What is the best method to teach English to non-native speakers? That question is at the heart of growing debate over Ballot Measure 58, the so-called bilingual education ban, which appears on Oregon's November ballot. The measure, according to the Division of Elections, would officially prohibit teaching public school students languages other than English for more than two years.
More than 2,500 students whose first language is not English will be targeted for academic assistance under a $15 million state grant announced for the Buffalo Public Schools. The district plans to hire Burmese, Arabic, Somali and Spanish-speaking teacher aides, add social workers and guidance counselors for English language learners, train teachers and add some Saturday programs.
Maggie Cleland, a graduate theater student, teaches adults English as a second language in Arlington, Virginia. Recently she turned the real-life stories of her students into an ensemble theater piece titled "Beyond the Simple Present, " which captures some of the true experiences Maggie Cleland's students have encountered as immigrants' adapting to life in the U.S. The play recounts their stories as they learn English and reshape their identities in a new country.
Education issues are poised to break through the din of presidential politics and economic anxiety in more than a dozen states next month, as voters confront ballot questions and constitutional amendments involving K-12 policy and school finance. High on the list are gambling referendums in six states, but aside from the gambling measures, some of the most contentious ballot questions may be in Oregon, where voters are being asked to put strict limits on bilingual education and tie teacher pay raises explicitly to classroom performance.
Sandra Tsing Loh, a writer and a performer, writes, "Ah, bilingual education. The neat grid of classrooms, the immigrant children, the dedicated teachers, the various language theories. The lab is all so sterile. The debate is over theory and where to apply government dollars. Like experimental lab rats, America's English-learning children seem to dwell in their own separate colony."
When Sheel Nelson, 11, arrived in Norwich from Haiti 16 months ago to join the father he hadn't seen in 10 years, he didn't speak or write any English. Ever since, Dawn Davis, the bilingual, English as a Second Language teacher at Moriarty Elementary School, has had the task of teaching him to become a proficient academic pupil. "When I saw her speaking my language I didn't believe it," Nelson said in describing his initial, nervous days in school. "I saw a white person speaking my language."
The number of undocumented immigrants coming to the United States has slowed, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released today. The report, "Trends in Unauthorized Immigration: Undocumented Inflow Now Trails Legal Inflow," says that 800,000 undocumented immigrants were coming to the United States on average per year from 2000 to 2004. But from 2005 to 2008, the annual average fell to 500,000, with a decrease from year to year.
Noble Street College Prep is a remarkable example of what a school can do for kids who've never known success. The public high school in Chicago takes mostly poor and immigrant students. A hundred percent of the students graduate, and almost all go to some of the nation's top colleges.
The English-as-a-second-language program at San Antonio College is finding new ways to help students succeed. This past year, the ESOL department devised a program called English for an Academic Purpose that is focused on students whose first language isn't English, but who have lived in the U.S. for the last couple of years. The goal of the program is to keep those students from having to take developmental courses before they can enroll in college-level courses.
"Development of Hispanic Children in Immigrant Families: Challenges and Prospects" is the topic of Penn State's 16th Annual Symposium on Family Issues, to be held Oct. 23-24, 2008, on the University Park campus. Sixteen scholars from major institutions will integrate perspectives from multiple social sciences and address policy implications.