April 2008 Archives

Eight in ten Muslim students surveyed in New York City say their schools are "pretty cool," according to the results of a study that Louis Cristillo, an education professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, will present at a conference hosted today by his university. The study, "Religiousity, Education and Civic Belonging: Muslim Youth in New York City Public Schools," also showed that 17 percent of Muslim students responding to the survey said they had been the target of bigotry, often in the form of teasing or taunting about Islam, according to a Teachers College press release. Click here for more ...


In a video that I watched this morning "Ms. Griego" models for "Ms. Sullivan" how to give English-language learners "think time" during a lesson and how to guide students to chat with a "shoulder partner," whoever is sitting next to him or her. Ms. Griego is a coach for teachers of ELLs, and Ms. Sullivan is a teacher being coached. The video doesn't name the schools where the teachers work. The video captures excerpts of Ms. Griego's model lesson delivered to ELLs in 3rd grade, and conversations between the two teachers. It's available online from Stanford's School of Education. The ...


I found myself in the same boat as many educators a few weeks ago when I embarked on a quest to learn about Bhutanese refugees, a new wave of immigrants arriving in the United States. I had to start from scratch. Here are a few of the basics: Bhutan is a small country wedged between India and China. It has been the home to different ethnic groups, including the refugees, who lived in Bhutan for generations and retained their Nepalese language and culture. The refugees say they were forced out of the country by discriminatory policies that made it difficult ...


Don't miss Larry Ferlazzo's compilation of "The Best Sites to Learn About U.S. Presidential Elections," which he's found to work well with English-language learners. Mr. Ferlazzo is teaching a government class this semester for intermediate ELLs at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California....


Update: A comment from Charles Stansfield caused me to check out the Ohio Department of Education's Web site and find that Ohio provides translation in Somali for a number of state tests, though students must read portions of the state's reading test in English. So the premise of my blog item is wrong. Ohio education officials, I apologize to you for making a totally wrong assumption. Original Blog Post: A journalist for the Cleveland Scene has written a thoughtful piece, published April 16, about English-language learners and the No Child Left Behind Act. The article, "How do you pass No ...


I came across a story via hispanictips.com and TESOL in the News about how the scores of English-language learners in a Colorado school district on the state's English-language-proficiency test improved significantly this school year over the previous one. This is the second year that Colorado schools have administered the Colorado English Language Assessment test, or CELA. While reading the article, I recalled reading an article about improved test scores of ELLs on Oregon's English-language-proficiency test that spurred a lot of discussion last month over at the ELL Advocates blog. In that story Oregon educators were quoted as saying that ...


Over at Colorin colorado, a teacher of English-language learners in Minnesota has posted an article telling how she helped her students to discover what it takes to get a passing score on the state's writing exam. Passing the writing test is one of the biggest obstacles to graduation for her ELL students, writes Kristina Robertson. "They had a lot of anxiety around writing," she says in the article, "and the state writing exam was like a monster growing in the room as the test date neared." In one way, the article, "Writing a Winning Essay," is a prescription for "teaching ...


With the exception perhaps of Stephen D. Krashen, a professor emeritus of the University of Southern California, I don't believe anyone has penned more commentary than James Crawford arguing that bilingual education benefits English-language learners more than do English-only methods. Particularly notable in my mind is an "obituary" for the federal Bilingual Education Act that Mr. Crawford authored in 2002 as a policy brief for Arizona State University. I confess that when I learned that provisions for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act would fall under a title with the number III rather than the number VII, ...


One trend I've noticed in the field of teaching English-language learners is that lots of educators are talking about how best to impart "academic English"—the language of school as opposed to social English—as efficiently as possible. At TESOL's annual conference recently, Kaye Wiley Maggart, who has written books for ELLs published by Pearson Education, encouraged teachers to refer to word lists developed by linguists to make sure students are learning the vocabulary they need to do well in school and on standardized tests. She recommended an academic word list developed by Averil Coxhead from Victoria University of Wellington,...


For the second time, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has permitted a bill to become law without her signature addressing a federal court mandate to provide adequate funding for English-language learners in that state, according to an April 15 article in the Arizona Republic. The first time that she let this happen, she contended the legislation wouldn't pass muster with the court. And she was right. This time, she also expressed her view that the matter of funding for ELLs hasn't been resolved with the new piece of legislation. We'll see what happens in the courts with this new law, which ...


I've got to admire the stamina of Foch "Tut" Pensis, the superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District in California, in pointing out aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act that he perceives to be unfair for English-language learners. You may remember that Coachella Valley is one of the California school districts that sued the state in 2005, contending that California didn't test ELLs in a reliable way. (To learn more about the details of that lawsuit, see "Another Take on Coachella Valley Unified School District v. California.") An article published this week, "Coachella Valley superintendent fights having ...


A team of researchers at the Migration Policy Institute argue that primary and secondary schools are perhaps the most important institutions for integrating immigrant families into American society. In a report released today, "Los Angeles on the Leading Edge: Immigrant Integration Indicators and their Policy Implications," they use data about English-language learners from Los Angeles—and also some national data—to document a couple of troubling trends. (Los Angeles refers to the Los Angeles-Long Beach metro area. The Los Angeles Unified School District alone has 330,000 ELLs, who make up 43 percent of the system's students.) The first disturbing...


English-language learners frequently move back and forth between the Pawtucket and Central Falls school districts in Rhode Island. So it makes sense that teachers in both districts worked together to write a curriculum for English-language learners that is now being used in both school districts. Read the article I wrote about this cooperative effort, which was guided by Nancy Cloud, a teacher-educator at Rhode Island College, at www.edweek.org....


At the start of this school year, the Montezuma-Cortez School District in Colorado had 855 English-language learners. By January, the number of ELLs had dropped to 320. I read this bit of news in the Cortez Journal (via Colorin Colorado) last month and wondered: How could this be? I chatted by telephone with Donetta Dehart, the English-language-acquisition coordinator for the Montezuma-Cortez school system, and a couple of officials from the Colorado department of education. They told me a demographic shift hadn't occurred. Rather, the 2,800-student district, after being audited by state officials, merely revamped how it identified English-language learners. ...


Children from migrant families are vulnerable in this country to having their human rights violated, according to a report released last month by the United Nations. (Click here for the link to download the 27-page report, which is at the top of the list. Choose "E" for English.) About a year ago, Jorge Bustamante, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants for the United Nations, visited the United States to investigate the effects of U.S. immigration policy and procedures on migrants, including children. (See my earlier posts, "New Yorker Reporter Writes about Hutto, From the Outside," and "U.N....


I know that I've been making too many posts about immigration lately rather than the education of English-language learners, which is the true subject of this blog. But I can't resist pointing you to this fascinating story published April 4 in the Los Angeles Times about the man who created the image of a family on the run posted on road signs near the U.S.-Mexico border. It's become a visual symbol of illegal immigration in this country. (I came across the story on ImmigrationProf Blog.) What's the school angle on this blog entry? I think it's the kind ...


Some immigrant children have to grow up fast when they come to the United States. Dorina Arapi, who moved to the United States from Albania as a child, writes how the two hours she cared for her younger brother each day while her mother worked seemed like 200 hours. Also, she says in a student essay featured by an Eduwonk post yesterday that she was looking up words in a dictionary and otherwise perfecting her English while other 8-year-olds rode their bikes and went to the park. "I felt I was an adult before I was a kid," she writes. ...


In another act of the drama in Arizona regarding how the state will adequately pay for the education of English-language learners, the Arizona House has approved a bill to increase spending for such students by $40 million next year. See "House OKs English-language instruction," published today in the Arizona Republic. The Arizona Senate is expected to vote on the bill today. The bill is legislators' latest effort to respond to a federal court mandate in Flores v. Arizona to provide sufficient funds for ELLs in the state. See "Arizona Still Grappling With Order on Adequate Funding for ELLs" for my ...


The actress and refugee advocate Angelina Jolie was in town yesterday to call for more support for the education of Iraqi children. She said that the United States and international community need to make it a higher priority to ensure that Iraqi children and children in other war-torn countries get an education. See "Angelina Jolie Highlights Iraqi Students' Plight," which was posted today at www.edweek.org. Ms. Jolie also cited some recent figures for the rate that the United States is accepting Iraqi refugees and urged the U.S. to pick up the pace of admitting people who have ...


I'm not much of a T.V. watcher, so I haven't tuned into a series about immigration that CBS News began Monday. ImmigrationProf Blog has the synopsis. CBS News has also posted a couple of stories related to the series, here and here. But I destroyed several tissues watching the film Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) last weekend about a 9-year-old Mexican boy's illegal crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border and search for his mother. The angst that the mother and child felt because of their separation really struck an emotional chord with me. (I found the ...


This Week in Education and Detentionslip.org have picked up on an April 7 story that says school cafeteria workers in Seminole County, Fla., were told they can't speak Spanish on the job. I've written for Education Week about incidents where students were told they couldn't speak Spanish in certain school settings. In all the cases I've heard about, school administrators have backed down on their stance after Hispanic advocacy or other groups contended that a ban on students' native language is discrimination. I'll keep an eye on whether the school administrators in Seminole County will do the same....


Panelists and participants at the annual meeting of TESOL in New York City last week had more questions than answers on how to meet the needs of long-term English-language learners. Kate Menken, an assistant professor of linguistics at Queens College of the City University of New York, noted at a session on high school reform that most programs serve the first of three groups of English-language learners that she's identified, newly arrived immigrants. But services are also needed for two other groups: immigrants with interrupted schooling, and long-term ELLs. In fact, she contended, educators "know next to nothing" about long-term ...


A number of states are looking at how to ensure that mainstream teachers who work with English-language learners receive training in how to teach them. Florida requires some of the most extensive English-as-a-second-language training of any state for English-language arts and reading teachers who have ELLs in their classrooms. Some educators think Florida is too demanding in its requirements of reading teachers and are pushing for passage of a bill in the state's legislature to reduce the number of hours required. Others think that the quality of education for ELLs would suffer if the requirements were softened. See "Florida Bill ...


When Maria Estela Brisk, a professor of teacher education at Boston College, observes writing lessons in elementary-school classrooms, it seems to her that children are usually writing personal narratives. She says that, for the sake of English-language learners in those classes (and probably for other students as well, I'm guessing), teachers need to help students experiment with other purposes for writing--and other kinds of texts. "Children have told their story of immigration. They're sick of it," she said during an April 3 session on professional development at the annual conference of TESOL here in New York City, which I'm attending. "They...


Kathleen Leos, who resigned as the director of the U.S. Department of Education's office of English-language acquisition in September, is setting up a new policy institute that will focus on English-language learners. It will be called the International Institute for Language and Literacy Development and will have offices in Dallas and Washington, D.C. She's particularly interested in how English-language learners develop basic language skills—the new organization will have a goal of pushing for the U.S. Congress to establish a commission on this topic, she told me in a phone interview yesterday. Ms. Leos said it will...


Testing experts are creating a pool of test items they hope that some states eventually will use to assess English-language learners in science to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. Rebecca Kopriva—a visiting research scholar at the University of Wisconsin, Madison—and Jim Bauman—a senior associate in language testing at the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics—are directing the project, called Obtaining Necessary Parity Through Academic Rigor, or ONPAR. It is being funded with a $1.8 million "enhanced assessment grant" from the U.S. Department of Education. The researchers have begun to write the test items,...


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