July 2008 Archives

Mirriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, intended for, you guessed it, English-language learners, is scheduled to hit bookstores in September, according to a July 14 article in Publishers Weekly that someone just slipped into my mailbox. The article makes the case that the English-as-a-second-language market is "massive," estimating that one billion people around the world are engaged in learning English. John Morse, the president and publisher of Merriam-Webster, is quoted as saying his company decided to publish the dictionary because the domestic and international markets for dictionaries targeted at ELLs has grown substantially. He adds that the preference of such learners ...


Migrant advocates had hoped that the federal government would wait until reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act before coming out with new regulations for the federal migrant education program. No such luck. New regulations were published in the Federal Register on July 29. See my article, "Stiffer Rules Issued on Migrant Education Program," about the regs published at edweek.org. Last summer I wrote about migrant students in Pennsylvania and learned that the federal migrant education program, which now serves about half a million students, sure does have a lot of rules....


Texas officials say the state will likely appeal the ruling issued by a federal court on July 25 that programs for ELLs in grades 7-12 in the Lone Star State must be revamped. But in the meantime, I'm thinking that state officials will still be on the lookout for approaches that work with ELLs in middle and high schools. While I was reporting my story about the ruling, "Federal Court Ruling Prods Texas on ELLs," published at edweek.org yesterday, Deborah Short, a researcher for the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics, told me she can't think of any particular school ...


Permit me to present the findings of a study on states' policies for testing ELLs by the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, & Student Testing in a test format to emphasize how, these days, issues of assessing ELLs often seem to overshadow other issues regarding these students. Answers to my test can be found in the executive summary (click on the second bullet here) for a report released yesterday by the center, "Recommendations for Assessing English Language Learners," and two companion reports released previously. The answers are also listed at the bottom of this blog entry. Warning: A validation ...


A federal judge has given Texas until the end of January to improve programs for English-language learners at the secondary school level, according to an Associated Press article published on Saturday. The Dallas Morning News also covered the story. U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice said the state's monitoring of ELL programs is "fatally flawed." (Yes, it's the same judge that ruled in 1982 in the U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe that undocumented students had the right to a free K-12 education.) I'm wading through the 95-page decision (click here) to write my own article for ...


The League of United Latin American Citizens, which calls itself the nation's oldest and largest Hispanic organization, is not buying into the U.S. Department of Education's rationale for merging the administration of Title III and Title l of the No Child Left Behind Act. Federal officials have said that moving the administration of Title III—the main conduit of funding under NCLB for English-language learners—to the Education Department's office of elementary and secondary education will lead to better coordination between the two programs. The reorganization will be effective in the fall. On July 11, LULAC passed a resolution...


Federal officials have told North Carolina officials that it's up to states to decide if they want to enroll undocumented students in public colleges and universities, according to the Associated Press. That message paves the way for North Carolina's community college system to reverse a policy announced in May that barred undocumented students from community colleges. The article doesn't say, though, if this is the step the system will take. (July 29 update: The policy will be reviewed at a Aug. 15 meeting, according to an AP article posted here.) The North Carolina Attorney General's office said in a letter ...


New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Rep. Michael M. Honda, a fellow Democrat from California, announced yesterday they were introducing a bill in Congress intended to boost opportunities for immigrants to learn English. The bill contains a couple of provisions that could benefit school-age English-language learners. It increases funding for the U.S. Department of Education's Even Start Family Literacy program, for instance, and proposes a $1,500 tax credit for teachers of English-language learners (I surmise this means specialists, not any mainstream teacher who has a few ELLs in her class) and a deduction for certification. ...


I've been intending to report the story for several years, but only this summer I finally wrote an article about how many school districts now offer summer classes for English-language learners to help them prevent "summer slide" in their English skills. My article, "Summer Classes a Draw for English-Learners," based on a visit to summer English-as-a-second-language classes at Loudoun County, Va., schools, was published yesterday at edweek.org. It turns out that a lot of other newspaper reporters had the same idea this summer to visit and write about ESL classes. Here's a round-up of such stories, which will permit ...


While I'm physically back in the office, I have on my mind the memory from vacation of spotting a common loon, a bird that many consider to be the symbol of the wilderness, swimming close to her newborn chick. The loon is a striking bird that is mostly black but has white markings around the neck and white squarish spots on its back. Loons often make human-like laughing sounds. The mother with the chick, however, was calling out with a sound that resembled the low moo of a cow, warning all creatures to stay away from her offspring. I'd previously ...


News reports keep trickling in about school districts that are moving toward having English-as-a-second-language teachers work with English-language learners in mainstream classrooms, often called "push-in ESL," rather than pulling students out of class for special help. The Evansville Vanderburgh school district in Indiana put in place last school year the push-in model at three elementary schools, according to a July 20 article published in the Evansville Courier & Press (I picked this up from Colorin colorado). An Indiana professor is quoted as saying that pulling English-language learners out of class is "the least effective" model for helping them. But I've found ...


In Appalachia, a lot of school districts have enrolled English-language learners in the past ten years that had no experience with such students, according to a report about ELLs in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia that was just released by the Institute of Education Sciences. Many of those districts initially have taken a piecemeal approach to providing help for such students. They struggle to hire people with language skills to communicate with parents and to find educators who have training in how to work with ELLs, for example. The report, "Preparing to Serve English Language Learner Students: School Districts ...


This time, I'm headed for the Adirondack Mountains. I'll be back in the office and blogging again on July 22....


It's not just liberals who believe that undocumented immigrants should have access to college in this country. The Education Gadfly, a news bulletin put out by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says this week: "Concern about America's out-of-control borders is not ill-founded, of course, but it's difficult to envision a more punitive and ineffective solution to the problem than the one South Carolina has embraced." If you'll recall, South Carolina has enacted a law barring undocumented students from its colleges and universities....


The message of 63-year-old Joel Gomez, an associate professor of educational leadership at George Washington University, had an emotional quality to it that stood out from other presentations by Washington pundits who spoke yesterday at a session on high school reform at the annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens. I was there the day after the U.S. presidential contenders spoke at the meeting and the special table for the press near the registration desk had been removed. (Find Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank's take on the candidates' speeches here.) Mr. Gomez relayed how when he ...


Ruben Navarrette, an editorial writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune, writes about how it's a recurring pattern in this country that some Americans periodically appoint themselves as language police and push for shortsighted policies. He touches on the controversy sparked by school officials in Terrebonne Parish, La., who started thinking of requiring commencement speeches to be only in English after Cindy and Hue Vo, co-valedictorians at Ellender High School, spoke a few sentences of Vietnamese during their commencement addresses. (See my earlier post, "What's Next? English-Only Commencement Speeches?") Two Asian-American groups, by the way, sent out a joint press release ...


Money from California tobacco tax revenues is paying for literacy coaches to make home visits in Orange County and encourage Spanish-speaking parents to get their toddlers interested in books. That's one of a couple of efforts I've come across recently that show public officials may be paying more attention to the preparation for school of children who are English-language learners. See "HABLA program builds on idea: More words make better readers," published July 2 in The Orange County Register. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News.) The HABLA program will nearly double this year as part of a research study ...


Michael Erard suggests in Wired Magazine that the version of English that many Chinese speak, and that visitors to Beijing might hear during the summer Olympics, could have some advantages over the standard version that you and I may speak. He writes: "...it's possible Chinglish will be more efficient than our version, doing away with word endings and the articles a, an, and the. After all, if you can figure out 'Environmental sanitation needs your conserve,' maybe conservation isn't so necessary." Anyway, I like this article because it contains a fresh perspective on how some versions of English serve ...


Eduwonk weighs in on the issue of access to higher education for undocumented students in the United States, suggesting that the nation should provide a fast track to citizenship for promising students who are immigrants in the same way that the military does for immigrants. A path to citizenship would certainly take away some of the anxiety experienced by undocumented students described in this Los Angeles Times article, which was published today. (Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog.) Meanwhile, at the annual convention of the National Education Association, which my colleague Vaishali Honawar blogged about, delegates voted for the organization to ...


I interviewed a few Muslim teenagers from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia recently who had participated last school year in the Youth Exchange and Study program run by the U.S. Department of State. They told me they had adjusted some of their perceptions of Americans, such as that they party all the time, and also helped to expand Americans' knowledge about their home countries and cultures. This year marks the fifth year of the program, established by legislation in the U.S. Congress after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to promote mutual understanding between the ...


Over Independence Day, I'll be camping and checking out the water trails at Jane's Island State Park in Crisfield, Maryland. While out in nature, I aim to be thinking about interdependence (in terms of appreciating and conserving the world's resources) as well as my country's independence. Until July 8, when I'll be back to blogging again, I leave you with this video from YouTube, produced in solidarity with the goals of an organization fighting global warming, as food for thought. (Please ignore the typo in the video's title.)...


"This Strange Thing Called Prom" is a beautifully written tale published in The New York Times about how a group of seniors at the International High School at Prospect Heights (in Brooklyn) carry out their version of an American prom. (Hat tip to This Week in Education.) The students of the school are all immigrants, and I love how the writer portrays the tension between the students' appreciating where they come from, yet wanting to embrace an idea that is part of American culture. Though I'm an American who was born and raised in the United States, I actually never ...


The Flypaper has decided to join Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and conservative talk show hosts in condemning the teaching of Mexican-American/Raza Studies in Tucson Unified School District in Arizona. The blog points to a commentary by a teacher who taught a U.S. history course with a Mexican-American perspective as part of the Tucson program in the 2002-2003 school year. That teacher felt the curriculum was biased and "engendered racial hostility." Liam Julian at Flypaper points out that teachers who teach the courses with a Mexican-American perspective in Tucson are invited to attend a seminar in ...


To read the story of how Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento got out of "program improvement" under the No Child Left Behind Act from two of the educators who were involved, check out "The Positive Impact of English Language Learners at an Urban School," published recently in Language Magazine (for the edited article, you'll have to subscribe). More than half of the school's students are English-language learners. In the article, Ted Appel, the principal of Luther Burbank, and Larry Ferlazzo, a social studies and English teacher at the school, say that they try to create life-long learners rather than "teach...


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