June 2009 Archives

I'm out of the office on a reporting assignment. Look for posts again on this blog on July 1....


Update: Read my article about the U.S Supreme Court's ruling on Horne v. Flores here. I'm busy writing an article about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling today on Horne v. Flores. The court remanded the case back to the lower courts for a closer examination of "changed circumstances" in programs for English-language learners since the original case was filed. Look for my upcoming article at edweek.org. In the meantime, you can learn the gist of the ruling (and also read the full ruling) at the School Law Blog....


Latino adolescents are happier and healthier if both they and their parents have one foot firmly planted in Latino culture and the other in U.S. culture, a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found. In other words, Latino adolescents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as abusing alcohol or drugs or dropping out of school, if they take steps to stay involved in their culture of heritage and their parents also take steps at the same time to integrate into U.S. culture. One example of how policymakers can ...


I've pointed out in articles or blog entries about half a dozen times over the last half year how New York City has an abysmally low graduation rate for ELLs. So it's only fair that I report that the graduation rate for ELLs increased 10 percentage points for the class of 2008 over the class of 2007, according to data that was just released this week. Here's an excerpt from a post by Gotham Schools about the city's graduation rates: The most remarkable increase came in the form of a 10-percentage point boost for the city’s English Language Learners—students...


While the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or "DREAM," Act has been introduced numerous times and then stalled in Congress, students who would benefit from the measure have been organizing, using social-networking tools to do so. The proposed act was last introduced March 26 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or serve in the military for two years. Education Week Assistant Director of Photography Christopher Powers and I reported for edweek.org on how several hundred immigrant youths, many ...


In two years, Arizona has more than doubled the rate of English-language learners that it reclassifies as fluent in the language, according to an article published today in the Arizona Republic. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne put out a press release this week saying the jump in the reclassification rate is a result of the state's new program for ELLs. In the new program, English-language learners receive four hours of English skills a day. The press release said Arizona reclassified 28.6 percent* of the state's 143,225 ELLs as fluent in English this school year, up from 12 ...


For the first time in three years, the graduation rate for English-language learners in New York state has not declined over the previous year. Graduation rates for the state released today show that 35.7 percent of ELLs who started school in New York state in 9th grade graduated after four years, up from 27.3 percent the previous year. (Hat tip to GothamSchools.) That contrasts with a graduation rate of 70.9 percent for all students. The data is for students in the class of 2008. The average graduation rate for all students in the class of 2006 in ...


In Houston, we have YES Prep charter schools serving a predominantly Hispanic group of students. In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, we have IDEA charter schools. In Chicago, we may soon associate charter schools with UNO, which stands for United Neighborhood Organization, Chicago's largest Latino community organization. UNO just received a $98 million grant from the state of Illinois to run charter schools, according to an article published today in the Chicago Tribune. The organization already runs eight charter schools and plans to use the funds to double that number to 16. UNO's eight charter schools serve 3,450 ...


The Choosing America Project is seeking anecdotes from immigrants that it can possibly turn into short films for public screening. The project, which calls itself a "creative initiative" without an affiliation with any organization, doesn't have a deadline for submissions. A public relations person told me that the project organizers are hoping to get "many stories as soon as possible." The project doesn't want to receive life stories or accounts of the immigration process. Rather it seeks stories of 1,500-4,000 words about a "decisive moment that determined the course of your life in America." The description of the ...


"The Today Show" broadcasts an interview with Ron Unz, who financed the effort to curtail bilingual education in California back in 1998, for a segment that attempts to answer the question, "Should education in the U.S. be bilingual?" The show stresses how the Hispanic student population has grown dramatically in this country in places that didn't traditionally receive a lot of immigrants, such as North Carolina. Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy As usual, Unz contends that English-language learners have fared better in California since voters approved a ballot initiative to reduce ...


A Stanford University research explores how language shapes how people think.


New York City must do more to support large high schools, where many students with poor academic performance or special needs ended up, after some large high schools were replaced by small ones, according to a new report (via a post at GothamSchools). The report notes that many new immigrant students were diverted to the remaining large high schools. See coverage of the report in the New York Times as well. The report by the New School's Center for New York Affairs was released the day after a report by Advocates for Children of New York and the Asian American ...


Theresa Zhen, a native of New York City's Chinatown, paints a picture of Chinatowns being communities in which residents are generally isolated from the resources they need to succeed. In an op-ed piece in Asians in America Magazine, Zhen makes a distinction between acculturated Chinese and Chinese who are newcomers and may be very isolated because of their poverty and lack of English skills. She notes that in San Francisco's Chinatown, the median household income is $17,886, compared with San Francisco's median household income of $55,221. She says schools are overcrowded in that city's Chinatown. Acculturated Chinese students ...


The What Works Clearinghouse finds that eight studies of the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP, a framework for teaching ELLs content and English at the same time, don't meet the "evidence standards" criteria of the clearinghouse.


This week's Carnival of Education has a compilation of some free language Web sites. Pat Hensley, over at Successful Teaching, who is an avid hiker, set up the carnival as a hiking adventure. Scramble on down to the second-to-last entry in the carnival to find The Master List of Free Language Learning Resources, offered by universitiesandcolleges.org. From there, I found a couple of podcasts for English-language learners ("English as a Second Language Podcast" and "6 Minute English"). General Language Learning Sites is also a useful compilation of resources....


How U.S. schools are supporting Iraqi refugee children is one bright spot in a report released today by the International Rescue Committee called "Iraqi Refugees in the United States: In Dire Straits." The report is based on interviews with Iraqi refugees and people who support them in Atlanta and Phoenix. The authors of the report met Iraqi parents in those cities who were frustrated with their own situation but hopeful about the prospects of their children. The report's authors talked with Iraqi students and educators at the DeKalb International Student Center in Atlanta and the Montebello Elementary School in ...


Advocates for Children of New York and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund released a report today contending that English-language learners were not well served by the break up of two Brooklyn high schools into smaller schools. As the New York City Department of Education continues to close large schools and replace them with smaller ones, "ELL students—who experience some of the lowest graduation rates in the city—are left with fewer and fewer options or are simply left behind," the report argues. At the same time, let me note that someone has filed a complaint...


The first four Somali Bantu, a refugee group that starting arriving in Lewiston, Maine, in 2005 have graduated from high school in that community, according to a story in the Sun Journal. In Somalia, the Bantus lived in farming villages that tended not to have schools. Then they fled Somalia for Kenya and spent years in refugee camps. The four who graduated had little or no formal schooling when they arrived in the United States in 2005. The article says that they spent a year in classes for English-language learners before moving to mainstream classes. The article doesn't say how ...


A national analysis by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford released yesterday contained some good news about English-language learners in charter schools, according to an article by my colleague Lesli A. Maxwell posted yesterday at edweek.org. Students in charter schools were compared with students in regular public schools. The study found that African-American and Hispanic students did worse academically in charter schools, while students from low-income families and English-language learners in charter schools did better on state tests in reading and math than their counterparts in other public schools....


Illinois' requirement for school districts to offer bilingual education is hurting English-language learners, argues Anne Swanson, an assistant superintendent for the Woodland Community Consolidated School District in Illinois, in a paper released this month by the Lexington Institute. "Use of native-language instruction should be permissive and not mandatory," she writes. And the Illinois Association of School Boards apparently agrees with her. Ben Schwarm, the associate executive director for that organization, writes in a preface to the paper that his organization passed a resolution last year saying it would ask the state legislature to make bilingual education optional. But he told ...


Two trends in professional development that are sweeping the country—Response to Intervention, or RTI, and the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP—will converge during a summer institute in Long Beach, Calif. The workshop is a sign that how to carry out Response to Intervention, an approach in which educators try various interventions before determining if students need to be evaluated for special education, for ELLs is a new hot topic on the horizon. Jana Echevarria, a special education professor at California State University, Long Beach, and MaryEllen Vogt, an associate professor of education at the same university,...


A number of education organizations in California filed a lawsuit in a state court today alleging that California is violating federal laws and the state constitution by suspending the monitoring of specialized education programs for at least one year. (My first thought on this was, "Someone must be trying to save some money in a state desperately short of cash.") The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco against the state, says programs that won’t be reviewed include those serving students who are English-language learners, migrants, neglected or delinquent, or homeless. (See the press release ...


The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition is churning out Webinars about English-language learners these days. I've already promoted one about testing little kids in English-language proficiency, scheduled for this coming Monday, June 15, 2 p.m., Eastern time. Sign up here. A couple of others are planned as well for this month: June 16, 2 p.m., Eastern time. "Participation and Performance of English-Learners in the National Assessment of Educational Progress." Register here. June 18, 2 p.m., Eastern time. "Making Tests Fair for English-Language Learners." Sign up here. Update: Here's one more: June 19, 2 p.m., Eastern ...


In The New York Times column After Deadline, Philip B. Corbett reports that news coverage of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court has raised some questions about the usage of words such as "Latino," "Hispanic," and "immigrant." It's a topic that is relevant to this blog since 68 percent of English-language learners are Spanish-speaking, and teachers and administrators may often be in the position of describing them to others. Corbett notes that Sotomayor refers to herself as "Latina." He adds that while "Latino" or "Hispanic" are acceptable, some people have a strong preference. He says that reporters ...


Education Week has put together an online package of articles about English-language learners that covers hot topics in the field such as assessment, placement, and ways to enhance instruction for ELLs, such as through after-school programs or technology. It includes a couple of commentaries as well as news articles and sells for $4.95. In case you are wondering, I didn't write all the articles. One on research and another on assessment, for example, were written by my colleagues. So far, Education Week has published similar packages on teacher-performance pay, response to intervention, and math and science education as part ...


The Austin, Texas, school board approved a plan for the district to use some of its federal stimulus funds to benefit English-language learners.


A Washington Post reporter and photographer visit command central for scoring Virginia's portfolio tests in Fairfax County. The tests are used for ELLs and students with disabilities.


What I like best about this article from the Washington Post about how English-language learners from two different schools take a fishing trip together every year is the story about how the annual event got started. Two decades ago, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Bethesda Elementary School in Maryland had a student who had lived and survived in the jungles of Cambodia with his family for two years. She took her class of ELLs to a local lake so the boy could display his remarkable talent for fishing and teach his classmates. Hence a tradition began that is still going on ...


Pressure from the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education pushed the Salt Lake City school district to bolster services for English-language learners, according to a number of teachers who work directly with such students. I interviewed them during a visit there last month. My article, "English-Learners' Lot Improves With Federal Pressure," was published on Friday at Education Week. At the same time, the office for civil rights has recently had a reputation for being soft on enforcement, William L. Taylor, the chairman of the Washington-based Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, told me in an interview ...


The Arizona Republic takes stock of how educators of English-language learners feel the controversial four-hour program is working in three Arizona school districts. The program was mandated as part of a law the legislature passed to respond to the long-running Flores v. Arizona federal court case involving funding for ELLs. (Now called Horne v. Flores, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on it this month.) All students who are ELLs are required to receive four hours of instruction in English skills separately from other students each school day. In all three of the school districts, the number ...


A few years back, California was resisting a requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act to assess English-language learners as early as kindergarten on whether they could read or write in English. State officials thought that it should be sufficient that the state already tested students in the earliest grades in speaking and listening. California lost that battle and began to develop an English-proficiency test that would include reading and writing, as well as speaking and listening, for students in kindergarten and 1st grade. I haven't had a chance to report on how assessing ELLs in English proficiency in ...


A budget bill in Wisconsin, which hasn't yet been voted on by the legislature, includes a rule that voucher schools in Milwaukee must teach bilingual education if more than 10 percent of their students are English-language learners, according to the Associated Press.


Larry Ferlazzo, a prolific blogger and teacher of ELLs at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., uses lessons from community organization in helping immigrant students to adjust.


A study of how Hispanic 10th graders are performing on mathematics and English-language arts tests in Massachusetts compares the test scores of various subgroups of Hispanic students. It also compares Hispanic students in general with non-Hispanic students. Overall, Hispanic 10th graders' scores are significantly lower than those of non-Hispanic students in the state, but the average scores for Hispanic students did increase by a statistically significant amount, which has helped to narrow the achievement gap. One of the findings of the study, which looked at test scores from the 2002-03 school year to the 2005-06 school year, is that Hispanic ...


The National High School Center has posted the presentation slides and recording for a Webinar it hosted last month about best practices for educating English-language learners at the high school level. The center also recently posted several research briefs on this topic, which I wrote about in a blog post, "More About the Lack of Access for ELLs to a College-Prep Curriculum."...


Marius "Mimi" Kothor, is graduating from high school this month and has a full scholarship to the University of Rochester, according to a story in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. She's a student who arrived in the United States at about age 10 with out any schooling.


A policy update about the education of English-language learners in Texas, and the United States as a whole, says that "after decades of experimentation," the United States now has "islands" of effective instruction. The 15-page overview of ELL instruction across the country says that the growing numbers and distribution of such students "make these islands of effective efforts no longer sufficient for addressing existing and expanding needs." The update was published by the Intercultural Development Research Association, a private, nonprofit organization with a mission of improving public schools. The policy update, "Education of English Language Learners in U.S. and ...


The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck, and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, are several books that are accessible for students of English as a second language, according to a post by One Language that is part of the ESL/EFL/ELL Carnival. The carnival is being hosted this month by Alice Mercer, a computer-lab teacher at an elementary school in Sacramento, Calif., who has a blog, Reflections on Teaching....


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