Virginia Senator Jim Webb's communications director Jessica Smith called me--and sent an e-mail--to say I was wrong to suggest in my post yesterday that Sen. Webb hasn't spent much time considering the request from the Virginia School Boards Association to introduce legislation that would affect how some U.S. school districts carry out the testing of English-language learners this school year. Here's an excerpt from her e-mail message providing additional information: "I told you we hadn’t seen the specific language of the legislation in question—so it’s hard for the Senator to take a firm stand at this ...


It may turn out to be merely a symbolic move, but on behalf of several Virginia school districts resisting a federal mandate to change how they test English-language learners, the Virginia School Boards Association has asked Virginia's senators to introduce legislation in the U.S. Congress that would ensure they would not have to carry out the mandate this school year. Frank E. Barham, the executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association said in a phone interview that earlier this month, his organization sent a letter asking Sen. John Warner, a Republican, and Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, to ...


A few years ago I read the book The Middle of Everywhere: The World's Refugees Come to Our Town, which described some of the trauma that refugees experience. I was moved by stories from the author, Mary Pipher, who is a therapist, about how she helped refugees to better understand their feelings about past hardships and their new life in Omaha, Neb. She carried out some of this work through informal social interactions because the idea of talk therapy was intimidating or foreign to refugees from some cultures. Once I tutored in English a woman from Afghanistan who had fled ...


Washington Post writer and syndicated columnist Marcela Sanchez's March 2 column about the high number of English-language learners who are U.S.-born is a sign to me that some journalists at mainstream newspapers are taking a closer look at the nuances of issues concerning this population. I still don't see a lot of articles on how to meet the needs of long-term English-language learners, but those such as the one by Ms. Sanchez are steps toward letting the public know more about this group of students. One blog reader pointed out to me that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer also published ...


Once again, there's a bill before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that would enable graduates of U.S. schools who are undocumented immigrants--and who meet certain criteria--to get in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in their states. Organizations that are advocating for passage of the bill, such as the National Council of La Raza, say that about 65,000 youths who are undocumented are granted high school diplomas in this country each year. The bill also would give undocumented youths who meet certain criteria a path to legalization, so that if they earn a college education, they have ...


The Ogden City School District in Ogden, Utah, has put in place a policy that I've found to be rare in school districts. For at least six years, the school district has been requiring all of its new teachers to get an endorsement to teach English as a second language within the first three years of employment. I learned about this policy from my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, who just visited the Ogden City district to write about how it implements its federal Reading First grant. Rich Moore, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district, told me ...


Soon, some educators and members of advocacy groups may get a chance to tell members of the U.S. Congress how they think requirements for English-language learners in the No Child Left Behind Act should--or should not--be changed in the law, which is up for reauthorization this year. Badar Tareen, the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan, told me in a phone interview this morning that the House subcommittee on early childhood elementary and secondary education plans to hold a hearing on English-language learners and NCLB this month. The hearing is tentatively set ...


Kathleen Leos, the director of the U.S. Department of Education's office of English-language acquisition, hasn't shied away from talking in public forums about English-language learners and the No Child Left Behind Act. I heard her speak here in Washington this week on a panel about the education of Latinos sponsored by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the League of United Latin American Citizens. She said that because of the requirements in NCLB, "every single state has language standards for the first time" for English-language learners, and those English-language-development standards also have to align with states' ...


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 ...


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