Most Erie School District students who do not speak English are placed in traditional classrooms alongside their English-speaking peers for much of the school day. But now the leaders of several local social-service agencies are lobbying the district to change the practice of "mainstreaming," claiming that it hurts struggling students who still need to develop basic language and reading skills.
For children of Latino immigrants, a school's environment can play a big role in helping them to catch up academically with non-Hispanic whites, according to a study released this week by a researcher at Columbia University. The study finds, in fact, that children of Latino immigrants respond more to school-level factors than do immigrant children of many Asian backgrounds (with the exception of children of parents from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos).
Cleburne Independent School District believes it's headed in the right direction with Dual Language Enrichment Education curriculum of professors Leo and Richard Gomez. The district will find out for sure with state-mandated TAKS tests in two years, but the Gomez & Gomez program is about more than TAKS testing. It's also about young Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students learning a second language while becoming increasingly proficient in their first language.
A glut of teachers in Peru has driven down quality, leaving some of the country's most challenging children with little support. The country is starting a massive training program, but teachers are suspicious the effort is meant to push them out.
Ingrid Ocampo said her autistic son waited a year for services from the Philadelphia School District because she does not speak English and couldn't understand the district's forms and policies. Irma Zamora, another public school parent, expressed concern about signing permission slips printed in a language she can't read. And Eleuteria Esteban told of seeking out her child's principal only to be told there was no one who could translate the meeting for her. They were among more than 200 parents who recently packed a South Philadelphia church basement to tell school district chiefs they must live up to a 2001 legal agreement that mandates translation services for non-English-speaking families.
As a whole, Frederick County Public Schools' class of 2009 has fared well on the latest round of High School Assessments and, for the most part, is on track to graduate in 2009, when the tests are a graduation requirement. But the performance of seniors in certain student subgroups, especially English Language Learners, still lags well behind. English Language Learners must take the High School Assessments in English, which can be an enormous challenge since they already struggle with the language, school officials said.
An Ozarks program teaching students how to read and write the English language is also helping young people learn about new customs and traditions as they settle into their new home. Group projects are what's helping students like Jesus Rodriguez, 10, better understand his school work. "At home I talk Spanish. The teachers help us to read," said Rodriguez. Rodriguez is one of the many students enrolled in ELL or the English Language Learning program in Missouri's Monett school district.
An hour and a half after his night shift ended at the grocery store, Jefferson Lara is sitting in art class, sketching warriors. Lara's education has never been neatly laid out in class schedules that flow into extracurricular activities, but it mattered little to him that he wouldn't graduate with his peers in June — he still would get his diploma. As the nation moves toward adopting a common graduation rate formula based on the number of students who obtain a diploma in four years, there are students such as Lara who will appear to have been failed by their school systems. They will not be counted as graduating on time. But what should be taken into account, educators say, is that many are succeeding — just not on the traditional timeline.
When Shabina Kavimandan first entered Kansas' Hillcrest School six years ago, she was immediately drawn to something near and dear to her heart: The Indian flag. "The first thing I saw was the flag of my country, and a huge map of all the kids from around the world," said Kavimandan, an English-as-a-Second-Language coach. "At that moment, my heart was sold to this country." From Navajo to Nihong, Laotian to Igbo and everything in between, Hillcrest speaks to the world. Many students are children of Kansas University students and professors, said Principal Tammy Becker.
More students will have a shot next year at going to one of Metro Nashville's most in-demand public schools, where a bilingual education is the main attraction. In fall 2009, Glendale Elementary School will tweak enrollment rules so that more spots will be open in the school's popular immersion program, which teaches math and science courses completely in Spanish. The program is the only one of its kind in the state and is in high demand by parents who want their children to have a more global view of the world, said Nicole Rodriguez, who teaches fourth grade at Glendale.