April 2009 Archives

The National Council of La Raza marks El Dia De Los Ninos, adapted from a Mexican "children's day," today by releasing a statistical brief with data showing that Latinos aren't being served well by U.S. schools, "Missing Out: Latino Students in America's Schools." The National Latino Children's Institute in San Antonio, Texas, is celebrating with a public forum on health and education here in the nation's capital that includes information on how organizations can apply for federal stimulus funds. The American Library Association also celebrates El Dia De Los Ninos each year with a promotion for library services to ...


Blogger and social studies/English teacher Larry Ferlazzo works hard to help his English-language learners stay on top of the news. He posted this week examples of some of the reports English-language learners in his classroom put together about swine flu. (Scroll down to the bottom of the entry.) "I will tell to my family that we don't have to go to Mexico right now," writes Edgar in his report....


It doesn't surprise me that a new research brief says children of immigrants (ages 3 or 4) aren't as likely as children of native-born families to attend preschool in the United States. It fits with the trend that I've noted twice recently on this blog that Hispanic children are less likely to be enrolled in early-childhood programs than children of other racial and ethnic groups. After all, many immigrants are Hispanic. (Find a summary of the brief here.) But what is surprising is that in 12 states, 3- and 4-year-olds in immigrant families are about as likely, or more likely, ...


The Tamalpais Union High School District in California has fired an adult English-as-a-second-language teacher after he answered students' inquiries about some off-color English words, according to a story published this week in the Contra Costa Times. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News). Jack Lieberman, the teacher in question who taught at an adult school run by the high school district, says that after students inquired about some bad words, he talked with them about how to be careful in using words like "sheet" and "beach," because they sound similar to other off-color words. Reading this news story, I recalled ...


Five congressional staffers and at least one U.S. Department of Education official plan to soon participate in a two-day field trip to schools in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to learn about the education of English-language learners. The trip, May 6-8, is to be led by the Washington-based American Youth Policy Forum and focuses on visits to schools that have a good reputation for serving high school ELLs, according to Sarah Hooker, a program associate for the AYPF who is organizing it. Thus, some of the people who help to shape policy in Congress and in the federal ...


In a "social policy brief," the Society for Research in Child Development recommends three priorities the federal government should have to improve education for Latinos in preschool and early-elementary grades. The first is to develop and expand programs to produce more preschool and early-elementary teachers who are proficient in English and Spanish. Another is to devise and expand programs to recruit Spanish speakers trained in second-language acquisition to work as aides or consultants to teachers. The third is to expand two-way immersion programs, in which students who are dominant in English and students who are dominant in another language learn ...


Over at my other blog, Curriculum Matters, I've written about Word Generation: Middle School Literacy Development Using Academic English, a new Web tool with resources for teaching "academic language." That is the words, abstract phrases, and grammatical structures students need to know to understand school subjects. Before I browsed the resources in this tool, frankly, I didn't really realize that it's so important to explicitly teach academic English to all students, not just ELLs. Word Generation seems to have some rich resources that can help educators to crack the mystery of how they can support students to learn the language ...


John Wills Lloyd over at TeachEffectively reflects on Horne v. Flores, the Arizona ELL case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. He cites my story that previewed the case, "Roots of Federal ELL Case Run Deep," as well as a preview by NPR's Nina Totenberg. Our Web site has since published my story and a post by Mark Walsh at the School Law Blog that report on Monday's oral arguments. Update: The Arizona Republic ran on a story on the arguments, too. Lloyd argues that effective teaching, not necessarily more funds (as the Flores side ...


The College Board, an association of 5,000 colleges and universities and the creator of the SAT, has publicly endorsed the "DREAM Act," which would give undocumented students who graduate from high schools in this country and attend college or serve in the military a path toward legalization. (See this week's coverage by USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.) At a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday, College Board President Gaston Caperton expressed his organization's support for the 'DREAM Act,' which is short for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It was reintroduced in Congress in ...


So many books and so little time to read. But I've just put Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town on my mental list of books to read, after skimming a review of it in The Washington Post over the weekend. Authored by New York Times reporter Warren St. John, the book tells about the lives of a dozen boys from war-torn countries living in Clarkston, Ga., who are formed into a soccer team by Luma Mufleh, an immigrant from Jordan. Mufleh, the coach, who was cut off from her father in Jordan, has nowhere to go back to, ...


Four of Philadelphia's 63 charter schools were established particularly to serve English-language learners, according to a blog post over at The Notebook, "an independent voice for parents, educators, students and friends of Philadelphia Public Schools." What's one way that a charter school (or any school, for that matter) can be friendly to families with ELLs? Invest in simultaneous translation equipment so parents can figure out what's going on at school events and meetings....


In today's oral arguments in Horne v. Flores, the long-running ELL case in Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court justices questioned what is sufficient academic progress for ELLs. Justice Antonin Scalia at one point asked: "Do you really think you haven't complied with adequate funding of ELL programs until you raise all of the ELL students up to the level of native-English speakers?" (Link to transcript is here.) It sounds a lot like a question that a lot of educators ask about the No Child Left Behind Act. Is it appropriate for the federal education law to require ELLs to meet ...


Nearly 60 percent of 1st- and 2nd-year medical students at Canada's University of British Columbia speak at least one language other than English at a moderate or advanced level, but many still say they don't feel proficient enough to use it with patients, according to a study published in the BC Medical Journal. The Vancouver Sun reported on the study yesterday (which I picked up from the TESOL in the News Blog). The authors of the study write: It is likely that students lack the basic medical terminology/vocabulary in their non-English languages and, as such, feel unqualified to communicate ...


Americans who perceive that immigrants who come to the United States these days are resistant to learning English and making new demands of schools to cultivate their native languages are wrong, argues a sociologist in the May 2009 issue of American Journal of Education. His article about immigrant trends is called: "What Have Immigrants Wanted from American Schools? What Do They Want Now? Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Immigrants, Language, and American Schooling." (Only an abstract is available free online.) Michael R. Olneck, a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, contends that Mexican-Americans and ...


One of the reasons that preschool attendance is low among Latinos in the United States is low-income neighborhoods have a scarcity of preschool slots, according to an article published yesterday in the Chicago Tribune. The article notes that funds from the federal stimulus package could help to alleviate the situation. The story doesn't mention a finding I came across in a research brief and blogged about a couple years ago: In Mexico, where preschool is free, low attendance in preschool isn't a problem....


Prolific blogger Larry Ferlazzo gives a nod to National Library Week by posting "the best sites to teach ELLs about libraries." I'm sure that Ferlazzo wouldn't disagree with me that one of the best ways to teach ELLs about libraries is to take them to a library. But these Web sites provide activities that could be used to set up the visit. I've noticed that Stephen D. Krashen, who is an expert on ELLs and a huge fan of libraries, consistently speaks up in public forums about the need for libraries in schools and communities to be well supported....


Alan Bersin, who was superintendent of San Diego City schools from 1998 to 2005, has been named by the Obama administration to lead the administration's policy on illegal immigration and drug-related violence near the U.S.-Mexican border, Politics K-12 reports. He's on the board of Democrats for Education Reform. He's also a former Secretary of Education for California. (Bersin is pictured here in a May 2006 Associated Press file photo taken by Rich Pedroncelli, during a state board of education meeting in Sacramento.) Here's the Los Angeles Times' take on the appointment. While we're on the topic of illegal ...


Judith Sloan, an artist and teacher, helps immigrant students from the International High School at LaGuardia Community College to shape their stories into a theater performance, The New York Times reports. And like a lot of arts programs, the project is in jeopardy because of a lack of funds....


Pennsylvania is requiring all its teacher-preparation programs to provide teacher-candidates with three credit hours of training in how to work with English-language learners and nine credit hours in how to work with special education students. The regulation was approved in June. By Jan. 1, 2011, all colleges and universities in Pennsylvania must meet the mandate, according to Leah M. Harris, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania education department. "We looked at the makeup of our students and classroom instruction, and it was very evident that teachers don’t just deal with students that some people would say are regular students in ...


Read The School Law Blog, written by Mark Walsh, for a preview of the arguments that are likely to be made in Horne v. Flores in the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, April 20....


A Boston Globe editorial follows up on a report that shows that the approach of Boston Public Schools to teaching English-language learners is widening the achievement gap at all levels between such students and native speakers of English. The dropout rate for ELLs also dramatically increased from 2003 to 2006. The editorial suggests that Boston educators should take a field trip to some smaller school districts in the state that were featured in a 2007 Rennie Center report as implementing "best practices" for ELLs. Margaret Adams, who is a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of ...


Bill Evers, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, has critiqued on his blog the article I wrote about a long-running ELL case, Flores v. Arizona, published in Education Week last week and concludes I used "biased journalistic judgment" in my writing of the article. I beg to differ. But I've always found "letters to the editor" instructive, so I treated his blog entry as such and read it carefully. When I cover this legal battle in the future—specifically when it is taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court next week on April 20 and when a ruling...


Friday was Peter Zamora's last day as the Washington regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Zamora sent me a brief e-mail saying he's accepted a job as the senior education counsel for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico. I mention Zamora's job change on this blog because he has been one of the most prominent voices among nonprofit advocacy organizations speaking about English-language learners at various education meetings in the nation's capital. On behalf of MALDEF, he has supported the No Child Left Behind law's current requirements (and U.S. Department ...


Nik Peachy has published online the latest edition of the blog carnival for teaching English-language learners. One of the sites he selected that relates the most to the education of ELLs in primary and secondary schools in the United States (the subject of this blog) is a post, "The Best Sites for K-12 Intermediate English-Language Learners," by Larry Ferlazzo, who founded this particular carnival. Lindsay Clandfield also has an interesting post, "Six computer games to use in an English-language classroom." Peachy includes in his edition of the language-learning carnival criteria for what makes for a good blog post: informative, complete, ...


The National High School Center in Washington will host a Webinar on research-based methods for educating ELLs in high school. A school principal and two researchers will talk about "best practices" for educating ELLs and how these practices can be supported by policies at the district, state, and national levels. The event will be held on Thursday, May 14, from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here for more details. While the question of how to improve high schools for ELLs is getting more attention in education circles (see this earlier post of mine), I ...


WestEd is sponsoring several free webinars about the education goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. One of them will feature members of the English Language Learner Working Group, a group of researchers who have made recommendations for how states and school districts can use federal stimulus funds to improve schooling for ELLs. That webinar will take place on Tuesday, May 26, from 10:30 a.m. to noon Pacific Time. For more details, scroll down to the last event publicized here. Federal education officials have included one example of how to use stimulus funds for ELLs in a ...


I received more questions and comments for today's chat with Margo Gottlieb about assessing ELLs than I could use during the hourlong event. (Find a transcript of the chat here.) Gottlieb told me that if anyone feels his or her voice wasn't heard or topic wasn't addressed, she's willing to respond to questions by e-mail at [email protected] One topic that was really hot on the chat was how to tell whether an English-language learner has a learning disability. If you'd like to weigh in on this or add to the chat discussion in some way, please use the ...


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan focused on early childhood education, not the needs of English-language learners, while visiting the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School yesterday, according to my colleague Christina Samuels, who reported on the press conference there. Samuels told me this morning she can't recall that he made any mention of ELLs. That's despite the fact he was visiting a school that gives instruction in both English and Spanish to all students, including many ELLs. He could have worked ELLs into the conversation in a number of ways, but didn't. I'm puzzled why the Obama administration seems to be ...


Margo Gottlieb, the lead developer for the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium, will be answering questions about assessing English-language learners today in a chat. I'll be the moderator. Find more details here....


Superintendent Carol R. Johnson of Boston Public Schools announced today that she's chosen a new director of programs for English-language learners. The new director is Eileen de los Reyes, who served as a program director for the school system from 2002-05. She then led a team responsible for program and professional development for ELLs. She's also been a faculty member for the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Goddard College. (A source tells me the ELL director position had been open for months.) The press release says that Johnson has selected de los Reyes "to reform education of English-language learners ...


After nearly a decade of reporting about Flores v. Arizona, a long-running federal court case concerning funding for ELL programs in Arizona, I finally interviewed the Flores women who are plaintiffs in the case. I talked with Miriam Flores, the parent, a few weeks ago in Nogales, Ariz. I later interviewed her daughter, who has the same name and lives in Tucson, by telephone. They contend that programs for ELLs were deficient and underfunded during the years that the younger Miriam Flores attended schools in Nogales—and still are. The young Miriam is now 22 and a student at the ...


It's not easy these days to get insight into the Obama Administration's priorities for English-language learners. But maybe U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will fill us in a bit more during his press conference, scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow at the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School here in the Washington area. The preK-8 school provides all instruction through dual language programs, in which students who are native speakers of English and students who are native speakers of Spanish learn both languages in the same classrooms. The school always has a waiting list for students who want to ...


English-language learners did increasingly worse academically in Boston Public Schools in the three years following passage of Question 2, according to an exhaustive study released this week on the impact of the ballot measure approved in 2002 that greatly curtailed transitional bilingual education in the state. An April 7 article in the Boston Globe summarizes the study. The dropout rate for ELLs in Boston high schools increased significantly from 2003 to 2006, the years examined by the study, and in some areas of achievement, ELLs lost ground in comparison with other students. The research was conducted by the Maurico Gaston ...


In an online commentary published today at edweek.org, U.S. Rep. Mike Honda argues that the United States would benefit financially with passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or "DREAM Act." Honda is a Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill, which was reintroduced in Congress last month and would provide a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools and meet certain criteria. Honda contends that the U.S. is losing out on its investment in undocumented students in K-12 schooling by not enabling them to go on to ...


If you live in the Boston area, you might want to attend a forum, "Building Capacity to Serve English-Language Learners in U.S. Schools," on April 21. The rest of us can watch a video of the event, which is expected to be posted after that date on the Web site of The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. The forum is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will have four panelists, including Paul Reville, the Massachusetts secretary of education and a senior lecturer on education for Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and Nonie K. ...


Former Mexican President Vicente Fox proposed an interesting idea recently in a speech at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Fox said he hopes that some day Mexico, Canada, the United States, and the rest of Latin America will be able to function like the European Union, according to a story in the San Antonio Express-News. Since 54 percent of English-language learners who were born outside the United States come from Mexico, I think this would be an interesting concept for some teachers to bring up for discussion in their classes for ELLs. How exactly does the European Union ...


Just wanted to let you know that we'll have Margo Gottlieb, an expert on ELL testing and the lead developer for the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, as a guest for an online chat next week, "How to Assess English-Language Learners." The chat will take place on Thursday, April 9, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time. You don't need any special software to participate. You can sign up now for a reminder for the chat at the link above. I'll be moderating the chat and start taking questions for Gottlieb about a half hour before ...


Over the last eight years, with prodding from the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, the Salt Lake City school district has stepped up training for teachers on how to work with English-language learners. A story published this week in the Salt Lake Tribune (which I picked up from This Week in Education) tells how Salt Lake City was one of 10 Utah districts that was investigated by the federal government for not giving adequate instruction to English-language learners. And earlier this month, it became the last of those districts to become free of federal scrutiny. The ...


Because the number of Latino students has grown so much nationally and many are concentrated in cities, it's no surprise that all of the five school districts nominated to receive the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education have a significant number of Latino students. A few of the districts are being cited especially for their success with narrowing the achievement gap between Latinos and white students. (See press releases from districts here and here.) I'm curious if that means the districts also have been successful with ELLs. In a school district such as the Socorro Independent School District in Texas, ...


Suburban schools have become more diverse overall since the 1993-94 school year, according to a study released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center. But the exposure of the average white student in individual schools to other students who are of a different ethnic or racial background has increased only slightly. For example, the study found that the average white suburban student attended a school in which 75 percent of students were white in the 2006-07 school year; in the 1993-94 school year, the student body would have been 83 percent white on average. See the Associated Press story and USA ...


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