January 2009 Archives

James J. Lyons, a former executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, is back in town after an absence of a decade and is speaking out about issues concerning English-language learners. He was the executive director of NABE from 1989-1998. It turns out that Mr. Lyons has been hired by a number of affiliates of the National Association for Bilingual Education, or NABE, to express their views to federal education officials and members of Congress on issues affecting ELLs. Mr. Lyons' first step on behalf of these state groups was to send a letter last week to U.S....


"Lonely Language Learners?" in Teaching Tolerance magazine's spring issue emphasizes the social aspects of a dual-language program at La Escuela Fratney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The article pitches such a program as giving English-language learners an opportunity to speak up in class, while in a regular English-only classroom, they might be ignored. In the program, students who are dominant in English and students who are dominant in Spanish learn both languages in the same classroom. It facilitates "social inclusion," the article says....


It was mentioned during the presidential campaign that Sen. Joe Biden would no longer have to commute back to Delaware by Amtrak on weekends if he became vice president of the United States. The flip side of that statement is that Jill Biden, his wife, would no longer live in Delaware. She's moved to the Washington area and has been hired to teach two classes this semester at the Alexandria campus of the Northern Virginia Community College. She's teaching English as a second language and developmental English, according to a Washington Post blog, 44: The Obama Presidency. The blog post ...


Rick Nahmias, an internationally recognized photographer, has helped high school students from Los Angeles to create a photo exhibit about immigration. It's called "The Way We See It" and features photos of the students' own families and community. Hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog. I promote these kinds of projects on this blog whenever I hear about them in the hopes that it might give educators of English-language learners ideas for how they can build connections between students and people outside of schools....


Dearborn, Mich., schools' superintendent clarified his district's language policy after a consultant wrote in a report that the district should "prohibit the use of any language other than English" except when necessary for communication with parents. The report is posted on the district's Web site. I wrote about the clarification in "Curb on Arabic Use Urged, but Rejected, in Dearborn District," published this week in Education Week. Superintendent Brian Whiston told me in an interview that the district doesn't have any intention of restricting the use of languages other than English among students. He added, though, that he believes that ...


I've learned from my reporting and the questions that edweek.org received during a recent chat about the future of the education of English-language learners that schools struggle with how to help ELLs to graduate with a high school diploma. It seems that, in particular, many school districts struggle with how to provide ELLs who arrive as teenagers in U.S. schools with access to the regular core curriculum. I've written an article, "High School Credits for ELLs Still a Challenge," for this week's Education Week about this issue....


A federal court is holding hearings to decide if the desegregation order for Chicago Public Schools should come to an end. A reporter from Medill Reports Chicago has been attending the hearings and reported on them in "Schools' Efforts for Bilingual Students Questioned." Chicago Public Radio reporters have also been blogging about this. One of the groups, according to Chicago Public Radio, that is pushing hardest for the federal court's consent decree to stay in place is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. MALDEF lawyer Ricardo Meza contends that programs for ELLs still have a lot of problems: ...


A middle school principal within the Lawrence, Mass., public schools credits the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP, with helping the school district to make some of the goals the state set for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a Jan. 25 Boston Globe article. SIOP is a set of strategies that teachers can use to teach both academic content and language to students at the same time. A number of school districts, and some states, are providing workshops for regular classroom teachers to learn SIOP techniques. The Lawrence district met the goals set by ...


Education Week's new book, The Obama Education Plan: An Education Week Guide, which should be available in bookstores in about two weeks, has an excerpt from the newspaper featuring English-language learners. It's an article I wrote in Dec. 5, 2007, "Instructional Model May Yield Gains for English-Learners," about Brooklyn International High School's success with helping immigrants who arrive in U.S. schools as teenagers to graduate. The book matches aspects of President Barack Obama's agenda for education with Education Week articles that provide insight into how that agenda might be carried out. For example, my article is matched with his ...


The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case of Flores v. Arizona in April. The lawsuit was filed in 1992 and concerns whether Arizona adequately funds the education of English-language learners. In the meantime, the Arizona Republic continues to print opinions on the case, including that of Tom Horne, the Arizona superintendent of public instruction, who is one of the parties who asked the nation's highest court to take up the case. For columnist E.J. Montini's take on the lawsuit, read "Kids Still Losers in English-Learner Suit," published Jan. 15. For Mr. Horne's response ...


Morry Bamba is one of New York City's "students with interrupted formal education," or SIFE. He attended school for the first time when he arrived in New York City from the West African nation of Guinea at age 15. He's now a student at the English Language Learners and International Support Preparatory Academy, or ELLIS Academy, in the Bronx, which enrolls immigrant students who have arrived in the United States as teenagers. Like many SIFE students, Morry struggles with reading. He is one of the students who was interviewed in an article about SIFE students, "In School for the First ...


The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education has investigated whether New York City's new small high schools have discriminated against English-language learners or students with disabilities by excluding them from admission during the first three years of each school's existence. The office has determined that the schools have NOT excluded these students, and thus haven't discriminated against them. See my colleague Christina Samuels' August 2007 article about the issue, "Small Schools in N.Y.C. Pressed on Spec. Ed." eduwonk provided a link today to OCR's Jan. 15 letter, which includes data to back up ...


Before voters in the city of Nashville rejected a proposal to make English the official language of government in that city, a Nashville physician wrote an opinion piece about what it might feel like to be a child translator for health matters. In "Children Often Caught in Translating Nightmares," published Jan. 20 in the Tennessean, Dr. Gregory Plemmons, the medical director of Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital, argued against the English-only proposal because he thought it would make it more likely that immigrant children would end up translating for family members at clinics and hospitals. (hat tip to Colorin colorado.) ...


Only 29 states translate their parent guides about tests into a language other than English, according to an analysis by Second Language Testing, Inc., a company that both develops and translates tests to serve English-language learners. The company reports its findings from an analysis of states' parent test guides in the January edition of its newsletter. The guides typically explain state academic standards and tests to parents and give them advice about how they can support their children. They often include information for interpreting score reports as well, according to the newsletter. The authors of the newsletter contend that "if ...


For Inauguration Day, a class of ELL students at Pearl Lean Elementary School in Warren, Mich., who are mostly newcomers from Iraq, learned how to sing "Hail to the Chief" and say the words to the U.S. presidential oath of office. See the video from a local news station that features them singing and reciting here. "I hope they can feel like they are kind of like a community—that they are really part of America now," says Barbara Gottschalk, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at the school, in the news video....


Over at Curriculum Matters, my colleague Sean Cavanagh reports that public hearings have been scheduled for Jan. 30 and Feb. 4 to discuss how ELLs and students with disabilities are tested on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. The first hearing will be in El Paso, Texas. The second will be held in Washington, D.C....


Some of my colleagues will be reporting on the inauguration so look for updates at edweek.org. I, however, will simply be mixing with the crowds, not reporting. Look for posts on this blog once again on Jan. 21. In the meantime, Larry Ferlazzo has risen to the occasion and put together a list of "The Best Sites for Learning About the Presidential Inauguration" that are accessible to English-language learners. As the big day has approached, he has added more sites to the list....


Periodically school districts consider barring the use of Spanish among Spanish-speaking students in a school and usually an advocacy or civil rights group in the community intervenes and the ban is never imposed, or is lifted. But here's a new twist on an old issue. In the Dearborn, Mich., community, The Detroit News reported this week, educators are debating what's the appropriate use of Arabic in the school district, after a study commissioned by a county education service agency said the use of Arabic by bilingual students in the district is slowing their assimilation into American society. (Update: A follow-up ...


Here are some nuggets I took away from "The Future of ELL Education" online chat that I moderated at edweek.org yesterday. Click here for the full chat transcript. Question: "Considering that ELLs are not new to the history of our country, and are probably not proportionally greater than in other times in our history—do you think it is wise, in the long run, to forfeit the wider curriculum to concentrate on reading? I am worried that we are committing cultural suicide." --Linda Johanssen, 3rd grade teacher, Los Angeles Answer: "Even though ELLs are not new to the history...


The Norwalk, Conn., school district is forming a parent group to advise the district in how to improve programs for English-language learners, according to an article published this week in The Advocate. (I picked it up from TESOL in the News Blog.) From what I've seen in schools, formally seeking parental advice on how to make programs more effective for ELLs is really unusual. Readers, I invite you to prove my observation wrong. Does your school district have a parent advisory committee for ELL programs, and how has it worked out?...


Submit questions to the panelists for the chat hosted by edweek.org here....


The Rural School and Community Trust is hosting a Webinar that will focus on best practices for serving English-language learners in rural places. It's scheduled for Jan. 28 at 2 p.m Eastern Standard Time, and you can register for it here. The presentation and discussion will be led by Francisco Guajardo, a board member and vice chairman for the Rural Trust, and Jennifer Joy Esquierdo. Both are assistant professors in education at the University of Texas—Pan American.The webinar is free for members, but costs $45 for anyone else. I draw your attention to this Webinar because I haven't...


A winter cold kept me from participating in the Webinar yesterday for Quality Counts 2009, "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners Are Putting Schools to the Test." But there's still one more chat to go that corresponds with the release of the report. I'll be moderating that chat. Tomorrow, a state legislator, an administrator of ELL programs for a large urban school district, and an expert on state ELL policy will be answering questions about how school districts and states can best serve English-language learners. The chat will be held from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow, ...


Two organizations are offering opportunities for you to get the word out about what you are doing to support English-language learners or immigrants. ASCD Express is seeking short, 600-1,000-word essays on the theme, "Supporting English-language learners," according to the ASCD Community Blog. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 19, a week away from today. The Migration Policy Institute is taking applications for E Pluribus Unum Prizes, which recognize "exceptional immigrant integration initiatives." The deadline to apply is Jan. 31....


I've been promoting Quality Counts 2009, "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners Are Putting Schools to the Test," on this blog any chance I get because I'm so pleased that a whole team of people here at Education Week took up the task of exploring the characteristics and education needs of English-language learners. Usually, it's primarily my job here at the newspaper to report on these students. I want to make sure readers of this blog know that besides publishing a great deal of information about state policies concerning ELLs in the hard copy of the report, the Editorial ...


Kenneth W. Starr may soon be back in the national limelight because the U.S. Supreme Court has decided it will review the long-running federal case, Flores v. Arizona. Mr. Starr, the former Independent Counsel in the Whitewater scandal, is a lawyer defending Arizona legislators in that case. See my blog post, "Kenneth Starr Steps into the World of ELLs." My colleague Mark Walsh writes in a story published today at edweek.org about the U.S. Supreme's Court decision to hear the case, which involves whether the education of English-language learners in Arizona is being adequately funded by the ...


This week, during a panel that I moderated for the release of Quality Counts 2009, Kris Gutierrez, a professor of social research methodology at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the nation should have a common definition for English-language learners. Ms. Gutierrez, by the way, is a member of the working group for education of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, though as a panelist she was articulating only her own personal views, not those of the transition team. She proposed this seemingly simple—but actually not so simple—idea in answer to a question of how the No Child...


I've been busy chatting. Here's the transcript from today's chat about Quality Counts 2009, "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners Are Putting Schools to the Test." Education Week and the EPE Research Center have scheduled two more live online events to correspond with the publication of the report, including a Webinar on Jan. 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and a chat about the future of the education of ELLs to be held Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. The chat features Maria Santos, who oversees programs for ELLs in New York City; Ellen Forte, president of ...


The Birmingham News reports in a Jan. 4 article, "Alabama's two-year colleges are asking for identification to curb admission to illegal immigrants," that a policy approved in September to bar undocumented students from community colleges goes into effect for classes starting this month....


Quality Counts 2009, entitled "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners Are Putting Schools to the Test," was released today. The report contains new data that can be used to inform policy debates, such as that states estimate that more than 56,000 new English-as-a-second-language teachers will be needed in the next five years and that only 11 states provide incentives for teachers to receive an endorsement in ESL. In a quick search, I pulled up articles about the report in the following newspapers: The Arizona Republic, Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, Providence Journal, and the Courier Post. Update: Other articles ...


The need for English-language learners to learn "academic English"—the language of the school, rather than merely the social English they might use on the playground or in the cafeteria— has been a hot topic for several years among educators of this group of students. But I keep hearing, and seeing on my visits to classrooms, that educators are struggling with how exactly to teach academic English. The U.S. Department of Education has commissioned a review of research studies about the use of academic English at the secondary school level. The study was announced, along with two other studies...


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