May 2008 Archives

In the last quarter of a century, the number of school-age children in the United States who speak a language other than English at home—also called language-minority children—increased phenomenally, according to "The Condition of Education 2008," which the U.S. Department of Education released this morning. To be exact, the number of such students grew from 3.8 million to 10.8 million, or from 9 percent to 20 percent of school-age children, from 1979 to 2006. I'm sure that's not a surprise to many of you. But skim the section of the report about language-minority students...


"It's hard to be perceived as 'ordinary' and Muslim at the same time in post-9/11 America," write several teachers in the introduction to a book that relays personal narratives of Muslim high schoolers living in New York City. The book, This is Where I Need to Be: Oral Histories of Muslim Youth in NYC, is a collection of stories based on interviews of Muslim teenagers that were conducted by Muslim youth. It grew out of a research study on Muslim youth in public schools carried out by Louis Cristillo, a research assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. The ...


After seeking advice from the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, Sahuarita Unified School District officials in Arizona have announced they plan to defy a state law that requires them to provide four hours of English-language instruction each day to students who are new to the language. A May 24 article published by the Associated Press says Sahuarita school officials have decided to exclude middle and high school students from the four-hour program because they believe it will prevent them from acquiring the knowledge they need to graduate in four years. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom ...


Some of the undocumented teenagers attending the Postville Community School District in Iowa talked last week with an Iowa reporter about how an immigration raid at a meatpacking plant in their community has made it seem unlikely that they'll be able to go to college and have a career in this country. A 16-year-old who came to the United States with his family two years ago said he wants to study mechanical engineering, but since his 17-year-old sister was detained in the May 12 immigration raid, his family is talking about going back to Mexico. Nine undocumented students granted interviews ...


I'm taking a day off and don't expect to be blogging again until next Tuesday or Wednesday. As is often the case when I take a short break, I'll be leaving the city—and technology—and exploring the Great Outdoors. I plan to spend some time canoeing on Virginia's Rappahannock River....


The Vermont Folklife Center has created some educational materials intended to help American children learn about and empathize with refugees in their communities. "What does it mean to be a refugee?" and "What kinds of stories can photographs tell?" are a couple of the questions that the educational resources encourage students and teachers to explore. I can see how the materials would be useful in a school district like Burlington, Vt., where about 90 percent of the district's 500 English-language learners are refugees. That's a sizable number in a school system that has 3,700 students altogether. I learned last ...


Margarita Pinkos, the director of the office of English-language acquisition for the U.S. Department of Education, has resigned from her post effective this Friday, according to a department spokeswoman. She became the acting director of that office when Kathleen Leos resigned as director at the end of October. She was named the director in December. In an e-mail message, the department spokeswoman said Ms. Pinkos resigned from her post "to return to Florida to be with her family." Starting on Monday, May 26, Richard L. Smith will become the acting director of the office of English-language acquisition. He's been ...


A new book, Formative Assessment for Literacy: Grades K-6, provides some help for regular elementary or reading teachers who have ELLs in their classrooms. The book, published by Corwin Press, isn't about ELLs in particular, but includes them in various examples. In the field of commercial test development, banks of test items or tests that can be given periodically are called "formative assessments." But in the book, the term "formative assessment" does not necessarily refer to a specific formal assessment. The authors include under that umbrella assessments with different degrees of spontaneity, such as observations by teachers and conversations they ...


Grand Island, Neb., Greeley, Colo., New Bedford, Mass.--and now Postville, Iowa. These are all communities where school officials have spontaneously had to figure out how to ensure that children didn't go home to empty homes when their parents were arrested in immigration raids. Yesterday, I attending a hearing on Capitol Hill in which a subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee looked at the impact of such raids on children. In an article posted at edweek.org, I report on how Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat from California, is urging Congress to pass legislation that would put more ...


Ever since I wrote about a school operated by the Miami-Dade school district at a detention center for unaccompanied minors who are immigrants, I've been interested in the quality of education that immigrant children receive while in detention. The alleged lack of adequate schooling for children was part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in March 2007 against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the operation of the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas, where immigrant families are housed. In a settlement, the federal government agreed to make improvements in education there, ...


Earlier this month I reported on how a legislative audit in Kansas found that many mainstream teachers in that state felt unprepared to teach English-language learners. It seems that teachers of English as a second language or bilingual education in Idaho think their mainstream colleagues aren't well-prepared either to teach ELLs, according to findings from a survey, "Teachers' Perceptions of ELL Education," published in Multicultural Education. (I picked this up from TESOL in the News.) The Kansas audit surveyed mainstream teachers in their second or third year of teaching. By contrast, the Idaho findings, researched by Ellen G. Batt, of ...


North Carolina's system of community colleges is the first statewide system to announce it won't admit undocumented immigrants, even if the students can come up with the money for tuition, according to a May 15 article in the Charlotte Observer, which I found over at hispanictips.com. It's been my experience in talking with school people that undocumented students tend to choose community colleges over other kinds of colleges and universities because they are affordable—and many undocumented students come from low-income families. So it seems North Carolina education officials are closing off one of the most viable options for ...


About a month ago, I was admiring the persistence of Foch "Tut" Pensis, the Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District in California, in fighting aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act that he believes to be unfair for English-language learners. Well, on May 9, Coachella Valley and eight other school districts filed an appeal in a California state court contending that a judge from the San Francisco Superior Court was wrong in ruling a year ago that the court didn't have the authority to tell the state how to comply with NCLB regarding the testing of English-learners. ...


The Corpus Christi Independent School District in Texas is using a $25,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation to buy 50 iPods to use with English-language learners, according to a May 9 article published by a local Texas media outlet, the Caller-Times. (I saw the article first at TESOL in the News). I called AT&T today to see what kind of grant money might be available for technology at other school districts. Dan Feldstein, a spokesman working out of Houston for AT&T, told me that the $25,000 that paid for the iPods in Corpus Christi was ...


The Des Moines Register broke a story yesterday about how, prior to a raid by federal immigration authorities on a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, on Monday, the Postville Community School District was given a subpoena to turn over detailed information about students to the Iowa Division of Labor Services. The subpoena included a mandate to provide the names of students working at two apartment buildings that had been owned by a Postville school guidance counselor and sold to the CEO of Agriprocessors Inc., the same company that owns the plant that was raided this week. I was curious if ...


California's draft preschool standards for English-language learners that I wrote about back in November have been approved by the state's superintendent of public instruction, and all state-funded preschool programs are expected to abide by them by 2011-12. By that school year, the test that California educators use to assess preschoolers' skills is expected to be aligned with the standards. California officials call the standards for preschoolers "foundations." The foundations spell out what children ages 3 to 5 should know and be able to do. The foundations in English-language development, which start on page 103 of the 205-page standards document, lay ...


I learned a lot about challenges states face in tracking the progress of ELLs in English by reading the U.S. Department of Education's "interpretation" of some of the No Child Left Behind Act's provisions for such students. It was published in the Federal Register on May 2, and I wrote about its possible implications in an article, "Consistent ELL Guides Proposed," published Friday at edweek.org. One challenge I didn't write much about in the EdWeek article is that states are struggling to report the progress in English of ELLs who haven't taken their state's English-language-proficiency test for two ...


What kind of impact have anti-bilingual-education ballot measures had in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts? The directors of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Linguistic Minority Research Institute at UC-Santa Barbara, decided to commission research and hold a conference to explore that question. Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley businessman, financed the campaigns that advocated the passage of anti-bilingual initiatives in all three states so they are nicknamed the "Unz initiatives." I attended the conference in Sacramento, Calif., last week—hence the light posting on this blog recently—and wrote about how the researchers...


The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund came out with a report this month that calls for the No Child Left Behind Act to require a breakout of test scores according to the ethnicity of Asian students. The report also calls for the federal law to support the expansion of native-language testing. Read my colleague David Hoff's article about the report, published yesterday at edweek.org. He notes that while the group is advocating for the federal education law to require states to collect and report more comprehensive information about Asian-Americans, it isn't recommending that schools and school districts ...


I'm hearing a lot of talk lately about the need for teachers to be trained to work with English-language learners. Only a few states require all teachers to receive such training, so it wasn't surprising that in a recent audit by the Kansas legislature of second- and third-year teachers in that state, 60 percent of teachers who have taught ELLs in their first few years of teaching (and responded to a survey) said they didn't feel adequately prepared to do so. The Kansas survey also found that teachers who graduated from academic programs that stress hands-on experience in creating lesson ...


Timothy Hogan, the lawyer for plaintiffs in the long-running Flores v. Arizona court case concerning ELLs, filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Tucson last Friday, asking the federal court to stop implementation of the state's mandates for school districts to establish a new kind of program for ELLs this coming school year because the mandates aren't adequately funded, according to a May 2 Associated Press article. Meanwhile, Tom Horne, the state's superintendent of public instruction, is quoted as saying that Mr. Hogan doesn't care about ELLs because he's trying to halt implementation of the new programs ...


Friday's Federal Register contains a proposed "interpretation" of the No Child Left Behind Act that, if put into effect, will require states to make some big changes in their policies regarding English-language learners. One of the biggest changes that I see is that states will have to use the same criteria for deciding when English-language learners exit from programs as they use to determine if students have attained proficiency in English for reporting purposes under accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Now, states set criteria for what it means for students to attain proficiency in the language ...


It's as clear as mud what kind of instruction schools will be giving English-language learners in Arizona in the coming school year. I didn't have much luck sorting matters out at the school district level, so I went to Tom Horne, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, for the official word on what ELL classes might look like in the fall. A bill passed by the Arizona legislature in March 2006 requires school districts to give ELLs at lower levels of proficiency four hours of English-language-development instruction each day. Up until this school year, when a state task force further spelled ...


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