November 2008 Archives

Friday, Nov. 28, is the deadline for submissions to a blogging carnival on the education of English-language learners. Use this form for submissions. Look for a post of the eighth edition of this niche carnival, founded by Larry Ferlazzo, around noon on Monday, Dec. 1. I'm taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday and will be back to blogging on that day. Happy Thanksgiving!...


Staff of the U.S. Department of Education are scheduled to answer questions about permissible uses of Title III funds at a webinar on Dec. 11 hosted by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition. Title III is the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language acquisition programs. But the money may not be used in place of money from other local, state, or federal sources that would otherwise be spent on programs for ELLs. It's a tricky matter. The webinar will take place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Standard ...


Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has been a key figure in the long-standing controversy in Arizona over how to provide adequate funding for the education of English-language learners in the state. So when I heard that President-elect Barack Obama reportedly was picking her to head the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I wondered what her absence in Arizona might mean for Flores v. Arizona, the federal lawsuit regarding funding for ELLs. If Ms. Napolitano, a Democrat, leaves her post as governor, the next person in line for the job is Arizona's secretary of state, Jan Brewer, who is a Republican. ...


Most teachers in Indiana assigned to teach English as a second language don't hold a certification in the subject, according to an article published in the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind. Under new guidelines in 2006, Indiana requires teachers who teach English as a second language to students in middle or high school to hold a certification in the subject. Elementary school teachers who teach ESL, however, aren't required to have training to work with English-language learners. And many teachers assigned to teach ESL who were hired before 2006 don't have a certification in the subject. The Nov. 23 ...


I hope you've had a chance to read my reports on this blog of what officials from the U.S. Department of Education have been saying about the "supplement-not-supplant" provision of Title III, the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language-acquisition programs. The provision says that money from Title III can't be used in place of money from local, state, or federal sources that would otherwise be spent on ELLs. Andrew Brownstein of Thompson Publishing Group has recently posted a report on the same topic, "Title III Supplanting Provisions Draw Questions." (Hat tip to ...


The National School Boards Association has mentioned English-language learners in a plan for education that it submitted to President-elect Barack Obama's advisers. In its recommendations for how to "fix" the No Child Left Behind Act, the plan says: "Ensure high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students, especially for English-language learners and students with disabilities." English-language learners are also listed as among "those with the greatest needs" in terms of funding priorities for federal and state governments....


The November issue of The Sun focuses on immigration. The stories submitted by readers in the "Readers Write" section have a very strong emotional quality. (Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog.)...


Thirty-one Nobel Peace Prize winners have signed a letter calling for governments and "other parties to armed conflict" to respect schools as places of peace and safety for children. The letter (update: click on the link in the press release) calls for world leaders to ensure that children can learn free from intimidation or recruitment into the armed forces. It asks that governments make sure children have access to high-quality schooling regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or language. See the BBC's take here. This letter is relevant to educators of English-language learners in the United States because many immigrant children ...


The National Center for Family Literacy has announced that it will expand its family literacy centers for Hispanic and immigrant families to five new cities. They are: Las Vegas, Las Cruces, N.M.; Long Beach, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Springdale, Ark. The center already operates family literacy centers in 20 cities in partnership with Toyota. Sharon Darling, the founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, which is based in Louisville, Ky., explained to me that through the program parents typically spend several half-days per week at their child's school. The program targets parents of children in kindergarten through 3rd ...


The U.S. Department of State is planning to create an on-line program to help disadvantaged youths outside of the United States learn English, according to a summary of the project posted by TESOL in the News. The program will be free. I hope that ELLs living in the United States will also be able to access it. The U.S. Department of Education just released an online program, USALearns, designed for adult ELLs living inside the United States to learn English. Larry Ferlazzo says his high school ELLs have found it engaging....


...for the next edition of the ESL/ELL/EFL Carnival, which features blog entries about the education of English-language learners. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 28. I'll post the carnival on Dec. 1. Use this submission form or send a link to me at [email protected]


Education Week has published an article, "Advocates of Bilingual Education Eager to Embrace Obama as Ally," in which I report on Barack Obama's endorsement of transitional bilingual education during his campaign and what that might mean for education....


Yvonne S. Freeman and David E. Freeman, who are popular speakers about English-language learners at education conferences, have published a book to help educators recognize "academic language," the language of school, and help ELLs to acquire it. The husband-and-wife writing and speaking team are bilingual education professors at the University of Texas-Brownsville. Their new book, "Academic Language for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers," is written in a way that I find engaging. For example, they publish an essay,"Problems with Minorities," by an English-learner named Dolores and explain why her essay doesn't show a mastery of academic English. Dolores ...


It seems that an increasing number of schools are trying to get all teachers in a school to adapt their teaching methods to better reach English-language learners. The need for systemic approaches to improving the education of ELLs is a theme woven through several articles about such students published in the recent issue of R&D Alert, a newsletter of WestEd. "EL Expertise: Not Just for Specialists Anymore" tells about a professional development model developed by Aida Walqui, the director of WestEd's teacher professional development program, and colleagues. Through the model, called Quality Teaching for English Learners, or QTEL, secondary ...


More than a year ago, when Elvira Arellano, a Mexican and the single mother of a U.S.-born son, was deported to Mexico, I wondered who would care for her son. She had been a cleaning woman at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. But then, after she was arrested and told to appear before immigration authorities, she took refuge in a Chicago church for a year rather than be deported. When she left the church to give a speech in Los Angeles, she was arrested and deported. Saul had participated in rallies and met with Washington politicians in a campaign ...


President-elect Barack Obama's transition team includes at least one person—Juliet V. Garcia, the president of the University of Texas-Brownsville—who must know quite a lot about English-language learners. Her university is located on the bank of the Rio Grande River, which defines the U.S.-Mexico border, and enrolls a great number of ELLs or former ELLs. Before she became president of UT-Brownsville in 1992, she was president of Texas Southmost College, a community college in Brownsville, for six years. Ms. Garcia, a Mexican-American, has a Ph.D. in communications and linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin....


The Dallas Morning News reports today that the Dallas school district had, until last summer, a practice of giving foreign teachers with visas fake Social Security numbers to quickly get them on the payroll. Some of the phony numbers were used to conduct background checks of new hires who had been brought in to teach bilingual courses, the article says....


While watching a documentary play this week, sponsored by Vital Voices Global Partnership, I was amazed by how some women who have experienced great suffering have gone on to do a lot to help other people. This could be the case with some of the English-language learners in this country as well, many of whom have experienced war or extreme poverty. Or they may be able to identify with some of the stories of these women. The play, Seven, tells the story of seven women from around the world who have fought for human rights. Those seven are Hafsat Abiola ...


The day after Thanksgiving, two weeks from today, is the deadline for the next carnival for blog entries about the education of English-language learners, which I am hosting. I've already received some excellent submissions, forwarded to me by the carnival's founder, Larry Ferlazzo. Since the most recent edition of this niche carnival, Mr. Ferlazzo has noted that some new folks have started blogs about language issues (here and here). I hope that they will get involved in the carnival. You can use this form to submit a blog entry. But the form hasn't always been up and running consistently. So ...


Schools in New York state should receive an extra funding weight for English-language learners of about twice that of regular education students if ELLs are to get an adequate education, according to a cost study by Multicultural Education, Training & Advocacy, Inc. and commissioned by the New York Immigration Coalition. The study is summarized in a policy brief that was released yesterday. Despite New York's overall gains in graduation rates over the last four years, graduation rates for ELLs have decreased over that time, the study notes. Currently, the additional funding weight for ELLs in New York beyond a regular student ...


For children of Latino immigrants, a school's environment can play a big role in helping them to catch up academically with non-Hispanic whites, according to a study released this week by a researcher at Columbia University. The study finds, in fact, that children of Latino immigrants respond more to school-level factors than do immigrant children of many Asian backgrounds (with the exception of children of parents from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos). Wen-Jui Han, an associate professor of social work for New York City's Columbia University, conducted the study; she examines the impact of school-level factors such as school resources, ...


As the federal government has paid more attention to how graduation rates are calculated, I've been hearing complaints across the country from educators who say accountability systems should give schools credit for the success of students who graduate from high school, but not in four years. The group of students who take longer than four years to get a high school diploma includes a lot of English-language learners, particularly those who move to the United States and enroll in U.S. schools as teenagers. In an article published today, "Graduating ASAP, if Not on State Timeline," The Washington Post puts ...


The recent issue of Educational Assessment, a journal published by Routledge, contains new research on assessment of English-language learners. The study that seems to break the most ground looks at the validity for ELLs of one state's math and science assessments for grades 5 and 8 (the researchers don't name the state). That study's findings are reported in the article called, "Validity and Fairness of State Standards-Based Assessments for English-Language Learners." Essentially, the math and science tests were found to be fair for ELLs, with or without accommodations. At the same time, the use of bilingual glossaries or word lists ...


Critics of Spain's plan to expand bilingual education question if some teachers involved in the effort have the qualifications to teach core subjects in English, according to an article by the Euro Weekly News Media Group. (I picked this up from TESOL in the News.) It's a question that is also sometimes raised in the debate over bilingual education in this country: Do schools have the resources and qualified teachers to pull it off well?...


The U.S. Department of Education launched a Web site today, USA Learns, with interactive audio activities designed to help immigrants learn the basics of English. We really are talking about "the basics" here. Activities on the site have goals such as helping someone to learn the words needed to rent an apartment or invite people to a party in English. The development of the site was directed by the Education Department's office of vocational and adult education. The lessons are aimed at adults. It can be hard for adult immigrants in this country to find opportunities to learn English. ...


I agree with eduflack that president-elect Barack Obama should give careful consideration to who he appoints to oversee programs for English-language learners in the U.S. Department of Education, particularly given the fact that Latinos supported him by a two-to-one margin in the election. (Also see "Education Secretary May Not Be Most Important K-12 Job" over at Campaign K-12.) I think that's what eduflack means when he writes that one of the most important posts in the U.S. Department of Education is the head of the Office of English Language Acquisition. One consideration is whether Mr. Obama will appoint ...


The Chicago Tribune reports this morning about how many immigrants are celebrating Barack Obama's election. (Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog.) Latinos, some of whom are immigrants and many of whom have immigrant parents, voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a margin of two-to-one, according to a report released by the Pew Hispanic Center yesterday. Interestingly, the proportion of voters who are Latinos was exactly the same this election, 8 percent, as in 2004. Remember all of those immigrant students who left school and poured into the streets in the spring of 2006 calling for comprehensive immigration reform? Surely ...


Blogger the Angry Fish raises a valid concern in contending that some English-language learners may be turned off to school if their curriculum consists only of English and math—and the required physical education class. So here is this child's day: English class, History/Social Studies/Gov't, then Math class, then Math helper Class, then English helper class, then P.E. Now mind you the only reason this child has PE is because it is mandatory within the curriculum. So this child has no choice in his schedule, he has no shop class, no music, no drama, no art, nothing...


Spanish may be the most common language spoken by English-language learners in the United States overall, but in South Dakota, top status goes to Lakota. And in Montana, the top language for students with limited proficiency in English is Blackfoot, with Crow and Dakota as runners up. In Alaska, it's Yup'ik. These facts are evidence of the significant number of Native American or Alaska Native students who are identified as English-language learners in this country. (You can also find state-by-state data on the languages of ELLs here.) If that piques your interest, you may want to read my article, "Native ...


As Campaign K-12 reports, Oregon voters have rejected Measure 58, a state ballot measure that would have put a cap of two years on the amount of time English-language learners could receive instruction in their native language. It seemed that it would have also put a cap of two years on English-as-a-second-language instruction for ELLs. The vote was 53 percent to 47 percent against the measure. A favorable political climate for bilingual education programs could be coming, given the fact that the American people have chosen Sen. Barack Obama as president-elect. He has publicly endorsed transitional bilingual education, an education ...


I enjoy listening to how bilingual people use language. And if you do as well, I'm recommending to you the work of Oscar Casares, a writer who I learned about while preparing to visit Brownsville, Texas. (Hat tip to skoolboy over at eduwonkette). Mr. Casares, who grew up in Brownsville, is a master in using code-switching in dialogue. Code-switching is what linguists call the switching back and forth between two languages, often mid-sentence, by bilingual speakers when they are talking with people who understand both languages. In 2003, Mr. Casares published Brownsville Stories, and he's working on a novel based ...


State Rep. Leo Berman—a Republican from Tyler, Texas—contends that a law offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented students in Texas violates federal law, according to an Oct. 30 article in the Houston Chronicle. This fall, Rep. Berman asked the state's attorney to issue an opinion on the matter. "I think Representative Berman is simply making mischief," responds Michael Olivas, a University of Houston law professor, to Mr. Berman's actions, according to the article. I first heard of Rep. Berman last year when I reported on the 25th anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 U.S. Supreme ...


Oregon newspapers have published a flurry of articles and commentaries analyzing a ballot measure that will be put before voters tomorrow. It's called Measure 58 and, if approved by voters, it will put a limit of two years on bilingual instruction for any English-language learner in the state. It appears that the ballot measure would also put a two-year cap on the amount of time students may receive English-as-a-second-language instruction as well, though that interpretation of the measure has received less attention in the media. Advocates of bilingual education, such as James Crawford, the president of the Washington-based Institute for ...


States' policies for providing testing accommodations to English-language learners are becoming more nuanced, something that experts in the field recommend. GothamSchools reports that the New York Board of Regents has approved a new policy, effective this school year, that permits former English-language learners to receive testing accommodations on the state's regular academic tests for up to two years after they are considered to be proficient in the language. The New York State United Teachers union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, reported this news a month ago, but we bloggers are just picking up on ...


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