Zainab Adisa's love for writing blossomed in high school, but it took her some time to get there. She spent several years in elementary school in English as a second language classes. Adisa was born in the United States, but her family immigrated from Nigeria. Her family spoke Yoruba at home, which made learning English challenging, she said. The senior at Pittsburgh Creative and Preforming Arts school was recently awarded the Gold Medal Portfolio scholarship from National Scholastic for her poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing. She was one of only 16 students in the country to receive the award out of more than 330,000 applicants.
For families who don't speak English at home, high school graduations can be a time of stress and confusion, especially with language and cultural barriers. To help address these issues, U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, held a commencement tailored for families of English-language learner students in its "newcomer" program last week with the majority of the event conducted in Spanish with Arabic and French translators on hand.
This year, Ramadan will begin on Saturday, May 27, when many schools have yet to finish for the summer. For schools, it’s important to provide an environment for students where they feel safe to practice their religion, but maybe more importantly, one that ensures their well-being during the school day.
Like many rural communities, Storm Lake, Iowa, has seen a swift change in its student demographics in recent years. The number of students still learning English has skyrocketed in the town. English-language learners (ELL) account for 41 percent of the student body, and when you include students who have successfully exited language-service programs, that number climbs to nearly 60 percent. But while this segment of the student population has grown at a fast clip, the district has struggled to hire teachers trained to serve them.
Hanseul Kang is the state superintendent of education in the District of Columbia. In this essay, she writes, "I was born in South Korea and came to the United States when I was 7 months old, on Christmas Eve, 1982. When I was 16 — excited to get a driver's license and apply to college — I learned that I was undocumented. In one afternoon, my world turned upside down. With all the trappings of a high school overachiever, I had assumed I could attend pretty much any college or university. But without access to federal financial aid, I might not be able to go at all. I couldn't work, couldn’t drive, couldn't travel outside the country. Even worse was the terrifying possibility that my family might be discovered and deported."
Colorado educators who led the way in developing high school diploma endorsements recognizing bilingual students worry that new legislation establishing statewide standards for such "seals of biliteracy" sets the bar too low.
At a time when Congress wants to scale back K-12 testing requirements, the Every Student Succeeds Act could do just the opposite for one group of students—those who don't yet communicate fluently in English.
In this review, NPR contributor John Powers writes, "These days, the whole world, including our politics, is being shaped by migration. Few people explore the nuances of this reality more skillfully than Valeria Luiselli, a strikingly gifted 33-year-old Mexican writer who knows the migratory experience first-hand…The book is based on her experiences working as an interpreter for dozens of Central American child migrants who risked their lives crossing Mexico to escape their fraught existence back home. To stay in the U.S., each must be vetted by the Citizenship and Immigration Services, a vast, impersonal bureaucracy. It's a bit like competing in the ultimate reality show."
Hena Khan and Karuna Riazi are authors who are both part of Salaam Reads, a new imprint of Simon and Schuster that aims to "introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works." The two women recently met up to chat about Salaam Reads, writing for young readers, and their shared experiences as Muslim authors working to bring diverse and authentic voices to the mostly white world of middle grade fiction.
A new pilot program aiming to offer more students in Montgomery County, MD access to enrichment programs has proved so successful that the school district plans to expand it system-wide in the fall. That means all third graders will be evaluated for enrichment programs. And the county will open three new enrichment centers to serve more students. One big reason for the racial and income disparities, school administrators have concluded: making parents responsible for applying to have their child admitted to gifted programs.