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June 2008 Archives

English-Only Versus Bilingualism

Maryland's governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has recently signed into law a bill that sets up a task force to preserve "heritage-language skills," or the language skills of people exposed to a language other than English at home, according to a June 23 commentary in the Baltimore Sun. Catherine Ingold, the director of the University of Maryland's National Foreign Language Center and author of the piece, explains how this simple step by Maryland's governor is unusual. She contends that the No Child Left Behind Act is one policy that makes it harder to develop skills of heritage speakers because it ...


What's Next? English-Only Commencement Speeches?

School officials in Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana are considering barring students from speaking a foreign language during commencement speeches, according to an Associated Press article published today in The New York Times. The proposal came about after Cindy Vo, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and a co-valedictorian at Ellender High School, recited a sentence in Vietnamese to honor her parents, who are not fluent in English. She translated the sentence into English during the speech, which was a command to always be your own person, the article says. (July 1 update: Here's a longer version of the AP story. Cindy ...


What the Executive Summary Doesn't Say

To read the bad news about the academic progress of ELLs in this country, you have to read beyond the executive summary of a two-year evaluation of ELL programs that the U.S. Department of Education sent to Congress yesterday. It's called "The Biennial Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program: School Years 2004-06" and is supposed to be put online next Monday by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition. (June 30 update: Find the pdf here.) A brief article that I wrote today about the report was just posted at edweek.org....


Achievement of ELLs Has Much to Do With the School

The Pew Hispanic Center today released a report by Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the center, showing that schools that report low achievement for ELLs also tend to have a set of characteristics associated with poor student performance on tests. Those characteristics include high student-teacher ratios, large student enrollments, and high levels of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches. The report says that when ELLs aren't isolated in such schools, they do considerably better on standardized tests. See my story published today at edweek.org, "Schools With Poor ELL Scores May Share Common Elements." The report is ...


Most Native Americans Receive English-Only Instruction

Not many Native American children have teachers who expose them to the traditional languages of Native communities in school, according to a study released today by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education called "National Indian Education Study 2007: Part II." For 87 percent of Native American 4th graders and 8th graders, reading and language arts are delivered entirely in English. I wrote about the study today for edweek.org. It's well known that Native American communities in the United States have experienced tremendous loss of their traditional languages. The study indicates that not a ...


Truths About Vocabulary

"The more words you know, the easier it is to acquire new words," said David J. Francis, a professor of quantitative methods in the psychology department of the University of Houston, while presenting a study about teaching vocabulary to English-language learners at a conference of the Institute of Education Sciences this month in Washington. Mr. Francis argued at a June 11 session about ELLs that schools need to do a better job of infusing the teaching of vocabulary across a school's whole curricula. Mr. Francis noted that the Reading First Impact Study, released in May, shows that children in Reading ...


Research on Push-In Versus Pull-Out

A comment by Zoe Ann about a recent blog entry on how some schools are moving toward a push-in model and away from a pull-out model for teaching English as a second language, sent me in pursuit of research on the effectiveness of either educational approach. The answer so far (readers, tell me if I'm missing something): There's not much out there. With the push-in approach, ESL teachers work with ELLs in their regular classrooms; with the pull-out approach, ESL teachers work with such students in separate classrooms, whether for one period a day or a much longer time. Two ...


Arizona's Tom Horne Sues the Federal Government Over ELLs

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has refiled a lawsuit in federal court that he had filed in July 2006 against the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. The lawsuit alleges that the federal education department reneged on an oral agreement it had made in 2003 with the Arizona Department of Education concerning the inclusion of test scores of English-language learners in the accountability system of the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the lawsuit filed last Friday, Arizona education officials agreed back in 2003 to follow federal regulations to include ...


Izumi Reflects on 10 Years of Prop. 227--And Krashen Rebuts

It was only yesterday that FlashReport published a commentary by Lance Izumi, the senior director of education studies for the Pacific Research Institute, that praises Proposition 227, the ballot measure approved by California voters 10 years ago this month that greatly curtailed bilingual education in California. And already, Stephen Krashen, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, has posted an article on the ELL Advocates blog that he published in 2004 that he believes rebuts Mr. Izumi's premise. (The posting has a time of 1:48 a.m., which would mean that Mr. Krashen posted it ...


Status Report on Youth at Risk of Deportation

In a June 18 press release, the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center accuses lawmakers of trying to " 'deport their way out' of a dysfunctional immigration system that has fueled a growing undocumented population." (Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog.) The press release gives an update on three youths whose education plans for the future have been interrupted because of their illegal status in the United States. See earlier posts, "Boy Scout to Be Deported," and "Valedictorian of California High School to Be Deported." I have a depressing thought that I may need to start a not-very-occasional feature within this blog called Youth ...


Trend Watch: Push-In Instead of Pull-Out

Northfield School District in Minnesota is one more school district deciding to have English-as-a-second-language teachers work with English-learners in their regular classes rather than pulling them out of class for specialized instruction, according to a June 18 article in the community's local newspaper, Northfield News. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News.) Gary Lewis, the school district's director of student services, pitched a plan to the Northfield school board to improve services to the district's 278 ELLs after the district went into "program improvement" under the No Child Left Behind Act. It had failed to make adequate yearly progress for ...


The Oregon Ballot Initiative: Following the Money

I'll pass on to you some tidbits of news about the money behind an initiative set to be put on the Oregon ballot in November that would limit English-as-a-second-language classes or native-language instruction for English-learners to two years. See my earlier post on the initiative. Erik Sorensen, a spokesman for Causa, an Oregon immigrant-rights group opposed to the initiative, sent some links to help me find this information. Causa is calling the ballot initiative an "anti-ESL instruction initiative." The Statesman Journal, published in Salem, Ore., has characterized it as "an initiative to end bilingual education." The terminology used in the ...


Anti-Bilingual-Education Initiative to Be on November Ballot in Oregon

Though advocates of bilingual education still groan when they hear his name, it's been several years since Ron K. Unz, a California businessman, stepped away from the national debate on how best to educate English-language learners. Before Mr. Unz's withdrawal, he financed campaigns that succeeded in getting voters in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts to approve ballot initiatives to curtail bilingual education in those states. He financed a similar campaign in Colorado as well, but lost that one. Now supporters of an initiative to curtail bilingual education in Oregon have succeeded in gathering enough signatures to have it put on the ...


Inside the World of California's Reclassification Rates

In California, most English-language learners are reclassified as fluent in the language in 4th through 6th grades, with another large group reclassified in 8th and 9th grades, according to a paper about California reclassification rates released this week by the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank in Arlington, Va. The paper, "The Education of Jaime Capellan: English Learner Success in California Schools," synthesizes information from various reports about the progress of California ELLs in learning English. You may have noticed that the Lexington Institute keeps a close watch on reclassification rates of ELLs in California. In May 2007, the institute ...


Internet Spreads Teacher's Account of Postville, Ia., Raid

Elise Martins, a teacher from Postville, Iowa, didn't expect her personal account of the immigration raid in her community on May 12 to spread widely over the Internet, according to ImmigrationProf Blog. But her account is so vivid, and points to what other educators in this country could face during immigration raids in their communities, that I can't help but spread the account farther. At the time of the raid, the teacher was with a group of students in the community on a field trip. Here's an excerpt about the instructions she received on how to proceed: I am told ...


Ed Department Puts Title I and Title III Under Same Administration

State education officials received an e-mail message from the U.S. Department of Education last week announcing that the administration of Title III—the main conduit for the funding of ELL programs under the No Child Left Behind Act—will soon be carried out by the same office that administers Title I. Title III has been handled by the office of English-language acquisition, while Title I, which provides funds for disadvantaged students and also contains some provisions applying specifically to English-language learners, is administered by the office of elementary and secondary education. Richard L. Smith, the acting director of the office...


WIDA Tally: North Carolina is 18th State to Join

North Carolina has become the 18th state to adopt an English-language-proficiency test for English-learners developed by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium. Yet another state has also joined the WIDA consortium and thus adopted the test, but Timothy Boals, the executive director of WIDA, is not yet announcing which state that is. Given the independence of states on education matters, it's quite remarkable that 19 states will soon be using the same test for English proficiency. While I respect the rights of states to choose their own test, it sure would make it easier to understand and ...


Trend Watch: Native-Language Testing

New Jersey recently began providing some state tests for English-language learners in Spanish, and thus joined a dozen states that provide versions of their state tests in languages other than English. In addition, Washington state has set a tentative goal of translating state tests into 10 languages by 2009. The 2008 Washington state legislature has approved $1.7 million for translating state tests and expanding forms designed for special education students. This year state officials conducted a pilot study on the use of test translations. I got this information about New Jersey and Washington from communications staff for departments of ...


Boy Scout to Be Deported

I've seen news accounts recently that a teacher, a high school valedictorian, and a Boy Scout were all expecting to be deported this summer—as they'd exhausted legal options to stay in this country. A June 10 story in the Loudoun Times-Mirror about the Boy Scout answers some of the lingering questions I've had since visiting an immigration detention center in Miami about what happens to some of the unaccompanied minors who get picked up by federal immigration authorities, held in detention, and then released to their parents in the United States. In this case, the boy who crossed the ...


Refugee Trends: Numbers Admitted Low Since 9/11

It may not be evident, if you live in a community that is a popular location for refugee resettlement, but compared with the 1980s and 1990s, the United States has not received a lot of refugees in the first decade of the 21st century. Admission rates to the United States decreased after stricter security measures were put in place in 2002, in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to Michael Fix, the vice president and director of studies at the Migration Policy Institute. I asked Mr. Fix to analyze patterns in the numbers of refugees admitted ...


Legalization or Detention?

I couldn't help noticing that the impact on children of a program in Spain that legalized 600,000 African, Latin American, and eastern European workers, which is the subject of an article published today in The New York Times, contrasts sharply with the effects on children in the United States of their parents' detention described in a June 8 article in the Los Angeles Times. I'm wondering: Are policymakers in the United States thinking about what kind of society we want to be in the long run? Enough said....


Bilingual Reading Instruction: What the Research Does and Doesn't Say

Research shows that bilingual reading instruction helps English-language learners to read in English, but it isn't conclusive in telling educators how long students should receive such instruction, according to Claude Goldenberg, an education professor at Stanford University, who has written an article about research on ELLs soon to be published in the American Educator. That's the magazine of the American Federation of Teachers. In "Teaching English Language Learners: What the Research Does—and Does Not—Say," Mr. Goldenberg explains (for the most part, in plain English) what guidance can and can't be gleaned from research on ELLs. He bases his...


A Year in the Lives of Immigrant Teens in Dallas

The Dallas Morning News is running a thoughtful, five-part series based on observations by reporters of older immigrant teens at Adamson High School in Dallas. (The story I posted yesterday about the Mexico-U.S. connection was part of that same series.) "Their first year is always the hardest," says one of the reporters in an overview video."They feel homesick and struggle with the allure to quit and go to work. Then there is the language barrier. ..." Does this sound familiar? I'd like to hear from readers some of the ways that educators can convince immigrant students who arrive in ...


A Good Read About the Mexico-U.S. Connection

"Education a challenge in small Mexican community with strong ties to Dallas," an article that ran in The Dallas Morning News today, provides rich insight into the connections between the Mexican and U.S. education systems. The article tells how students literally move back and forth between the town of Ocampo in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, and Dallas. Some of the Dallas teachers see the Mexican children as lagging behind their U.S. peers academically. The Mexican teachers see that some of the students who have been to school in Dallas and then moved back to Ocampo have picked ...


Ten-Year Anniversary of Proposition 227

The Economist marks the 10-year anniversary of Proposition 227, a ballot measure approved by voters in California that curtailed bilingual education, with a June 5 article reported from Santa Ana, Calif. "Before 1998 many poor immigrant children in California received a dismal education informed by wrong-headed principles," the article says. "They now just suffer from a dismal education." But, in my view, the examples that are given in the article about how English-learners received a poor-quality education when bilingual education was the default method in California have more to do with implementation of the method than its "principles." For example, ...


Undocumented Students Are Banned From South Carolina Colleges and Universities

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a Republican, signed a bill yesterday that will ban undocumented students from attending, or receiving financial aid to attend, public colleges or universities in the state. This means that South Carolina has joined Arkansas and North Carolina in enacting a law or implementing policies that make it much harder for undocumented students to get a postsecondary education at public institutions. Joel Sawyer, the communications director for the governor, told me over the phone this morning that Mr. Sanford signed the immigration bill primarily because it will require private employers in the state to use a ...


State Officials Speak Up on "Interpretation" for Title III

The voices of state education officials are strongly present in the comments that have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education regarding its proposed "interpretation" of Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was published in the Federal Register on May 2. And many of them don't like one of the proposed requirements in particular: that states be required to use the same criteria to decide if students have attained proficiency in English as they do to determine when students should leave special programs. Education officials and educators in California raised a bigger outcry than ...


Bradley Foundation Report: America Has an Identity Crisis

I can't say I've noticed that the United States is facing an identity crisis, but some people over at the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation think this is so. They put out a report this week, "E Pluribus Unum," ("From Many, One") that makes the argument that immigrants in the past assimilated into American society more than is the case now. The first statement in the report is: "America is facing an identity crisis." The Milwaukee, Wis.-based Bradley Foundation, by the way, "is devoted to strengthening democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nurture it," ...


Carnival for ELL Blogs

The number of blogs focused on the education of English-language learners is slowly growing. You can become familiar with some of them by reading the fifth edition of the bi-monthly ELL/ESL/EFL Blog Carnival, hosted by Larry Ferlazzo over at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day. And if you know what all those acronyms in the name of the carnival stand for—English-Language Learner/English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language—I wager you might find the entries useful. I thought the entry offering a primer on "how to teach speaking" was interesting. I contributed...


Valedictorian of California High School to Be Deported

A 17-year-old from Armenia who was valedictorian of his high school class this school year is scheduled to be deported because he and his mother haven't been granted political asylum in this country, according to an Associated Press article published today. What I find interesting is that the boy's mother has been seeking asylum in the United States since 1992. Do the math. That's since her son apparently was a year old. That gives me some insight into how slowly the wheels of the immigration system turn. The youth, Arthur Mkoyan, is this year's valedictorian of Fresno's Bullard High School....


A Children's Book, Written in English and Hmong

Teachers who work with English-language learners in Sacramento, Calif., in St. Paul, Minn., and in other communities with many Hmong immigrants are usually familiar with "story cloths." On a large piece of fabric, the Hmong embroider scenes that tell the stories of their people. I've seen a story cloth in St. Paul, for example, on which the needlework artist had embroidered the planes used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to evacuate some Hmong veterans from Laos during the Vietnam War era, when many Hmong secretly fought on the side of the U.S. military against Communists in Laos. ...


NCLB and a High School with Lots of ELLs

Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., has clearly helped some English-language learners to progress well academically, but some of the test scores of those students have been a hindrance to the school's ability to meet adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. I write about this in "Hurdles Remain High for English-Learners," which was posted today at edweek.org. It became evident during my visit to the school that the law does not take into account where some students start out academically in their high school career. For instance, about 200 Hmong refugees arrived at ...


South Carolina Legislature Passes Ban on Undocumented Students' Attending Colleges

The immigration reform bill approved by South Carolina lawmakers last week would, if signed by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, bar undocumented students from attending state colleges and universities. State officials in Arkansas and North Carolina have recently announced policies that will make it much harder for undocumented immigrants to get a higher education in their states. Phil Lenski, a staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee in South Carolina, told me over the phone on Friday that South Carolina legislators have been discussing the possibility of banning undocumented students from state colleges and universities since 2007. The provision contained ...


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