May 2009 Archives

What's in a Home-Language Survey--in Arizona?

Tom Horne, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, has mandated that Arizona schools simplify the home-language survey that parents fill out when enrolling a child in school from three questions to one. The move is expected to reduce the numbers of students who are identified as needing extra help to learn English, according to an Arizona Republic article published today. Some say that Horne is trying to save money that would be used to provide that extra help, but the state schools chief says that isn't true. He contends the policy will reduce the numbers of students who are unnecessarily identified ...


New Alaska Official to Focus on Rural and Native Issues

From Guest Blogger Sean Cavanagh The state of Alaska has announced it will hire a new director of rural education, who will also be assigned to work with the state's native population, known as Alaska Natives. Those students make up more than 23 percent of the state's 128,000 students. Alaska faces major challenges in serving those students, partly because of the vast distances and rugged landscape that separates its schools. See Curriculum Matters for more. One of new rural director's jobs will be to travel to its far-flung villages and build ties with native communities. Another task will be ...


Study to Look at Reading Comprehension and ELLs

The Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest at Edvance Research is sponsoring a study about reading comprehension and ELLs.


Sonia Sotomayor: Someone to Talk About With ELLs

President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, is someone with whom English-language learners may be able to identify in classroom discussions about current events. Sotomayor spoke more Spanish than English while growing up, according to news coverage by WABC-TV New York. CNN says her father, who died when she was 9, worked in a factory and didn't speak English. Her parents moved from Puerto Rico to New York during World War II. Politics K-12 reported today that Nancy Drew books helped her get hooked on reading and learning. School Law Blog provides information on her educational ...


Chat Transcript Available on Adolescent Literacy

Thanks to those of you who signed in to today's online chat about adolescent literacy after a long holiday weekend. The guest was Michael L. Kamil, a reading expert at Stanford University who also knows a lot about ELLs. I asked Kamil one question, the last question of the chat, about ELLs and literacy. He answered that "appropriate use of native language is most effective in acquiring literacy in a second language." The transcript is now online here. By the way, a Webinar on adolescent literacy is scheduled for June 2, a week from today, noon to 1:30 p.m.,...


Chat Today on Adolescent Literacy: Want to Slip in a Question About ELLs?

EdWeek will be hosting Michael L. Kamil, a prominent researcher on reading, for a live chat today focusing on adolescent literacy. I'll be the moderator and it will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., Eastern time. Find more information here. Kamil was a member of the National Literacy Panel for Language-Minority Children and Youth, so he has a lot of knowledge about literacy and English-language learners as well as adolescent literacy in general. I'm thinking that some of you who are working with ELLs with interrupted formal schooling, who have little or no literacy in their ...


Innovation: Web Tool for Finding 'Academic' English

Kenji Hakuta, an education professor and expert on English-language learners at Stanford University, and his doctoral students have created WordSift, a Web tool that enables students to click on words and pull up images that illustrate them.


Tom Horne Supplies 'Video Evidence' of Charter School's Mexican Enrollees

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne sends a staffer to the Mexican-U.S. border to collect "video evidence" that a charter school is enrolling Mexican residents.


Immigrant Women Are 'Family Stewards' in America

The top two reasons that immigrant women say they moved to the United States were to join family members already in the country and "to make a better life" for their children, according to a poll of a representative sample of such women by New America Media. The pollsters interviewed 1,002 immigrant women from Latin American, Asian, African, and Arab countries in August and September of 2008. The margin of error is 3 percent. I'm thinking the findings might be helpful for educators of English-language learners who have a lot of interaction with parents. Many of these women, in ...


Mexicans Walk Across the Border to Go to School

CNN features today a Methodist preparatory school in El Paso, Texas, that enrolls a significant number of students who live in Juarez, Mexico, and walk across the border each day to go to school. The article says that 70 percent of the 459 students at the Methodist high school, the Lydia Patterson Institute, live in Juarez. This caught my attention because I just wrote on this blog about how Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne wants the Arizona legislature to pass a law barring charter schools from enrolling students who live in Mexico and walk across the border to go ...


Network of Schools for New Immigrants Gets 'Integration' Award

The New York City-based Internationals Network for Public Schools is one of four organizations that will receive an "immigrant integration" award today from the Migration Policy Institute. The institute has established the new E Pluribus Unum prizes, a $50,000 award for each organization selected, to highlight organizations that are doing a good job in helping immigrants adjust to U.S. society. Interestingly, the Internationals Network for Public Schools supports a group of high schools that enroll only immigrant newcomers, which are sometimes criticized for separating immigrant English-language learners out from native speakers of English. But when I asked a ...


A New York Times Reporter Visits Nogales

Tamar Levin of The New York Times visited the Nogales Unified School District in Arizona to write about Horne v. Flores, the case involving state funding for English-language learners that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on soon. The reporter visited the same schools in the district, and even one of the same classrooms, as I did a couple of months ago when I traveled to Nogales and reported on the same court case. I reported on the oral arguments on the case last month....


How Four Urban Districts Plan to Spend Stimulus Funds for ELLs

Read my recent story published in Education Week about how some school districts are planning to spend federal economic stimulus funds to support or improve programs for ELLs. I previously wrote on this blog about how the Seattle school district plans to use some stimulus funds to revamp its ELL programs....


For All the Life-Long Learners Out There...

I'll be out of the office on a reporting trip until next Wednesday, May 20. Look for new posts on that day. In the meantime, you might want to browse this week's Carnival of Education. It includes a blog entry, Should children's books be more multicultural?, posted by Sarah Ebner at School Gate, which offers suggestions for books that feature characters from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. My favorite entry, which I admit doesn't have much to do with the subject of this blog, is 100 Amazing How-To Sites to Teach Yourself Anything, posted by Rated Colleges. The video, "Following ...


Seattle Plans Overhaul of ELL Programs--With Stimulus Funds

Administrators in the Seattle public schools are apparently taking to heart findings in an audit last year that described the district's approach to serving English-language learners as "ad hoc, incoherent, and directionless." Veronica Gallardo, who has been the manager of programs for ELLs in the 44,000-student district since July, says the district is planning a major revamping of those programs for next school year. And she said some of the expense is expected to be covered by Title I economic-stimulus funds, though the dollar amount allocated to the effort hasn't been decided yet. I've been working on a story, ...


Supreet Anand Selected for Ed. Department ELL Post

The Obama administration makes its first ELL appointment to the U.S. Department of Education--Supreet Anand, who will oversee funding for English-language-acquisition programs.


English-Only Laws Look Good to One Latina

In her self-syndicated column, Esther J. Cepeda, a Latina, vents her frustration that more people in a graduate class she took on strategies for teaching English-language learners didn't share her distaste for bilingual education. Ms. Cepeda was a bilingual teacher in two Illinois school districts for a short stint and fought for Spanish-speaking students to be integrated into classes with native-English speakers and taught in English, according to a previous column she wrote. Illinois requires school districts to provide bilingual education when they have a critical mass of English-language learners who speak a language other than English. Cepeda's take on ...


Tom Horne: Taxpayers Shouldn't Have to Educate Mexican Residents

Tom Horne, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, is asking the state legislature to require charter schools to adhere to the same law that public schools must follow: that they be prohibited from educating students who are residents in Mexico but cross the border just to attend school. Now, Horne said, charter schools are exempt from the requirement. Horne says in a press release he put out today that he recently learned "taxpayers are paying a charter school for educating students who are residents of Mexico and who cross the border to attend." The schools chief notes that while Arizona is ...


Hmong Students Skip School to Protest

ELL teacher and blogger Larry Ferlazzo writes that many Hmong students, some of whom are English-language learners, at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., missed school yesterday to protest charges brought against General Vang Pao, who is Hmong, and 10 others. The general and the other 10 have been charged with trying to overthrow the communist government of Laos. Ferlazzo has been tapping into his students' interest in the court case involving Gen. Pao, who is a leader of the Hmong community in the United States, by teaching civics lessons and developing exercises for language learning from newspaper coverage ...


Commentary: Without Immigrants, Santa Fe Enrollment Would Decline

In trying to counteract some of the negativism surrounding immigration issues, Inez Russell points out in a commentary published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, that enrollment of students in the Santa Fe school district would be in "serious decline" without English-language learners, many of whom are immigrants. The editorial challenges readers to propose solutions to members of Congress or local politicians for addressing immigration issues rather than blaming immigrants....


Resource: A Portal for State Documents on ELLs

Would you like to see California's home-language survey for identifying students who speak a language other than English? How about Arizona's waiver form for parents who want to request that their children be removed from "sheltered English immersion?" Anyone want to read New Jersey's bilingual education code? I found each of these documents with a few quick searches using a database of the Language Portal, run by the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, which is an arm of the Migration Policy Institute. According to a promotional e-mail I just got for Language Portal, the Web site has more than ...


Dianne Piche Selected for Job in Office for Civil Rights

Dianne Piche, the executive director of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, has been selected for the number two post at the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, reports Politics K-12. She'll be the deputy assistant secretary for the office. She's paid close attention to the rights and educational needs of English-language learners over the years. She mentioned the needs of such students several times, for instance, during her testimony in 2007 at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on supplemental services provided under the No Child Left Behind Act....


Report: Insight Into Spanish-Speaking Adults Who Struggle With Reading

People living in the United States who started school knowing only Spanish are more likely than those who started school knowing only English to struggle with reading as adults, according to a federal study released this week that explores why some adults in the United States are struggling readers. The study's findings are featured in an article, "Why Do Millions of Americans Struggle with Reading and Writing?," published this week in the Christian Science Monitor (Hat tip to This Week in Education). The article says that the researchers moved into relatively new territory by interviewing adults whose first language is ...


Resource: Guide to Making Math Accessible to ELLs

WestEd has published a guidebook, "Making Mathematics Accessible to English Learners," designed for teachers who don't have much training in how to teach math to English-language learners. The promotion for the book says it contains rubrics for helping teachers identify language skills at different proficiency levels, as well as sample lesson "scenarios." Two years ago, WestEd published a guidebook for teaching science to ELLs....


Effects of 'Word Generation' Strongest for ELLs

The positive effects of lessons in academic English from Word Generation, which I introduced to you on this blog a couple of weeks ago, are strongest for English-language learners, according to an article published at edweek.org today by my colleague Debra Viadero. (By the way, check out Debbie's new blog at EdWeek, Inside School Research.) After 12 weeks of lessons, students in Boston public schools who participated in the program scored as well on vocabulary tests as students who didn't participate who were 2 years older, according to the article. And the impact was strongest among ELLs. What's interesting ...


What's a Spanish GED Good for?

An editorial published this week in New Jersey's Star-Ledger supports the move by a Newark social-service agency to offer testing for Latinos to get a General Educational Development certificate, known as a GED, in Spanish. (Hat tip to Colorin colorado.) The editorial argues that getting a Spanish GED can be an important step for an immigrant toward educational or job improvement, such as being able to enroll in a community college to begin courses in English as a second language. While I've reported research findings on this blog that show a GED isn't nearly as valuable as a regular high ...


Innovation: Writing Personal Letters to Students

This week's Carnival of Education has a post by ELL teacher and blogger Larry Ferlazzo on how he's recently tried writing personal letters to some of his students. In the letter that he posts, which he says he handed to the student in a sealed envelope with his name on it, Ferlazzo tells the youth why he hopes he will stay in school. Ferlazzo says he'd be sorry if the young man wouldn't use all the "smarts" that he has. The letter contains some tough love. This is such a simple way for teachers to establish a connection with their ...


Innovation: "Million Word Challenge"

Sarra Said, an English-language learner who arrived in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago from Tripoli, Libya, has risen to the "Million Word Challenge" designed by her school's English-language-development department. The 15-year-old student at Amphitheater High School, whose first language is Arabic, has read more than 1,500,000 words in English books, according to a story in the Arizona Daily Star. She's now in the middle of reading Gone with the Wind. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News.) Said, who now reads "for fun," wasn't that interested in reading before the challenge, the article says. The million-word challenge sparked ...


Does the 'DREAM Act' Have a Chance?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an analysis of the prospects of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or "DREAM," Act, which was reintroduced in Congress this spring and would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools. ImmigrationProf Blog notes that the article will be free to nonsubscribers to the publication for a few days. The article says there are "plenty of lawmakers who fiercely oppose the bill," but it "stands a good chance."...


More About the Lack of Access for ELLs to a College-Prep Curriculum

About 8 percent of English-language learners in California, compared with 20 percent of students who aren't ELLs, finish high school having taken the required courses to be eligible to attend the California State University system, according to a study by WestEd released in a brief by the National High School Center. This is just one more statistic indicating that ELLs are disproportionately closed out of a curriculum that prepares them for college. The research brief reports on the course-taking patterns of ELLs based on a study of student transcripts from 54 high schools in California. A second brief released by ...


Will ELLs Benefit From Federal Stimulus Funds?

At a session at the annual meeting of the Education Writers Association, Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust urged reporters to ask the following question about states' and school districts' plans for using federal stimulus funds: "Is it good for kids and why—and beyond that, which kids is it good for?" What's more, she said, reporters ought to be asking how the stimulus funds will benefit low-income students, students of color, and English-language learners. So during the Q&A time, I asked members of the panel—who included Michael Casserly of the Council of the Great City Schools ...


Scores for ELLs Increase on California's English-Proficiency Test

The California Department of Education's press release about English-language learners' scores on the state's English-proficiency test reads about the same as the press releases on students' scores on this test for the last several years, as I recall. The percentage of ELLs who score "proficient" in the language keeps rising, but a gap still exists between the scores and the proportion of students who are reclassified as fluent in English, and thus, no longer in need of special programs. A sizable gap exists as well between the scores of ELLs and native speakers of English, though the press release doesn't ...


Advice for Selecting Spanish-Language Library Books?

Ann Harris, an elementary school librarian in Texas, posts a request in the comment section of my last blog entry: what resources are available to help school librarians find Spanish-language or bilingual books for children? After all, she writes, "I cannot talk students into a book that does not look interesting, no matter the quality." She's found one good source, Isabel Schon's International San Diego Library site, but would like to know of more blogs or web sites that have reviews of Spanish-language books for children and youths. Can anyone help her out? I'm curious, too, to know what advice ...


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