September 2008 Archives

If school district officials are going to require teachers to be fluent in English, they need to be careful how they enforce that requirement. That seems to be the lesson from a court case in Massachusetts that involved the firing of three teachers by the Lowell school district. My colleague Mark Walsh has written about a state appeals court decision concerning that case over at The School Law Blog. The appeals court backed the teachers. Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat writes about the decision as well. I first reported on the situation in 2003. The court case involved teachers whose ...


In "Finding the Language to Teach Science," an article posted yesterday at edweek.org, my colleague Sean Cavanagh has done a great job of showing us how teachers can teach English while also teaching academic content. In this case, the content is science. As I travel around the country, I find that more schools are trying to figure out how to weave English instruction into content instruction. But I also still see a lot of students being taught isolated vocabulary in English-as-a-second-language classes that are separated from core-content classes. Teaching academic content to ELLs who are in middle school is ...


Lance T. Izumi and Bruce Fuller provide opposing opinions in the New York Times about presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama's support for bilingual education. Mr. Izumi argues that English immersion works better than bilingual education, citing the success of a single elementary charter school in Los Angeles County. (I've written on this blog before about Mr. Izumi's preference for English-immersion methods.) Mr. Izumi is the senior director of education studies for the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy. Mr. Fuller says bilingual education can work well, if the teachers who carry it out are well-prepared to do so. Mr. Fuller ...


If you have an administrator putting a lot of pressure on you because he or she thinks your school will miss meeting adequate yearly progress goals because of low test scores among English-language learners, you might want to read a big-picture article that Education Week published this week about the No Child Left Behind Act. The article describes a study that examines how likely it is that California schools will have all students meet "proficiency" by the 2013-14 school year. The answer: not likely. Here's what Education Week reporters Sean Cavanagh and David J. Hoff wrote: Using statistical-modeling techniques, the ...


The Boston Globe published a story this week, "English Period," about how an elementary school in Framingham, Mass., has carried on with bilingual education, though voters passed an initiative back in 2002 to curtail the educational method. Under the 2002 law, educators in Massachusetts must place students in English-only classes for 30 days before they can move them to bilingual education. In addition, they must get waivers from parents of the English-immersion approach, the default method, to place any students in bilingual education. The article spells out what impact this has on the students in the program. It quotes Ron ...


Back from reporting on ELLs in New York City, I've returned to my cubicle (and computer) to find GothamSchools noting that only three New York state legislators showed up at a state assembly roundtable about the educational needs of English-language learners. The blog item features the declining graduation rates for ELLs in New York state and New York City, which I've also talked about here at Learning the Language. Also, Aubrey Krekeler, over at the Rural Blog, points out that presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama and John McCain aren't talking about issues affecting rural schools, including the presence of ELLs ...


I'm heading up to the Big Apple to report on (guess what?) English-language learners. I won't be back to blogging again until Friday....


A consortium of states is creating a test for English-language learners that will be the first of its kind, and the effort just got a boost of about $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education. That grant of a little more than $1 million is part of the $7.5 million in grants for test development that U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced last Friday. The new test will be the first English-language-proficiency test designed for English-language learners who have severe disabilities. The test developer is the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium, or WIDA, which ...


I've got to hand it to Larry Ferlazzo, a social studies and English teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, who is seeking Web resources so that he can effectively explain the current financial crisis to his English-language learners. He can't find sites accessible to ELLs, but he's determined to educate himself and make sure his students aren't left out of the loop in learning about economic issues. That's a good attitude for a teacher--not to leave ELLs out of the loop....


The Gadsden Independent School District in New Mexico has joined the growing list of school districts with a policy that ALL new teacher hires must be endorsed to teach English-language learners. An endorsement in TESOL will be required of all teachers hired at the start of the 2013-14 school year. Arizona, California, and Florida have requirements for mainstream teachers to receive training to work with ELLs, but most states do not. A number of school districts have put such requirements in place even if their states don't have them. The Gadsden requirement won't go into effect for a while. But ...


Recently, I reported to you that 45.5 percent of the 49,318 English-language learners in grades 8-12 in New York City are newcomers. The school district calls ELLs "newcomers" if they have been receiving ELL services for less than three years. The statistic is important because it indicates that the city receives, in the upper grades, a significant number of students who likely are starting with little or no English. I promised to give a fuller picture and get the data for ELLs in grades K-7 as well. This morning, the New York City Department of Education provided it. ...


One in three children in Nevada under age 18 has an immigrant parent, according to a report released today by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. The report, "Gambling on the Future: Managing the Education Challenges of Rapid Growth in Nevada," urges Nevada to provide more support for English-language learners in schools. From 2000 to 2006, the state's immigrant population increased 50 percent, which the report characterizes as "demographic exceptionalism." From 1994 to 2006, Nevada's ELL enrollment grew by 208 percent, compared with an increase of 61 percent nationwide. While Nevada's schools receive some federal funds to serve ELLs, the report ...


In making five recommendations on how to improve education for Latinos, Melissa Lazarin of the Center for American Progress, points out that 45 percent of the nation's Latino students are English-language learners. She recommends that the federal government figure out how to speed up the development of appropriate assessments for such students. Another of Ms. Lazarin's recommendations, "pass the DREAM Act," seems to come out of her advocacy for that act while she worked for the National Council of La Raza. That's the act that would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who are high school graduates in ...


A school district in California and another in Pennsylvania take different approaches to using federal grant money to strengthen education for preschool English-language leaners, according to two articles posted at TESOL in the News. "South County Parents Embrace Bi-Literate Education" tells about a two-way immersion program for preschoolers in Lake Forest, Calif. The article said it's the third and final year for the program, but doesn't explain why it's the final year. "SDL: Big Grant to Aid Pre-School ESL Students" reports that public schools in Lancaster, Penn., will improve English-as-a-second-language services at the preschool level by hiring a preschool teacher ...


Chicago Public Radio reports that scores on standardized tests for elementary school students in Chicago Public Schools rose 1 percent over the last year even though Illinois was forced to stop using its test tailored especially for English-language learners. If ELL scores are taken out of the mix, scores for elementary school students rose 4 percent this year over the previous one. Last fall, the federal government required Illinois to stop using the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English, or IMAGE, which was given to some ELLs, because state officials couldn't show it was comparable to the regular state ...


The release this month of a description of Filipino immigrants in the United States by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute is a reminder that the institute has some great backgrounders on immigrant groups. This portrait of a group of people may be particularly useful if you're an educator in California because almost half of the Filipino immigrants who come to this country live in that state. It was news to me that Filipino women living in the United States outnumber Filipino men by about three to two. Filipino women tend to work in health-care or related occupations. Nearly half of ...


Roger Prosise, the superintendent of the Diamond Lake School District 76 in Mundelein, Ill., makes a compelling case for why Illinois shouldn't mandate bilingual education in schools. And he doesn't give the reasons that are usually given. He writes in a paper released by the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank that generally opposes bilingual education, that "bilingual education did not work in District 76." Mr. Prosise says the method didn't work because of a shortage of bilingual classroom teachers, a lack of good bilingual reading teachers, and a lack of high-quality bilingual instructional curriculum materials. For four years District ...


For years, many state education agencies have been telling educators they can't ask students about their immigration status because the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, gives all children the right to a free K-12 education in this country regardless of their immigration status. School officials can ask parents or students for proof of residency in a school district but not for a Social Security number. Still, some school staff and educators flub up on this and ask for immigration information when parents try to register their children for school. See my Education Week article from April ...


U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, a Republican from Delaware, asked a question at a congressional hearing on Indian Education yesterday that I was dying to ask: Is English as a second language an issue in education of American Indian students today? Stanley R. Holder, the chief of the division of performance and accountability for the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Education, responded with a plug for the maintenance and revitalization of indigenous languages. (See edweek.org's selection of articles about language revitalization). He explained what he's learned through the implementation of the federal Reading First program in ...


I'm making good on my promise to skim a review copy of Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age and tell you what it says about schooling in New York City. I've featured the study already for how it concludes that children of immigrants in New York City now in their 20s are generally doing very well work-wise and education-wise. The book has a fascinating chapter reporting on how some immigrant groups tend to figure out how to enroll children in magnet schools and other top-of-the-line public schools in New York City while other immigrant groups do ...


The Ladies Professional Golf Association has backtracked on its policy that it would suspend golfers in the LPGA Tour who can't speak English well enough to be understood in interviews and making acceptance speeches, according to a Sept. 6 article posted at globeandmail.com (and another article published the same day in the Los Angeles Times). The tour commissioner says the policy will be revised by the end of the year. Fines for players unable to speak English could still be an option, however. (ImmigrationProf blog was on top of this before me.) Critics viewed the policy as discriminatory against ...


In a commentary published Friday at edweek.org, Joanne Jacobs, an education writer and blogger, draws attention to how long-term English-language learners can end up being shut out of a challenging curriculum. If he’s not reclassified by middle school, José may sit through the same English-language-development classes he took in elementary school, classes designed for newcomers. He may leave the mainstream to take classes taught in simplified English. Expectations are low. Performance is lower. The dropout rate is astronomical for long-term English-learners, sometimes known as “lifers.” There's that word "lifers," again, which I really hate to hear anyone use ...


Arizona papers have reported recently on state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's claims that the state's new method of educating English-language learners is working (here and here.) The state is enforcing a mandate this school year that ELLs must be taught in separate classes for four hours a day to learn specific English skills, such as vocabulary and grammar. I reported and wrote a story about the new approach, "Arizona Still Grappling With Balance on Mandated ELL Instruction," for this week's Education Week. I didn't, however, report on Mr. Horne's press release because I received it as my story ...


While I try to place some calls to Republican Party leaders and see if I can find out what they mean when their party platform advocates an "English First approach" for schools, let me leave you to ponder these two very different opinions about what role English should have in this country. First, I excerpt a comment posted on this blog this morning by Juan D. Garcia, an educator in a K-12 school system in California: If "ALL English" were the solution, we [educators] would have succeeded long ago. Most "minority" students for the past 60 years have always been ...


The education scene for English-language learners in Arizona looks a whole lot different than it did in 1992, when a lawsuit about such students, Flores v. Arizona, was filed in a U.S. District Court in that state. For instance, the state now complies with accountability requirements for the education of ELLs under the federal No Child Left Behind Act that didn't even exist back then. And it has increased its spending on programs for such students. But the district court has been rigid in sticking by an eight-year-old ruling that the state doesn't provide adequate funds for ELLs. What's ...


The platform for the Republican National Convention, which opened this week in St. Paul, Minn., considers English to be the "official language" of this country. But apparently an earlier draft of the platform used softer language, stating that English is the "common" and "accepted" language, according to a Fox News reporter (hat tip to Latina Lista). The Fox News reporter says delegates from North Carolina and Colorado wanted the stronger language. Here's what the platform says about language policy in this country: One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route ...


Word has it that today, Sept. 2, Kenneth Starr will file a writ of certiorari that asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review Flores v. Arizona, a long-running case about English-language learners in Arizona. Arizona officials hired Mr. Starr, the former Independent Counsel on the Whitewater matter, in July. It will be his job to try to get the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the state officials' arguments that Arizona is in compliance with federal laws in how it pays for the education of English-language learners. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne told me in an interview ...


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