October 2008 Archives

When I interviewed Iraqi refugee students and parents in Jordan in February, it seemed unlikely that any Iraqis I met would end up in the United States. At that point, the United States had admitted only 3,040 Iraqi refugees from the war. But one man, Adel Meshaal, whom I interviewed along with his 13-year-old son, telephoned me this month to say that this past July, he and his family were resettled in Oak Park, Mich. I had talked with him and his son at an informal school in Jordan. I remember that Mr. Meshaal told me he'd been in ...


Given that the joining of Title I and Title III under one administrative office of the U.S. Department of Education has already taken place, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. has put aside its objections and put out a joint statement with the National Association of State Title I Directors with recommendations for how the union should work. It's a statement about how the two programs should be coordinated from the federal level down to the classroom. Title III is the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language acquisition programs. ...


The chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is leaving the doors of his university open to undocumented students, according to an Oct. 24 article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. He's doing this even though the head of the state's department of higher education wrote in a letter back in May, which the communications director for the department just sent to me, that the state will not pay for the education of such students. In his May letter, Jim Purcell, the director of higher education for Arkansas, told university presidents and chancellors that they had to require a valid ...


A school district in Texas used to have a standard practice of keeping the names of two adults on file who are authorized to pick up a student. Now, after an immigration raid in that district's community, the school system requires each family to keep the names of 10 authorized adults on file. That's an example of how some school administrators have put plans in place to ensure that school children aren't left stranded if their parents are detained by federal immigration authorities. For more information about how educators are planning for the possibility of a local immigration raid, see ...


The Miami Herald published a column by Myriam Marquez over the weekend who opines that it would be a mistake for Florida education officials to reduce the number of training hours that reading teachers who work with English-language learners need to receive on how to teach such students. (Hat tip to HispanicTips.com.) Last year, Gov. Charlie Christ vetoed a bill that sought to decrease the number of training hours for reading teachers to 60 from 300. Florida has educators on both sides of the issue who have been very feisty in making sure their views are heard, which is ...


I'm hosting the last ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival for this year, and the deadline for submissions is November 28th, about a month from now. I'll post the carnival on December 1. Use this easy submission form to submit entries about teaching English as a second language, teaching English as a foreign language, or working with English-language learners in general. The carnival is an opportunity to feature what bloggers think have been their best recent entries in this field. And it helps us learn who is out there writing about language education. In the meantime, if you are a teacher, ...


John Brezinsky, over at ESOL Trend Watch, sponsored by Pearson Longman, spells out what could be the causes for why English-language learners have low test scores. See "Schools Score Low--Cite ESL Students." Also see my earlier blog entry, "Expect to Hear This Story Over and Over and Over Again." I'd like to see more documentation behind some of his conclusions, and I think he's missing one possible "cause" that experts in the field often cite: that the tests ELLs are taking are designed for native-English speakers and are not very good at measuring what second-language learners know and can do. ...


Dallas school superintendent Michael Hinojosa has protected almost all bilingual teachers from recent layoffs, according to the Dallas Morning News (via Colorin colorado). Mr. Hinojosa explains in the article that students' needs required him to keep as many bilingual teachers as possible. It says he has had a role in beefing up bilingual education in Dallas by hiring more bilingual teachers. Keep in mind that bilingual education is required at the elementary school grades in Texas, if school districts enroll at least 20 English-language learners with the same native language at the same grade level. Here's an excerpt from the ...


Hispanics account for more than half of the population growth in the United States since 2000, according to a report, "Latino Settlement in the New Century," released by the Pew Hispanic Center today. The Hispanic growth has been caused more by "natural increase" (births minus deaths) than by international migration, according to the report. The report includes a map of where Hispanics live in the United States broken down to the county level. The map shows the 25 counties in the United States with the most Latinos. In less than a week, I'm headed to one of those counties, Cameron ...


The World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or WIDA, has received a three-year, $1.6 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to create a formative assessment system for teachers of English-language learners at the secondary school level. The grant award comes less than a month after WIDA received a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Education to create an English-language-proficiency test for ELLs with severe disabilities. Timothy Boals, the executive director of WIDA, told me in a telephone interview that the new assessment system will be based on WIDA's English-language-proficiency standards. Those standards, and ...


Mike Petrilli over at Flypaper and Michele McNeil, a writer for EdWeek's Campaign K-12, who sits a row of office cubicles away from me, have been blogging about the extent to which the Barack Obama campaign favors portfolio testing. Update on Oct. 22: The topic of portfolio tests also came up at last night's debate between education advisers for the campaigns of Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain. Let me jump in to the discussion and note that whether the presidential candidates are open to portfolio tests is of interest to educators of ELLs, many of whom would like to ...


At the LEP Partnership meeting last week, several U.S. Department of Education officials spelled out for state education officials what federal Title III funds cannot be spent on. But I came away wondering what the funds CAN be spent on. Title III is the part of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language-acquisition programs. I had asked the Education Department's panelists at the session if they could name some examples of what the money may be spent on. One of them named professional development for teachers. That was it. But this week, Education Department officials ...


Some immigrant groups to the United States might not have learned English as quickly as their descendants claim they did, according to an interesting study by a German professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Hat tip to ESOL World News.) Joseph Salmons, the German professor, and Miranda Wilkerson, a recent Ph.D. graduate in German from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, decided to look closer at a common refrain that appears in letters to newspaper editors or surfaces in current debates about immigration, writes Brian Mattmiller in an Oct. 16 article put out by the university's public relations department. The refrain ...


In-depth research on testing accommodations for English-language learners, which I wrote about on this blog last week, has now been posted by George Washington University's Center for Equity and Excellence in Education. Find it here....


I've met some of these kids. Some of you have met some of these kids. Each year about 8,000 immigrant children who have crossed illegally into the United States without their parents and been arrested by federal immigration authorities are turned over to the care of the U.S. government. Microsoft, 25 law firms, and Angelina Jolie, the actress and human rights activist, have joined together to ensure that the children have lawyers to represent them in navigating the immigration system, according to an Oct. 16 article in the National Law Journal. From what I've learned in my reporting, ...


To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics has published a time line of accomplishments in the world of language education spearheaded by the center. In 1969, for example, the organization was the first to work with the federal government's Bureau of Indian Affairs to identify problems that Native American children have in learning English. In 1981, it published a directory of foreign-language immersion programs. In 1995, it managed a project to create English-as-a-second-language standards for pre-K-12 students for the national organization, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. These events are put in a ...


In the final "interpretation" of Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act published in the Federal Register today, the U.S. Department of Education has backed off on a couple of the most controversial requirements it had included in its proposal for the interpretation that was published May 2. Update: See my article about the final interpretation, "Education Officials Back Down on Some Proposed ELL Mandates," at edweek.org. But federal education officials would still like to see some of those proposed requirements included in the reauthorization of NCLB, according to Kathryn M. Doherty, a special assistant to ...


Those are the three accommodations that states most frequently permit English-language learners to use while taking their state's regular math and reading tests, new research shows. The first two accommodations—permitting extended test time and providing a word-to-word bilingual dictionary—are about equally frequent. They're allowed in about three-quarters of states. About three-quarters of states also allow items on math tests to be read aloud to ELLs. About half of states permit items on reading or language-arts tests to be read aloud. Researchers at George Washington University's Center for Equity and Excellence in Education report this information and much more...


Georgia gives funds to schools for English-language learners in differing amounts depending on the distribution of such students across grade levels. For ELLs in K-3, the state provides funding for one segment—about a 45-minute period—of English-as-a-second-language instruction per school day. For students in grades 4-8, the state pays for two segments of ESL. For high school grades, it provides money for up to five periods of ESL. The state gave out $115 million in state funds (separate from the federal funds authorized by Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act) in the 2007-08 school year, according...


The Brownsville Independent School District in Texas was awarded the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education today for being "the most improved urban school district." Among the reasons the district received the prize is because its Hispanic and low-income students outperformed their peers at other similar Texas districts in reading and math in all grades. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation awarded the prize, which provides $1 million in college scholarship funds for seniors in the district who graduate next spring. See my colleague Dakarai I. Aarons' article, "Brownsville, Texas, Wins Broad Prize," just published at edweek.org. Here's a ...


The Core Knowledge Blog points out that as the performance equivalent of a mortgage balloon payment kicks in, which requires all testing subgroups to make a sudden leap in test scores, many schools in California aren't able to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. Robert Pondiscio hits the nail on the head in predicting: "Expect to hear this story over and over and over again." He notes how even successful California schools are having trouble making AYP. A quarter of California's students are ELLs, and that's a group that often presents a challenge for schools ...


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The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that it will provide $754,415 to the National Academy of Sciences to examine how federal funds under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act can best be distributed to states. Title III is the section of the law that authorizes funds for English-language-acquisition programs. A December 2006 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended that the Education Department take a closer look at how Title III money is given out to states. The National Academy of Sciences is charged with evaluating the accuracy of the two ...


The federal government has sent to chief state school officers a letter reiterating that federal funds targeted for English-language learners may not be used to replace local, state, or other federal money that otherwise would be spent on such students. The Oct. 2 letter says that U.S. Department of Education officials encountered some "state and local practices" while monitoring programs for English-language learners that suggested a need for clarification. With the letter, the Education Department issued new guidance regarding the "supplement not supplant" provision of Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which authorizes funding for English-language-acquisition ...


The Women's Sports Foundation has documented through survey responses that immigrant girls are much less likely than girls who aren't immigrants to this country to participate in organized sports. This comes as no surprise, but not many organizations apparently go around asking the question. A report, "Go Out and Play," released by the foundation today, says that 43 percent of immigrant girls in families surveyed participate in organized sports, while 65 percent of girls in non-immigrant families surveyed do. The report defines an "immigrant family" as one in which at least one of the parents is born outside of the ...


From news coverage of the campaign trail, I conclude that the presidential candidates aren't talking about how best to educate English-language learners. And they are hardly raising the topic of immigration at all on the trail, except through ads in the Spanish-language media. But that hasn't stopped the Education Watch of the New York Times from featuring bilingual education, which Sen. Barack Obama publicly endorsed months ago, as a campaign issue. This week the New York Times followed up on the two commentaries it published recently on the issue with an opinion by Sandra Tsing Loh, a Los Angeles writer. ...


Schools "may" want to invest in bilingual or dual-language programs—"even if they appear costly," writes an adjunct law professor from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in School Business Affairs. The professor is Scott Ellis Ferrin, who also chairs the department of educational leadership and foundations at that university. The article appears in the October issue of the magazine, which hasn't yet been posted online (some articles will be free and others not). Here's an excerpt of Mr. Ferrin's article, which offers a lukewarm endorsement of bilingual education. Educators are often told by policy makers and opinion polls that,...


The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., is soon to release a video that profiles Cesar Chavez, the activist who led a strike and grape boycott among farm workers in the 1960s. It's called "Viva La Causa: The Story of Cesar Chavez and the Great Movement for Social Justice." I often come across schools that are named after Cesar Chavez, and I have to wonder if those schools have educated their students about him. Numerous times I've interviewed students who attend a school named after some guy (usually a guy), but they can't tell me anything about that person. ...


On the heels of the release of the graphic about immigration, "What Part of Illegal Immigration Don't You Understand?," from Reason Magazine, comes this graphic "GOOD Sheet: Coming to America," produced in cooperation with Starbucks. GOOD bills itself as "a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward." Starbucks is backing a free paper published by Good in its stores, which tackles one election issue per week. In this case, the issue is immigration. I don't know enough about immigration law to fact-check the graphics for you. But the Quick and Ed hasn't been very impressed with the ...


Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary had been released. It delivers on a promise contained in its promotional materials that it would describe a great deal of English idioms. It lists and explains, for example, 23 English idioms that use the word "hell," none of which, by the way, would have been considered acceptable in the English-speaking household I grew up in, where we generally didn't use emphatic language at all. But if you are learning English and want to understand other folks, you have to know what these words, mean, right? Here are a few excerpts from the "hell" list. ...


Alabama has joined North Carolina in deciding not to admit undocumented immigrants to community colleges. The policy will go into effect next spring, according to a Sept. 26 Associated Press article. The Alabama state board of education approved the policy on Sept. 26. Last May North Carolina barred undocumented students from community colleges and decided to stick with that policy even after it received clarification from the federal government that it could go either way: admit or not admit them. South Carolina has enacted a law saying undocumented students can't be admitted to ANY state colleges. And Arkansas education officials ...


The number of undocumented immigrants coming to the United States has slowed, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released today. The report, "Trends in Unauthorized Immigration: Undocumented Inflow Now Trails Legal Inflow," says that 800,000 undocumented immigrants were coming to the United States on average per year from 2000 to 2004. But from 2005 to 2008, the annual average fell to 500,000, with a decrease from year to year. The report says that 11.9 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. It also says that from 2005 to 2008, it was no longer the case ...


Click on over to Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day to view the 7th edition of the ELL/ESL/EFL Blog Carnival. Mr. Ferlazzo is the founder of the carnival. The list of contributors for this niche blog carnival (what doesn't have a niche on the Internet?) is growing. This edition includes some practical ideas for teachers of English-language learners, such as a tip from David Deubelbeiss at EFL Classroom 2.0 for helping students to learn a language: "Make it necessary." The "teensvoices" project featured in the submission by Challenge Language School Blog, in which students around the world ...


A nonprofit organization in Oregon paid 23 ordinary Oregonians $150 a day to be bombarded with facts about English-language learners—and to come up with a recommendation on whether their fellow Oregonians should vote "yes" or "no" for a state ballot initiative that would affect such students. The Oregonian reports that 14 members of the panel recommend a "no" vote on Measure 58. If passed, the measure would put a limit on the amount of time English-language learners can receive instruction in their native languages. The measure says the limit for high school students would be two years; for elementary...


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