December 2008 Archives

LEARN NC, a program of the school of education of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has posted some articles about how educators can tailor educational programs to better include students with Mexican roots. The latest, "The Middle School Challenge for English Language Learners of Mexican Origin," mentions a program in Los Angeles, Achievement for Latinos Through Academic Success, that helps parents to better monitor their children's progress in school and navigate U.S. schools. The article explains the difference between social and academic language, but doesn't provide much help on how to teach academic language. It's worth ...


The Baltimore Sun has published an investigative series of articles and videos about the conditions for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, and the United States. (Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog.) By some estimates, according to the article, four out of five of the Iraqi refugee children living in Jordan and Syria are still not attending school. See my reporting on this issue in "The Lost Years," published by Education Week in March. Here's an excerpt from a Dec. 28 article, "No Place to Go," in the series that reports on Iraqi refugees living in a suburb of Damascus, Syria: The ...


Right now, the Florida Department of Education is a big player in that state's debate over how much training is necessary for reading teachers to effectively teach English-language learners. The department is proposing a reduction in the number of hours of training required for reading teachers in how to work with ELLs, saying that the high bar makes it hard for schools to find such teachers, according to a Dec. 26 article in the Miami Herald. Here's where the matter stands: Current rules require teachers who educate students learning English to have 300 hours of training. Educators who teach reading ...


The education review team for President-elect Barack Obama has forwarded to the transition team names of several people who have been recommended by civil rights or education groups to be appointees in the new administration, according to a Dec. 24 article in Diverse magazine. Those who have been recommended are Kris Gutierrez, a professor of social research methodology at the University of California at Los Angeles; Elena Izquierdo, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Texas at El Paso; and Maria Santos, the superintendent for the New York City Department of Education's office of English-language learners. Interestingly, ...


My reporting has been heavy on serious news and light on innovations for teaching ELLs in the last year. In 2009, I hope that innovations will abound and that I'll be able to draw your attention to them. (Otherwise I might have to strike the promise to report "innovations" from the description of Learning the Language.) The year brought some significant news about ELLs, as I reported in these Education Week stories. —It's No Secret: Progress Prized in Brownsville. A school district in which 42 percent of students are ELLs won the Broad Prize for Urban Education. —Education Officials...


The amount of time adolescent English-language learners speak English in informal situations, such as at work or in the school cafeteria, has more of an impact on how well they learn English than how much they practice the language in the classroom or at home, according to a study published in the December edition of the American Educational Research Journal. The study, "Explaining English Language Proficiency Among Adolescent Immigrant Students," looked at a sample of 274 immigrant students, ages 14 to 19, who had been in the United States for 6.9 years on average. They were attending schools in ...


Today, William Wayne Justice, a senior U.S. district judge for the eastern district of Texas, in Tyler, denied a request by the state of Texas to delay carrying out a court order to revamp its programs for secondary English-language learners (find the court's denial here). The state had wanted to delay having to comply with the order while it appeals the federal judge's July 25 decision. Dec. 22 Update: The San Antonio Express-News published an article on Saturday about the judge's denial of the state's request. In his July decision for the long-running court case, U.S. v. Texas, ...


The World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium today released sample questions for the nation's most popular English-language-proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs. Virtually all of the questions have illustrations (which are printed in full color!) to help students understand English vocabulary. After browsing the questions, I had a better understanding of how visuals can be used to help ELLs, both in testing and instruction. Here's a sample WIDA writing question for grades 6-8: A local charity donated $10,000 to your school. The principal has asked the students for ideas on how to spend the money. These are the ...


The Washington Post reports some good news today in the world of English-language learners. The article says that 91 of the 98 ELLs at Highland Elementary School in Montgomery County, Md.--a school now tapped for a coveted educational honor--passed the state's reading test this year. The school is one of six recently nominated by the Maryland State Department of Education for the U.S. Department of Education's "blue ribbon" schools program. Also, the Post reported today that the Maryland State Board of Education has approved a policy that enables some seniors at risk of not graduating, including English-language learners, ...


Though language-minority students scored lower on a 1st grade math assessment than students who speak primarily English at home, the two groups of students made the same gains in math between 1st and 5th grades, according to a study released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. Language-minority students are children who speak a language other than English at home. The study also found that two different subgroups of language-minority students—those who are proficient in English and those who are still English-language learners—also made the same gains in math ...


The Center for American Progress is promoting expanded learning time for English-language learners with a report that features several case studies of schools that have extended the school day or year. "It's common sense" that extra learning time can be particularly beneficial for ELLs because they "have more to learn in less time," Melissa Lazarin, the associate director of education policy for the Center, said at a forum held yesterday to release the report, "A Race Against the Clock: The Value of Expanded Learning Time for English Language Learners." The forum highlighted an interesting effort in Massachusetts that has expanded ...


I have only one clue to offer about what kind of policies Arne Duncan, who has been nominated as the secretary of education for President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet, might favor for English-language learners. As the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, he has argued that English-language learners should have a separate test other than the state's regular reading and math tests for ELLs. In the 2007-08 school year, the U.S. Department of Education required Illinois to drop use of a plain English test for ELLs, called the the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English, or IMAGE, for calculating adequate ...


One place to start in determining if an English-language learner has barriers to learning other than a language barrier is to make sure he or she has normal hearing and vision. That's one practical piece of advice that Caroline Linse, a senior lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast, in Northern Ireland, provides in her article, "Language Issue or Learning Disability?," published in the December issue of Essential Teacher. While the magazine makes some articles available for free, this particular article is available only to members of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., which publishes Essential Teacher. Ms. Linse ...


Teachers can help English-language learners at the pre-K level by using gestures, speaking slowly, repeating information, encouraging peer interactions, and anticipating words that will be hard and providing explanations. This is some of the information contained in two sidebars about English-language learners that appear in a report, "Preschool Curriculum: What's In It for Children and Teachers?," released this week by the Albert Shanker Institute of the American Federation of Teachers....


Yesterday, in a Webinar intended to clarify guidance on the "supplement-not-supplant" provision of Title III, U.S. Department of Education staff relayed four questions that school districts can use to determine if they are spending Title III funds appropriately. The Oct. 2 guidance for the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language-acquisition programs reiterates a provision of the law that says funds for English-language learners may not be used to replace money from local, state, or federal sources that would otherwise be used for this group of students. The four questions, in the wording ...


Some schools in Mexico are trying to figure out how to best include children from some migrant families who have returned to their home country because of a lack of work in the United States. Some of the children don't speak Spanish at all or have weak skills in reading and writing Spanish, according to an article published today in the Arizona Republic. The trend could eventually lessen the impact that undocumented immigrants have on hospitals and schools in U.S. border areas, a demographer from the Brookings Institute points out in the article. Says one returning Mexican migrant: "The ...


A teacher/blogger from New York City expresses how she feels about teaching in a school that has been labeled as needing "corrective action" under the No Child Left Behind Act. "I'm proud to have 80 percent ELLs in my class," she writes. "The media always puts down these 'underperforming' schools and it's so sad that my school has been categorized this way." (Hat tip to GothamSchools)...


I'm concluding from my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo's article, "Puerto Rico Attains Low NAEP Scores," published today that educators aren't likely to see really strong math skills among many English-language learners moving from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States. The article says that students on the island struggled to answer most of the questions on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in math, administered in 2007. The students took the test in Spanish. Ms. Manzo notes that some education officials in Puerto Rico have written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education arguing that problems with the ...


On Jan. 30, Kathyrn M. Doherty, who has been an important point person for English-language learners in the U.S. Department of Education, is leaving her post with the federal government. She's a special assistant to the Education Department's deputy secretary, Raymond J. Simon, and a political appointee. She told me this week briefly over the telephone that she doesn't have another job lined up. She's expecting a baby in April. Since May, when Margarita Pinkos left her job as the Education Department's director of the office of English-language acquisition, Ms. Doherty has been the department's spokesperson for federal ELL ...


The Grand Forks Herald of Grand Forks, N.D., has published a definition for an English-language learner in that part of the country. The piece, "What is ELL?," accompanies an article published yesterday about how public schools in Grand Forks, N.D., have recently experienced a dramatic increase in enrollment of such students. The newspaper's definition for "English-language learner" includes some technical information about ELL programs, such as that "students can be taken out of the program when they reach [level] 4.5, according to state law, but staff members at schools can decide to continue the ELL education." ELL ...


Staff members of the U.S. Department of Education have provided me with a factual statement about states that have alternative tests for English-language learners for calculating adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act—and states that have dropped such tests. They provided me with this statement in response to questions I had about whether federal education officials had told Oregon it had to suspend use of one of its Spanish-language tests. Here's the statement: There have been a few states that stopped using a specialized assessment for ELL students because the test did not meet the ...


Oregon has become the latest state to stop using an alternative test for English-language learners because federal education officials have questioned its comparability with the state's regular test. A number of states have already dropped alternative tests for English-language learners for the same reason. Some educators in Illinois are still upset that the state dropped the use of its simplified English test for ELLs. This is the first time that I've heard of a state having to suspend the use of a Spanish-language test for ELLs. Doug Kosty, the assistant superintendent for assessment and information services for the Oregon Department ...


The Detroit Metro Times has published an in-depth story this week about Iraqis who are new arrivals in Michigan. Called "Bush's War, Our Refugees" it mentions the impact of the new refugees on schools. For example, 21 of 24 students are Iraqis in one of the classes for English-language learners at Sterling Heights High School in Sterling Heights, Mich. The article says that 2,000 Iraqi refugees are expected to settle in Michigan this year. For more about the arrival of Iraqi refugees to the United States, see my post "Iraqi Refugees Trickle to the United States." The Center for ...


Quality Counts 2009, which will be published by Education Week on Jan. 8, focuses on English-language learners, so you'll soon be able to read up-to-date information about state policies concerning these students across the nation. To help illustrate the diversity of English-language learners in this country in the report I visited a school that just opened in the Bronx this school year to serve immigrant youths from ages 16 to 20. Many students at that school had just arrived in New York City over the summer. The school is called the English Language Learners and Support Preparatory Academy, ELLIS, for ...


The Web link is now live to sign up for a Dec. 11 webinar in which U.S. Department of Education staff will answer questions about the supplement-not-supplant provision of Title III under the No Child Left Behind Act. Specifically, the department staff will discuss guidance released this fall about the provision. The webinar will take place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and is being hosted by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, which has a contract with the federal education department to provide technical assistance to states. Dec. 10 Update: The Education ...


The Council of the Great City Schools is conducting a study of four urban school districts that it deems as having success with English-language learners at the elementary school level, and it will produce a report on what has led to their success with these students. The organization expects to release the study's results at its annual conference next fall. But in the meantime, I'd thought you'd want to know which school districts have been selected. They are the Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, and St. Paul, Minn., school districts. The council chose the school districts based on achievement ...


Cecilia Munoz has been selected to be the director of intergovernmental affairs for Barack Obama's administration, according to the Washington Post. She's now the senior vice president at the National Council of La Raza and was a 2000 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner. In her new job, she will be in charge of the White House office responsible for relations between the Obama administration and state and local governments. A 2005 piece on National Public Radio provides insight into her motivation to stand up for the rights of immigrants. Education Week has quoted Ms. Munoz over the years on issues ...


Bill Sizemore is not a familiar name to all of you. But his name is familiar to educators of English-language learners in Oregon. He was the sponsor of Measure 58, a ballot item that was rejected by Oregon voters on Nov. 4. If approved, it would have put a cap of two years on the amount of time that ELLs in that state could have received instruction in their native languages. A Dec. 1 article in the Oregonian says that Mr. Sizemore was jailed after a county judge found him in contempt of court for the fourth time. The article ...


The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation highlighted Brownsville Independent School District's success with Hispanic and low-income students when announcing that the district had won the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education. But the district couldn't have won the prize if it hadn't had success with its English-language learners, who make up 42 percent of the district's 49,000 students. I wrote what I learned about the school district's programs for ELLs in "It's No Secret: Progress Prized In Brownsville," which was published yesterday at edweek.org. The district has a very well-articulated transitional bilingual education program in the elementary grades ...


Kris Gutierrez is an expert on the education of English-language learners and has been selected to be a member of the education policy working group of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team. She's a professor of social-research methodology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She's also one of the 11 members of the U.S. Department of Education's Reading First Advisory Committee. I quoted her in October 2007 in an article I wrote about how many educators and experts felt that Reading First, a program authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act, had to be refined to be more ...


For this 8th edition of the ELL/ESL/EFL carnival, bloggers provide answers to some of the questions I presume that educators of English-learners might have. OK, I admit that the first question may not exactly have been on the tip of your tongue, but it could help some ELL teachers to stretch in how they engage students. Q: What are ways to get ELLs involved in making text-to-speech animated movies? A: Nik Peachey has put together a tutorial video to help you envision how this technology can work in the English-as-a-foreign-language or English-as-a-second-language classroom. He also has ideas for ...


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