March 2009 Archives

Defiant Student in Storm Lake Gets Backing from Asian-American Group

The Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund is calling for the Storm Lake school district in Iowa to remove any references to suspension or disciplinary action from the record of a student who refused to take an English-language proficiency test. See my previous post about the matter, "A Storm in Storm Lake." The press release says that honors student Lori Phanachone has been mislabeled as an English-language learner because she said on a home-language survey that she speaks Lao. (Federal law requires school districts to test students who speak a language other than English at home in English proficiency upon ...


A Scholarly Review of Undocumented Students' Access to College

For a comprehensive update on where states stand in giving or denying access to undocumented students to college, read a research paper on the issue by Michael A. Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston, posted over at ImmigrationProf Blog. Olivas says that 10 states now have statutes that permit undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates for public colleges and universities in those states. They are California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington. Olivas says that access to higher education for undocumented students, which includes availability of financial aid and in-state ...


Obama Administration Weighs in on Long-Running ELL Case in Arizona

The Obama administration has filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Horne v. Arizona that backs parents of the Nogales Unified School District who want Arizona to provide more funding for ELL programs. See Mark Walsh's post over at the School Law Blog. The case is scheduled for oral argument on April 20. I visited Nogales for two days last week, and I am writing a story for Education Week about the current status of ELL programs in that school district....


BBC Features a School for Newcomers in New York City

For the fourth time this school year, the ELLIS Preparatory Academy in the Bronx, a high school for English-language learners who arrive in the United States as teenagers, is being featured by a news organization. The BBC published an article about the high school, which opened this school year and has 85 students, over the weekend. (Hat tip to GothamSchools.) The school enrolls a lot of students who are categorized as "Students with Interrupted Formal Education," or SIFE. (I last wrote about SIFE students in New York City in February). I visited the ELLIS Preparatory Academy in the fall, while ...


National Board Certification for Teachers of ELLs

Over the last year, more than 130 teachers received national-board certification in a category called teaching "English as a New Language," according to a press release from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. That brings the number of teachers in this country with that credential to more than 900. You can learn more about what the certification entails here and here. A study published by the National Research Council last June concluded that teachers with certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards are more effective than teachers without the credential, but it also said that there isn't ...


Teenage ELLs and Long-Term ELLs Are Featured in Educational Leadership Magazine

The April issue of Educational Leadership has tapped experts on English-language learners from across the country to discuss best practices for educating these students. I commend the editors of the issue for publishing a couple of articles devoted to best practices for teaching adolescent ELLs, including long-term ELLs. Many high schools are struggling with how to help such students acquire content and English at the same time. Readers, are any of you in middle or high schools that are using what is called the "ELL cluster model?" I've seen classes with some elements of this model at Luther Burbank High ...


The 'DREAM Act' Is Reintroduced in Congress

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or "DREAM Act," which would provide a path to legalization in this country for undocumented students who attend college or join the military, was reintroduced this week in Congress (hat tip to ImmigrationProf Blog). Proponents of the act include the National Council of La Raza. See a press release on the legislation from the National Immigration Law Center posted at change.org. It's amazing to me that some of these undocumented students who graduated from U.S. high schools are attending Ivy League schools or are in graduate school. But it's ...


ELLs on the Border Talk about Violence in Mexico

I'm reading with interest news reports on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Mexico and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano's decision to increase the number of agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. For a while now, I've been hearing that members of drug cartels are shooting people right and left in Mexican border towns. But I've heard that the terror happens mostly at night. So, just last weekend, I parked a rental car and walked across the U.S.-Mexican border at Nogales, Ariz., to have lunch and browse in the markets in ...


Post-Spring Break ELL News Roundup

While I was on spring break, English-language learners kept making the news. Here's some news I found browsing blog posts and my e-mail messages from when I was out. —GothamSchools noted that a new report by the New York City Department of Education indicates that ELLs are doing well in the city, but some say the results aren't as positive as the report implies. Immigrant parents, meanwhile, release their own report calling on schools to be more receptive to them. —Rochelle Cisneros, a former ELL teacher and teacher educator, writes a commentary for a blog at the Orlando Sentinel...


Schools With Lots of ELLs 'Are Being Unfairly Judged'

Accountability for schools in Great Britain differs from that in the United States, but a couple of opinions expressed in an article about English-language learners in Great Britain's Daily Mail sound similar to those expressed by educators in the United States. Mick Brookes, the general secretary of Great Britain's National Association of Head Teachers, is quoted as saying: "We are now hearing head teachers complaining that they and their schools are being unfairly judged because they have a large number of children with English as a second language." Sound familiar? Interestingly, the article reports that the British government was poised ...


Talk Among Yourselves

I'm taking a vacation and don't expect to be blogging again until Thursday, March 26. But hopefully I've left you with a couple of topics, such as how stimulus funds can be used to benefit English-language learners, that you can ponder while I'm gone. (Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com)...


How Can Stimulus Funds Be Used for ELLs? Let's Count the Ways

A group of researchers who are experts on English-language learners and well-respected in the education field are poised to release recommendations this week on how states and school districts should use stimulus funds to improve education for English-language learners. The group of 14 researchers drew up the recommendations because they didn't want ELLs to lose out on the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said Diane August, a senior research scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics, who helped convene the group and sent me the document. "We wanted to provide some input. We were quite disappointed there ...


In Schools With Few ELLs, ESL Placement Has Negative Effect

In schools with a small number of English-language learners, first-generation immigrant students do better academically if they aren't placed in English-as-a-second-language classes, according to a study published in the March issue of Educational Policy. Their counterparts in mainstream classes without ESL do better academically than students who are put in ESL classes; this finding is true only in schools with a low number of ELLs. The study's authors say they do not interpret the finding to mean that English-language learners do not need special support services. Rather, they argue that those services available in schools with few immigrant students appear ...


Sparks Fly Over Education of ELLs in the Big Apple

New York state Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo claimed in both Spanish and English this month that Maria Santos, who oversees programs for English-language learners in New York City, was lying after she presented an hourlong report at a public hearing about how services for such students are improving in the city. The hearing was looking at whether the 2002 law that gave New York City's mayor control over the public school system should be renewed. Jennifer Medina of the New York Times reported March 13 on the tensions expressed at the hearing regarding services for ELLs in the newspaper's City ...


Increased Arrivals of Iraqi Refugees to the United States

The United States received 13,823 refugees from Iraq in fiscal 2008, up from 1,608 the previous year, according to the Migration Policy Institute, which has gathered information about Iraqi immigrants in this country. The United States has also authorized 5,000 special immigrant visas each year through 2012 for Iraqis who were U.S. government contractors in Iraq for a minimum of one year since the start of the war. The arrival of thousands of Iraqi refugees means that some of you are receiving Iraqi children in your classrooms for English-language learners. For some background information on them, ...


What's Behind the 'Immigrant Paradox'?

I explore in an article published today at edweek.org how researchers met recently at Brown University to discuss how educators and policymakers can better support children and grandchildren of immigrants in school so that they do as well academically as the first arrivals to this country. I attended this conference in part because I'm particularly interested in how schools might better support English-language learners who are born in this country. Nearly two-thirds of English-language learners are born in the United States, yet most news coverage and public attention focuses on the new arrivals. This message was conveyed in an ...


The New York Times Hosts a "Room for Debate" About Immigration

Yesterday, The New York Times launched what will be an on-going series of articles and opportunities for on-line discussion about immigration, with the first installment including commentary from experts and practitioners on how best to teach English-language learners. See "The Best Ways to Teach Young Newcomers." Linda Mikels, the principal of Sixth Street Prep School, a charter elementary school in Victorville, Calif., makes the case that English-only instruction for ELLs has been successful in her school. Marcelo and Carola Suarez-Orozco, co-directors of immigration studies at New York University, argue that the best results for ELLs come from dual-immersion programs. In ...


A Storm in Storm Lake

A teenager of Lao descent, who was born in the United States, refuses to take an English-language-proficiency test and gets suspended from her high school in Storm Lake, Iowa. Then about a dozen students protest in front of the school to show their support for the student. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News Blog.) As most of you know, schools are required by the federal government to give an English-proficiency test to students if parents say on a home-language survey that a language other than English is spoken at home. From the point of view of one of the ...


Boost Job Security; Get Certified to Teach ELLs

A few blog entries ago, I noted that teachers with certification to teach ELLs had more job security than those without it during layoffs at one California school district. A blog reader sent me a news article reporting that the school board of Community Unit School District 300 in Carpentersville, Ill., recently voted to lay off 46 teachers, including all its 32 general education first-year teachers. The March 11 article in the Northwest Herald notes that the layoffs didn't include special education or bilingual teachers. Update: But in Moreno Valley Unified School District in California the school board approved the ...


One Way to Meet a State's Foreign-Language Needs

For years I've been hearing educators of English-language learners complain about how many Americans don't recognize the valuable native-language skills of these students. They ask: What better way is there to reverse Americans' reputation for being fiercely monolingual but for the nation to tap into the language skills of immigrant communities? Well, as I report this week in Education Week, some legislators and policymakers in the state of Maryland are poised to take better advantage of the skills of "heritage speakers," people who speak a language other than English at home. A Maryland task force has written a report with ...


Thinking Long-Term "Will Mess With Your Head"

Last weekend, I attended a conference at Brown University about immigrant students that hosted a panel of five undocumented youths. Three of the panelists are graduate students, two at Columbia University and one at Brown. One is an undergraduate and one is a college graduate who is working in his parent's grocery store in Brooklyn, unable to use his college degree. A young woman from the audience noted that she was undocumented and asked the panelists for advice. She graduated from high school two years ago and is applying to colleges. "I don't know if I'll get in or get ...


Is Having Certification to Teach ELLs One Way to Keep Your Job?

In Livermore, Calif., administrators say that having certification to teach ELLs is a credential that can help teachers to keep their jobs during layoffs in cases where teachers are tied in the amount of seniority they have, according to a March 5 article in The Independent (see 4th to last paragraph). The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District has sent preliminary layoff notices to 25 teachers in the mail. The final notification happens May 15. Readers, are you finding this true in other school districts, that having certification to teach English-language learners is providing job security during these hard economic ...


A Conversation Between ELLs and Spanish Students

It's a simple idea but not done enough in schools: having English-language learners who are native speakers of Spanish help a school's foreign-language students improve their Spanish. Check out this story about North Medford High School in Medford, Ore., that has created a bimonthly Spanish-conversation group for students who are native speakers of Spanish and advanced-Spanish students. It seems that it would also be good for the conversation group to have a component in which the ELLs could also improve their English with the native speakers of English. The article doesn't mention this. Over the years, one of the best ...


English-Language Learners in Portable Classrooms

A complaint filed with the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education questions if it's good for ELLs who are newcomers and attending a middle school in Utah to be separated from other students and taught in a newcomer program, according to an article published this week in The Salt Lake City Tribune. Interestingly, the article also gives the following information about Michael Clara, the person who filed the complaint: "He's specifically concerned about the school's decision to house newcomers outside the main building in portable classrooms." Let me attest to the fact that in my ...


Discussion: English-Proficiency Scores and English/Language-Arts Scores

A recent post on this blog, "What's an English-Proficiency Score Good For?," has prompted some interesting comments about how ACCESS for ELLs, the English-language proficiency test created by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or WIDA, is working out on the ground. The test is being used by 19 states and is thus the most commonly used English-proficiency test in the nation. The post reports on a study showing that reading and writing scores for ELLs on the English-proficiency test are a good predictor for how they will perform on their states' regular English/language arts and mathematics tests. ...


Relationships, Relationships

Two articles in a special issue of the Teachers College Record, which is about the education of English-language learners and immigrant students, stress the importance of meaningful school relationships. (Only summaries of the articles are available free online.) An article based on a study of 407 recently arrived immigrant youths found that "supportive school-based relationships strongly contribute to both the academic engagement and the school performance" of those students. In that article, "The Significance of Relationships: Academic Engagement and Achievement Among Newcomer Immigrant Youth," Carola Suarez-Orozco, Allyson Pimental, and Margary Martin use data from a five-year study that resulted in ...


Audit: ELLs Lack Access to Core Curriculum in Portland

I tracked down a report of an audit by Oregon education officials of programs for English-language learners in the Portland, Ore., school district that The Oregonian reported on early last month. I share the audit report, which includes state officials' requirements for how Portland schools must improve programs for ELLs, with you because it touches on weaknesses in programs that I think are common in school districts. The main points of the audit are that the school system is not meeting state and federal laws because not all English-language learners in the district have access to the core curriculum. Also ...


A 'Bill of Rights' for English-Language Learners

The California Association for Bilingual Education and Pearson have created a "Bill of Rights" for English-language learners that stresses the need for teachers who work with them to have specialized training. It also emphasizes the benefits of teaching ELLs in such a way that enables them to maintain their native language while they are learning English. Many states are lacking policies that support these "rights." For example, only Arizona, Florida, and New York require all prospective teachers to have training in how to work with ELLs, according to Quality Counts 2009. Only 11 states have incentives for teachers to receive ...


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