According to the Voices yearly report, "Illinois Kids Count 2009," which was released last week but compiled before the state switched chief executives, students in Illinois schools are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, but little has changed when it comes to longstanding problems with education funding.
Can kids learn anything if they are exposed to a subject for only half an hour a week, with no homework? When it comes to learning another language, educators say yes. Foreign language instruction is considered more important than ever as the nation's demographics and national security issues change and the world's economies become intertwined.
Hispanic students are quickly becoming the largest minority in some Texas school districts, according to school administrators. The shift has forced some districts to take action on how to teach reading and writing to students who speak English as a second language.
Teachers in Illinois' School District U46 and Community Unit School District 300 this year have been working toward their master's degrees at no cost — and learning how to better help students with bilingual needs. Northern Illinois University has partnered with the school districts to provide certification for teachers of English Language Learners through a federally funded grant program.
After days of tense congressional negotiations, Congress approved a nearly $800 billion economic-stimulus bill that would provide some $100 billion in education funding last week. The bill, which was crafted by House and Senate lawmakers, includes money to help local school districts avoid layoffs and program cuts, boosts funding for special education and programs for disadvantaged students, and offers the prospect of funding for school repairs and modernization, among other elements.
Stolen shopping carts collect behind Indian Creek Apartment Homes. In good weather, Nyo Nyo spends hours pushing her 2-year-old around the parking lot in one, her skirt flapping, his head high, like a prince surveying his realm. His mother is less at home in the country that took her family in four years ago, when they arrived in the Atlanta suburbs from Burma (Myanmar) by way of a Thai refugee camp. "The problem, she says, is language. "No English," she apologizes, and calls to the oldest of her three kids, on the playground outside their apartment.
In 2000, Nebraska's McCook Public Schools had no children documented as English Language Learners. Four years later, in 2004, Carolyn Klimper's job helping 10 or so McCook students who were learning English as their second language started as a side job. In the past three years, Klimper's ESL has become full-time teaching and supervisory, and the school's program involves two paraprofessionals who teach 40-some Spanish-speaking students and one Chinese-speaking student at McCook's four attendance centers.
In her Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "Twenty-five years ago this week, <em>Education Week</em> published several stories about the rise of bilingual education in this country and how, even then, the educational method was running into political problems … Interestingly, according to the <em>EdWeek</em> article, it was former president Richard M. Nixon's administration that pushed for use of bilingual instruction as a legal remedy in cases where school districts were found not to be adequately educating students with limited proficiency in English."
Tonya Groover was a tomboy as a young girl, so she hasn't felt uncomfortable as one of the few women and one of the few black students studying computer science at the University of Pittsburgh. Now she is among those trying to address the national issue of a lack of diversity — both women and underrepresented minorities such as blacks and Hispanics — in some of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, known as STEM.
Nancy Maria Grande Tabor spoke fluent Spanish as she discussed cultural heritage and diversity among a group of Hispanic children during a recent visit to Alabama's Weeden Elementary School. All of Tabor's eight children's books are bilingual writings with a common theme: Appreciating and celebrating each other's diversity.