how to teach ELLs to read, a subject that I learned a bit more about recently in writing about how the Reading First program of the No Child Left Behind Act is working for this group of students. I didn't, ...


Illinois Drops Alternative Test for ELLs

Illinois has stopped using an alternative mathematics and reading test for English-language learners because state officials haven’t been able to persuade the U.S. Department of Education that the test is comparable to the state’s regular tests. The Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English, or IMAGE, uses simplified English to test ELLs in math and reading. Illinois developed the language arts part of the test in 1996 and several years later added the math part. Matthew Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois board of education, said the state will eventually develop another alternative test for Illinois’ 36,000...


"Daily Grito," a Blog on Hispanic Education

It's less than two days old, so it's difficult to tell yet what a new blog by the Hispanic CREO advocacy group is all about, but I like the title, "Daily Grito." In Spanish, the word "grito" means cry or call to action, and the blog is the organization's "daily call to action on the Latino education crisis," according to the blog's first entry. I wrote about the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, or Hispanic CREO, and its mission to press for school choice for Hispanics when the organization was first launched in October 2003. Education Week also ...


A Call for Civility

Whenever I write about immigration issues on this blog I get comments from people who feel very strongly about this country's immigration policy—or lack of policy. I read all of your comments and appreciate that so many people are weighing in on these issues. But a couple of the comments—both from people sympathetic to undocumented people and those who feel the federal government should crack down on illegal immigration—have not been civil. Education Week has a policy that we will remove comments that include abusive language or personal attacks. You can click on the policy posted...


Mendez v. Westminster Postal Stamp

I learned this week that the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp this fall commemorating a 1947 federal court case that gave Mexican-American children in some California school districts the right to attend regular public schools rather than segregated schools. The court case was a precursor to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, which mandated the integration of U.S. schools. Peter Zamora, the regional counsel for the Washington office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who seems to appear on panels everywhere these days, mentioned this ...


Examining the Impact of Lau v. Nichols

As a journalist specializing in the education of children from immigrant families, I've come to appreciate any chances I have to learn about the history of education for these children because that history influences what happens today. Thus I paid close attention to a presentation about the long-term impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1974 ruling in Lau v. Nichols, at the annual summit on ELLs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education this week. The highest court in the land ruled in that civil rights court case that San Francisco schools had to provide Chinese children with ...


Report: Immigration Raids Affect Children

Schools and social service agencies in communities with a lot of immigrants should create plans for how to respond if federal immigration authorities conduct workplace raids, according to a study by the Urban Institute that was commissioned by the Washington-based National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group. Researchers studied three communities that experienced work site immigration raids in the last year to see what impact the raids had on children. I interviewed Steve Joel, the superintendent of the public school district in Grand Island, Neb., one of the communities featured in the report, for an immigration article published ...


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