The Vermont Folklife Center has created some educational materials intended to help American children learn about and empathize with refugees in their communities. "What does it mean to be a refugee?" and "What kinds of stories can photographs tell?" are a couple of the questions that the educational resources encourage students and teachers to explore. I can see how the materials would be useful in a school district like Burlington, Vt., where about 90 percent of the district's 500 English-language learners are refugees. That's a sizable number in a school system that has 3,700 students altogether. I learned last ...


Margarita Pinkos, the director of the office of English-language acquisition for the U.S. Department of Education, has resigned from her post effective this Friday, according to a department spokeswoman. She became the acting director of that office when Kathleen Leos resigned as director at the end of October. She was named the director in December. In an e-mail message, the department spokeswoman said Ms. Pinkos resigned from her post "to return to Florida to be with her family." Starting on Monday, May 26, Richard L. Smith will become the acting director of the office of English-language acquisition. He's been ...


A new book, Formative Assessment for Literacy: Grades K-6, provides some help for regular elementary or reading teachers who have ELLs in their classrooms. The book, published by Corwin Press, isn't about ELLs in particular, but includes them in various examples. In the field of commercial test development, banks of test items or tests that can be given periodically are called "formative assessments." But in the book, the term "formative assessment" does not necessarily refer to a specific formal assessment. The authors include under that umbrella assessments with different degrees of spontaneity, such as observations by teachers and conversations they ...


Grand Island, Neb., Greeley, Colo., New Bedford, Mass.--and now Postville, Iowa. These are all communities where school officials have spontaneously had to figure out how to ensure that children didn't go home to empty homes when their parents were arrested in immigration raids. Yesterday, I attending a hearing on Capitol Hill in which a subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee looked at the impact of such raids on children. In an article posted at edweek.org, I report on how Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat from California, is urging Congress to pass legislation that would put more ...


Ever since I wrote about a school operated by the Miami-Dade school district at a detention center for unaccompanied minors who are immigrants, I've been interested in the quality of education that immigrant children receive while in detention. The alleged lack of adequate schooling for children was part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in March 2007 against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the operation of the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas, where immigrant families are housed. In a settlement, the federal government agreed to make improvements in education there, ...


Earlier this month I reported on how a legislative audit in Kansas found that many mainstream teachers in that state felt unprepared to teach English-language learners. It seems that teachers of English as a second language or bilingual education in Idaho think their mainstream colleagues aren't well-prepared either to teach ELLs, according to findings from a survey, "Teachers' Perceptions of ELL Education," published in Multicultural Education. (I picked this up from TESOL in the News.) The Kansas audit surveyed mainstream teachers in their second or third year of teaching. By contrast, the Idaho findings, researched by Ellen G. Batt, of ...


North Carolina's system of community colleges is the first statewide system to announce it won't admit undocumented immigrants, even if the students can come up with the money for tuition, according to a May 15 article in the Charlotte Observer, which I found over at hispanictips.com. It's been my experience in talking with school people that undocumented students tend to choose community colleges over other kinds of colleges and universities because they are affordable—and many undocumented students come from low-income families. So it seems North Carolina education officials are closing off one of the most viable options for ...


About a month ago, I was admiring the persistence of Foch "Tut" Pensis, the Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District in California, in fighting aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act that he believes to be unfair for English-language learners. Well, on May 9, Coachella Valley and eight other school districts filed an appeal in a California state court contending that a judge from the San Francisco Superior Court was wrong in ruling a year ago that the court didn't have the authority to tell the state how to comply with NCLB regarding the testing of English-learners. ...


The Corpus Christi Independent School District in Texas is using a $25,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation to buy 50 iPods to use with English-language learners, according to a May 9 article published by a local Texas media outlet, the Caller-Times. (I saw the article first at TESOL in the News). I called AT&T today to see what kind of grant money might be available for technology at other school districts. Dan Feldstein, a spokesman working out of Houston for AT&T, told me that the $25,000 that paid for the iPods in Corpus Christi was ...


The Des Moines Register broke a story yesterday about how, prior to a raid by federal immigration authorities on a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, on Monday, the Postville Community School District was given a subpoena to turn over detailed information about students to the Iowa Division of Labor Services. The subpoena included a mandate to provide the names of students working at two apartment buildings that had been owned by a Postville school guidance counselor and sold to the CEO of Agriprocessors Inc., the same company that owns the plant that was raided this week. I was curious if ...


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