February 2008 Archives

Arizona legislators filed papers in U.S. District Court in Tucson yesterday asking the court to give them more time to come up with a way to adequately pay for the education of English-language learners, according to a Feb. 28 article by the East Valley Tribune and an article published today in the Arizona Republic. The court had given the Arizona legislature a March 4 deadline in the long-running Flores v. Arizona case. Timothy Hogan, the attorney for the plaintiffs, is quoted in the articles as saying he's willing to give the legislature an extra two weeks, but not more ...


The administrators for the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a privately run prison in Texas where some immigrant parents and children are detained after entering the country illegally, never let Margaret Talbot tour the facility. Neither did they grant a request by Jorge Bustamante, a sociologist and former Nobel Peace Prize nominee--and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants--to visit the facility in Taylor, Texas, last May. But by interviewing immigrant parents and children who were detained in the past at Hutto and got out, Ms. Talbot has pieced together a picture of a facility that is, ...


I've gotten my quota of laughter for the day. Someone, and I don't know who, sent me a video from YouTube of a guy strumming a guitar and singing a love song in very rudimentary Spanish. He runs into a few problems, such as counting roses past the 10th rose. It's a very funny take on how hard it can be to make a second language work....


Tom Hutton, a lawyer for the National School Boards Association, made an interesting point in an interview with me this morning about a federal appeals court ruling last Friday in the 15-year-old Flores v. Arizona case. My colleague Mark Walsh and I have already blogged about this ruling from the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, regarding English-language learners in Arizona. The appeals court upheld a lower-court ruling that a law passed by the Arizona legislature in 2006 does not satisfy a previous ruling of the lower court from 2000 that the state must ...


The one-year anniversary for my blog, Learning the Language, came and went while I was reporting on Iraqi refugee children in Jordan (the story will be out in Education Week next week). But let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for being part of this effort to have a space on the Web for up-to-date news about English-language learners. I like the immediacy of the Web—how I don't have to wait until the newspaper goes to press to report about something that comes across my desk. And let's face it, some of my blog entries are ...


It's more common for schools to group English-language learners into classes according to their level of English proficiency than to mix students with a wide range of fluency levels in the same class, particularly for English class. But an article in the March/April issue of the Harvard Education Letter tells how three high schools are taking the less-common approach of using heterogeneous groupings. And if you want to read more about the same topic, see a Dec. 5 article I wrote for Education Week about Brooklyn International High School. That school teaches English-language learners with different levels of fluency ...


In Waukegan, Ill., educators have created criteria for when English-language learners should move to mainstream classes that are linked to how well such students score on the state's English-language-proficiency test. The Waukegan school board approved a new policy this month that says students who score 4.5 out of 6 possible levels on the state's English-language proficiency test—called ACCESS for ELLs—should be moved to regular classes. I draw attention to this because many school districts and states are trying to figure out how to draw similar linkages, now that all states have comprehensive tests that measure students'...


On Friday, a federal appeals panel upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins of Tucson, Ariz., that the Arizona legislature must come up with a workable plan to pay for the education of English-language learners by March 4. The Arizona Republic reports in a Feb. 23 article that the panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed that a 2006 law doesn't comply with previous U.S. District Court rulings that require adequate funds for Arizona's English-language learners. Judge Marsha S. Berzon, one of the three judges on the court of appeals panel, ...


Yesterday, On Point, a morning news program in Boston, hosted Carola Suarez-Orozco and Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco, professors at New York University, as guests. They are authors of the book, Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society, published recently by Harvard University Press. Yesterday's program focused on the challenges that immigrant children face in American society. "Some thrive, some drop out of school, some end up in jail," said Jane Clayson, the host, while introducing the segment. It aired on Boston's WBUR, an affiliate of National Public Radio. What's unusual about Learning a New Land is that it carefully ...


The superintendent of Esmeralda County School District in Goldfield, Nev., sent a letter to parents recently clarifying that "there is no general rule prohibiting Spanish on any of our buses." According to news reports, a previous note Superintendent Robert Aumaugher sent to parents in October created some confusion about whether Hispanic students were permitted to speak Spanish on the bus—enough confusion that the American Civil Liberties Union got involved in the matter. For the superintendent's take on the issue, see the Feb. 12 letter he sent to parents. For the ACLU's interpretation of what happened, read the organization's Feb....


Larry Ferlazzo, who teaches English-language learners at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., testified on his blog this week that it's possible for a high school with LOTS of English-language learners to make it out of "program improvement" status under the No Child Left Behind Act. His school did—after carrying the label for several years. (Mr. Ferlazzo indicates it was five years, but Ted Appel, the school's principal, clarified over the telephone this afternoon that it was four years). The teachers and staff at Luther Burbank learned of the milestone this week. And, according to Principal Appel, the ...


Over at The School Law Blog my colleague Mark Walsh has an interesting post about how the U.S. Supreme Court declined this week to consider an appeal concerning whether a high school student's "immigration" editorial in a school newspaper is protected by free speech rights. A California appellate court decided the editorial was protected speech; a state trial court had ruled otherwise. Update: Also see the story, "High Court Declines to Hear Student Free-Speech Case," by Mark Walsh, published today online at Education Week....


I haven't yet played the video game, "ICED: I Can End Deportation," launched yesterday, but I've read enough about it that I can tell it's not promoting the official line from U.S. immigration authorities. It seems to me like a game that would motivate a lot of American teenagers to learn more about immigration, but it has the kind of content that some school officials might be skittish about. The game is produced by Breakthrough, an international human rights organization that has offices in both New York City and New Delhi, India. In the game, players take on the ...


Having just returned from reporting in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan for Education Week and exploring Egypt (on vacation), I'm particularly interested in an article just published in Childhood Education that guides teachers in selecting children's literature about the Arab world. The authors of the article, "Celebrating diversity through explorations of Arab children's literature," are Tami Al-Hazza, an assistant professor, and Bob Lucking, a professor at the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. The authors observe that these days, "Arab extremists or Muslim fundamentalists bent on destroying the world populate contemporary films," and Arabs ...


Mexico and Illinois are working out details for a new program intended to take much of the burden of recruiting international teachers who are bilingual in Spanish and English off of individual school districts. The program was announced this week during Mexican President Felipe Calderon's visit to Chicago, according to "Mexico, Illinois join to supply bilingual teachers," which was published yesterday in the Daily Herald. See "New Mexico Joins California in Looking South for Teachers," an article I wrote for Education Week in November 2004 about how New Mexico and California had signed agreements with Mexico to encourage teachers from ...


This is my first day back in the office after spending one month in the Middle East. My visit included 10 days of reporting in Jordan on the schooling opportunities for Iraqi refugee children in that country. There's a possibility that some of the children I interviewed—or children with similar stories—could end up in your school systems. With the reporting and Arabic-English interpreting assistance of Yasmine Mousa, I've already filed several dispatches from Amman for the Web about Iraqis' interrupted schooling. See "Jordan Opens Schools to Iraqis, But Not All Come," "Leaving Violence Behind, 5th Grader Returns ...


Utah's state board of education is asking for funding to strengthen the teaching of indigenous languages in schools serving Native American children, according to this Deseret News article. Proponents of the plan, which would affect the San Juan and Uintah school districts, say that helping students become proficient in their native languages would help to improve their English reading achievement as well. The article points to data from a pilot program in the San Juan district. There are some interesting comments from readers weighing in on whether the plan would be a good use of scarce education dollars....


1. A new book, published by the National Science Teachers Association Press, uses a combination of research, classroom case studies, and teacher perspectives to explore teaching science to English-language learners. The book focuses on several key questions, including whether students can learn science before they are proficient in English, if and how a student’s cultural background can support and extend science learning, and how to support the development of scientific vocabulary. Teaching Science to English Language Learners: Building on Students’ Strengths focuses on elementary- and middle school-level instruction. NSTA makes a sample chapter available on its website. 2. At ...


Students are being asked not to speak Spanish on their bus ride in the 68-student Esmeralda County School District in Nevada--and decision has prompted an outcry and concern about its legality. A letter from superintendent Robert Aumaugher specifically targets a small group of about a dozen Hispanic students who are bused to the neighboring Nye County. In an article in the Pahrump Valley Times, Aumaugher said "I see no reason why the Hispanic population can't be doctors and lawyers and everything else. But to do that they're going to need to make sacrifices." According to the article, Aumaugher was motivated ...


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