An "issue brief" from the Alliance for Excellent Education summarizes research results about how teenage English-language learners need some of the same kinds of instruction, along with some different kinds of instruction in reading, than their native-English-speaking peers. Both ELLs and native-English speakers who struggle with reading, for example, tend to benefit from intensive, explicit teaching in reading-comprehension strategies and in learning new vocabulary, the issue brief says. But ELLs are different from their native-English-speaking peers in that their lack of background knowledge may be a huge barrier for understanding what they read. If a student doesn't know much about ...


Fernanda Santos writes in an article appearing today in The New York Times about how classes for immigrants to learn English have long waiting lists. She's talking about classes for immigrants who are adults. Those of you out there who work in this field know that all immigrant children, whether documented or undocumented, are entitled by federal law to a free K-12 education in this country. But if immigrants are too old to attend high school, they are on their own to find whatever English classes might be offered by houses of worship, colleges, immigrant advocacy groups, or other institutions ...


I've taken note over the years of the odd phenomenon that some children who are Native Americans and speak only English are identified as English-language learners. This is how it happens. Schools are required by federal law to give parents a home-language survey when they enroll their children in school. In Indian Country, parents are likely to say on the survey that an indigenous language is spoken at home, even though it may be spoken only by a grandmother, or hardly spoken by anyone. But if they do answer the home-language survey in that way, schools are required to test ...


An article in today's Washington Post saying that Fairfax County schools stand to lose $17 million if they don't comply with a federal mandate to change how they test English-language learners prompted me to get an update on the testing showdown between Virginia education officials and the federal government. Charles Pyle, the director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education, told me that Virginia has decided to "move on" and carry out the federal government's mandate that school districts stop using an English-language proficiency test, instead of the state's regular reading test, for beginning English-language learners to comply with ...


I write in this week's edition of Education Week about how some people are still talking about Herman Badillo's book, One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups, though it was published at the end of last year. In the book Mr. Badillo, who was the nation's first Puerto Rico-born U.S. Representative, admonishes Hispanics for not placing enough importance on education and urges them to look to the example of people of Asian heritage for guidance. Mr. Badillo delivered the same message to a room full of people with cloth napkins ...


I've visited some classrooms in which teenagers who were English-language learners and read at a 1st grade level were reading from books for little kids because apparently the teacher couldn't find more suitable materials. So I was happy to learn recently that Margarita Calderón had written materials for adolescent ELLs who are just starting to read. She told me last week that she's found a publisher for those materials, Benchmark Education Company. Schools across the country receive a sizeable number of immigrant teenagers each year who didn't learn how to read in their home countries. Sometimes they dropped out of ...


It's not surprising that James Crawford, a long-time writer about language policy and a critic of the effects of the No Child Left Behind Act on English-language learners, has taken a close look at the statistics U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings cited in a letter regarding the actions of Virginia education officials. Ms. Spellings used statistics about English-language learners to make the point that the No Child Left Behind Act is working for ELLs. Ms. Spellings' Feb. 4 letter was sent to the Washington Post and addressed the testing showdown between Virginia and the federal government regarding ELLs. ...


Despite the teaser for this blog on the home page saying I will tackle the "complexities and nuances" of teaching English-language learners, I admit I have already missed at least one nuance. Claude Goldenberg, the executive director of the Center for Language Minority Education and Research at California State University-Long Beach, pointed out I'm not being accurate when I say my blog is about "immigrant students" when it's really about English-language learners. He's right that most English-language learners are born in the United States and therefore aren't immigrants. I see now that it's a weak defense, when you have sharp ...


Parents and teachers of bilingual children might want to savor a Feb. 7 article that features the language assets of a couple of children in an immigrant family. Such articles about heritage speakers of languages other than English are rare while it seems there is a glut of articles about monolingual children who speak English and have embarked on learning a second language in school immersion programs. Sacramento Bee reporter Carrie Peyton Dahlberg zeros in on two school children, ages 6 and 9, who speak four languages to liven up her story about research findings favoring bilingualism. The two siblings ...


If Adrian Fenty, the mayor of the District of Columbia, gets approval from the D.C. Council to take charge of the District of Columbia schools, he'll have an expert on hand who understands the needs of English-language learners. Julia Lara headed various initiatives to benefit English-learners for 20 years at the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, but left that organization in June. After some gardening and relaxation, she started a new job on Jan. 16, she told me in a telephone interview last week, as the special assistant for the D.C.'s deputy mayor for education, ...


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