February 2009 Archives

How students score in reading and writing on an English-language-proficiency test is a good indicator of how they will score on their state's tests for reading, writing, and mathematics that are given to all students. That's what a study of 5th and 8th graders who took the English-proficiency test developed by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or WIDA, concluded. Researchers for the study, which was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, found that students' scores in the domains of reading and writing on the test were stronger predictors in how they did ...


Many of you who have had English-language learners from Asian families in your classrooms know that some of these children don't fit the stereotype that some Americans have of them of primarily coming from well-educated families whose parents work in high-tech jobs or at universities. But a report released today by the Asian American Federation based on U.S. Census data has some statistics that you may not have heard about the extent of poverty among Asian children in New York City. The report, "Working but Poor: Asian American Poverty in New York City," says that about one-fourth of Asian ...


Learning English may be a challenge for some Latinos, but it's not the main educational problem for most of them, argue Patricia Gandara and Frances Contreras in a new book, The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies. They point out that millions of Latino students speak only English but have really low academic achievement. Gandara is a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles. Contreras is an assistant professor of education at the University of Washington. Gandara is being hosted tomorrow by the American Youth Policy Forum on Capitol Hill for a presentation on ...


Over at the other blog that I contribute to, Curriculum Matters, I've featured a guide released yesterday by Teachers College intended to help educators and students overcome misunderstandings about Muslims. Interestingly, about one in ten of New York City's students are Muslim....


The federal government isn't the only entity trying to support educators in implementing instruction for English-language learners that is aligned with English-proficiency standards. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., or TESOL, has joined the effort as well by releasing a book, Paper to Practice: Using the TESOL English Language Proficiency Standards in the PreK-12 Classrooms. In fact, states have developed their own English-proficiency standards, many of which don't look exactly like the TESOL standards. But I presume both officials in the federal government and members of TESOL figure the same general principles for implementation apply to whatever ...


The New York City school district has commissioned what is believed to be the first standardized test for assessing English-language learners who are "students with interrupted formal education," or SIFE, and has just distributed it to schools, I report in an article published today at edweek.org. The test was published by Pearson. Elaine C. Klein and Gita Martohardjono, linguists from the City University of New York Queens College and graduate center who developed the test, told me they are trying to work out an agreement with the publisher for further distribution. So it is not yet available for use ...


Though Texas has been permitted to postpone submitting a plan to a federal court to improve programs for high school ELLs until the state's appeal in the case can be heard, legislators have still introduced some bills this session aimed at improving programs for ELLs. For example, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat, filed a bill that would require the Texas Education Agency to more aggressively monitor results for English-learning students, the El Paso Times reported in a Feb. 20 article (hat tip to TESOL in the News Blog.) Bilingual educators from across the state recently held a demonstration at ...


One issue concerning immigration and education that has received a great deal of media coverage is whether students who are brought to the United States illegally by their parents and graduate from U.S. high schools should have a path to legalization, if they attend college or serve in the military. The Washington Post Magazine ran a profile over the weekend of one of these students, Columbian native Juan Gomez, a 20-year-old finance student at Georgetown University. New America Media recently reported that Harvard University has an engineering student, Juan Hernandez-Campos, who is also undocumented. When he was running for ...


I'm relying on the good work of my colleagues over at Politics K-12 to understand what parts of the stimulus package may be used to benefit English-language learners. Michele McNeil's post today explains how school districts may tap into an innovation fund of $650 million that is part of the $5 billion in money from the state stabilization fund that will go to the U.S. Department of Education and Arne Duncan for innovation and incentive grants. School districts ought to apply to use some of the innovation fund to serve ELLs. But notice that your district must have had ...


Margarita Pinkos, a former director of the U.S. Department of Education's office of English-language acquisition under the George W. Bush administration, has gone back to where she left off in Palm Beach County as an administrator for English-language learners. She's quoted in a South Florida Sun Sentinel article published today as challenging the Florida Department of Education's proposal to reduce hours of training that reading teachers in Florida must attain to work with English-language learners. Pinkos is the executive director of multicultural education for Palm Beach County schools. She had that same job before she moved to Washington in ...


If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I try to draw your attention to efforts to support students in maintaining and improving their native languages. UNESCO released an online publication today that helps educators and everyone else identify just how serious the problem is of the continuing disappearance of some of the world's languages. The publication is the electronic version of the new edition of UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing. The atlas gives information for about 2,500 endangered languages around the world. For example, 199 have fewer than ...


WestEd researchers today released a guide they'd been working on for 18 months, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, to help states create standards and tests for English-language proficiency. It's a clearly written guide that poses a lot of important issues for states to consider, such as who serves on the committee to craft standards and tests for ELLs, what is the intended purpose of them, and to whom that purpose is communicated. Of course, you don't have to remind me that all states have already created English-proficiency standards and tests, which were required by the No Child ...


Kathie Dior of Dior Publishing in Lafayette, Ind., sent me a teacher's edition to a grammar book for teaching English as a second language. Each chapter starts with an installment of a mystery story, and the lessons about English verb tenses, vocabulary, or how to improve listening comprehension are loosely built around that mystery segment. Here's an excerpt of the mystery: Suddenly, I hear something behind the door. Thud! My goodness! I'm so scared that I can feel my heart pounding in my chest! What could possibly be behind the door? The story's literary quality pales against classics such as "The...


Over at civilrights.org, a blogger quotes David Goldberg, the senior counsel and senior policy analyst at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, as saying that the stimulus package doesn't have any money for high school reform or English-language learners, which Goldberg calls "missed opportunities." Many English-language learners, however, would benefit from the billions allocated for Title I, the part of the No Child Left Behind Act for disadvantaged students. According to Quality Counts 2009, 66 percent of ELLs are from families that have an income below 200 percent of the poverty level, while that's the case with only 37 ...


"Foolishness" is the word that Eduflack uses to characterize Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's proposal to reduce the funding for English-as-a-second-language programs in Arizona by $30 million for next school year. I mentioned Horne's proposal here. Update: Writers of an editorial in the Tucson Citizen say Horne should "cough up the data" to back his proposal....


I learned recently that Amherst Regional Public Schools in Massachusetts clusters its English-language learners in four different elementary schools according to the children's home language. In a blog post, Catherine A. Sanderson, a member of the school committee for that district, explained that one elementary school has a concentration of Spanish-speaking students, another of Chinese-speaking students, another of those who speak Khmer, and yet another of children who speak Korean. About 260 of the district's 4,000 students, by the way, are English-language learners. Here's an excerpt from Sanderson's blog: So, why do we cluster kids by language? This decision ...


The eighth installment of a series about a school year in the life of a 9-year-old named Bill Clinton Hadam didn't say one thing that this reader wanted to know: How did a Congolese boy who grew up in a refugee camp in Tanzania get that name? I had to turn to the fine print in "about this project" over at the Christian Science Monitor to learn that bit of information. But in a very captivating way, this week's "Who's failing—the student or the test?" installment of the series "Little Bill Clinton: A school year in the life of a...


If you live in Phoenix, you might want to drop by Senate Hearing Room 1 in the State Capitol at 2 p.m. tomorrow and hear Arizona Superintendent of Instruction Tom Horne explain how Arizona's program to teach English skills to English-language learners for a four-hour block each day can be implemented for about $9 million. This school year, the state spent $40 million on the program. I just got a press releasing saying he'll explain in his annual "state of education" speech why the program needs $30 million less of taxpayers' money for the 2009-10 school year. Some Arizona ...


At least one school district is cutting funds for family literacy centers and another is thinking about slashing English-as-a-second-language classes for parents. The Provo, Utah, school district has slashed $230,000 from schools with family literacy centers for English-language learners. Immigrant parents are pushing the school board of Fairfax County, Va., to preserve English classes that serve thousands of foreign-born adults. Even before the economic downturn, English classes for immigrant adults that are affordable had long waiting lists in many communities (including my own community of the greater Washington area). Those lists are likely to get longer as school district ...


I can't find references in "Grad Nation," a new comprehensive guide for communities on how to combat the dropout crisis, to English-language learners, but the guide does point out that the dropout rate is high among Hispanics, many of whom are ELLs. On average, the nation has a much lower graduation rate for ELLs than for all students, according to "Perspectives on a Population," a spin-off publication from Quality Counts 2009. The graduation rate reported by states for ELLs is 64 percent versus 80.1 percent for all students. And Russell W. Rumberger, the director of the California Dropout Research ...


Twenty-five years ago this week, Education Week published several stories about the rise of bilingual education in this country and how, even then, the educational method was running into political problems. The lead story was "Law and Policy in the Lau Era: The Emerging Politics of Language," which is not available online. The stories were part of a series on language policy and marked a decade since the U.S. Supreme Court had decided in Lau v. Nichols that the San Francisco school system was violating the civil rights of Chinese-speaking students by not helping them learn English. I learned ...


My colleague Debra Viadero writes in "Scholars See Comics as No Laughing Matter" in this week's Education Week that scholars are viewing comics as a promising subject for educational research. She reports that about 125 teachers, scholars, and artists attended the first academic conference on "Graphica in Education" about how comics can be used in the classroom. Since using visuals is one recommended strategy for language teachers, it's no surprise that over at EFL Classroom 2.0, David Deubelbeiss has written about how manga and comics are great tools for educators of English-language learners. He includes a folder of comics ...


Although 75 percent of English-language learners in the United States speak Spanish, bilingual education teachers tell me it can be hard to find high-quality classroom materials in Spanish. World Book Inc. is apparently trying to fill the void. The company, in partnership with Hispanica Saber, has created a comprehensive online encyclopedia in Spanish....


The Guardian Weekly, a British newspaper, just published an adaptation of an article I had written for Quality Counts 2009 about the impact of provisions for English-language learners in the No Child Left Behind Act. The newspaper put a more provocative headline on the article, "No Child Left Behind, Did Bush Get It Right?", than did Education Week, but the content is basically the same as in "English-Learners Pose Policy Puzzle," which I shortened at the Guardian Weekly's request. Let me clarify that while the description of me at the end of the article says I'm "author" of Quality Counts ...


I wonder how English-language learners will be served at Manhattan's Louis D. Brandeis High School, now that that the New York City Department of Education has decided to break it up into three small schools, reported this week by the New York Times. The 2,251-student school enrolls a large number of special education students and English-language learners, according to the article. Two-thirds of its students are Hispanic and 28 percent are black. I visited this school in 2003 when I wrote for Ed Week about Spanish for Native Speakers classes taught there. I distinctly remember having a conversation with ...


Within six years, Mexican education officials plan to have all 12 million of the country's public primary schoolchildren learning English, according to an article published this week in the Houston Chronicle. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News Blog.) Currently, the Mexican government requires English to be taught in 7th through 9th grades. Starting next fall, a federal pilot program will support 5,000 schools with textbooks and funds to teach English in the primary grades. See "Technology Becomes Substitute for English Teacher," which Kathleen Kennedy Manzo and I wrote for Education Week in April 2006 for more information about ...


Park City School District in Utah is the latest school district I've heard of that is requiring new teachers to get an English-as-a-second-language endorsement. Deseret News reports that the district is requiring all new teachers to get an ESL endorsement within the first three years of their employment. Only three states—Arizona, Florida, and New York—require all prospective teachers to show they are competent to teach English-language learners, according to Quality Counts 2009, "Portrait of a Population: How English-Language Learners Are Putting Schools to the Test." But one by one, school districts are approving policies that require their teachers...


Kirsten E. Gillibrand, New York's new senator, has told elected Latino officials that she supports a congressional bill that would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who grew up in the United States and are attending college, according to the New York Times. That bill, called the DREAM Act, which is short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, last stalled in the U.S. Congress in November 2007. Despite Gillibrand's pledge of support for the DREAM Act, the Times' Feb. 1 article also says that some Latino officials didn't sound convinced that she was sincere ...


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in Tyler, Texas, has decided that Texas may wait to overhaul the state's programs for secondary English-language learners until the appeals court decides if a lower court was correct in ruling that the state's programs don't comply with federal law. (Click here for the court document granting the stay.) William Wayne Justice, a senior U.S. district judge for the eastern district of Texas, Tyler division, ruled in July in U.S. v. Texas that Texas violates the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 by not providing adequate programs ...


Among the posts selected for the 9th edition of the EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival is one by EFL Classroom 2.0 about Project Peace, which aims to help teachers of English-language learners around the world share ideas about how to teach about peace. Some of the other posts give teachers advice on how to shape lessons on various elements of the English language, such as how to use adverbs. Larry Ferlazzo of Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day is the founder of this English-learning Carnival. I hosted the 8th edition....


This week marks the two-year anniversary for this blog about English-language learners at Education Week. The interactive format has helped me to do a better job of covering issues about these students than when I was simply a print reporter. That's because many of you have sent me interesting articles or news tips that have led to blog posts or stories in the newspaper. Thank you and keep it up. The most popular blog item in two years has been "What's in a Home-Language Survey?," which leads me to believe there's not a whole lot of information out there about ...


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