Inside Maryland's Corkran Middle School a small-class of students are raising their hands as high as they can go, straining to answer questions from a calm, collected teacher. The room is arranged in five or six rows, each with four desks facing a screen where English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher Amy Evers is directing the traffic. Corkran's ESOL program is one of two mini-cluster programs for county middle schools, and what the students learn in these classes profoundly affects their ability to grasp all other subjects.
In her "Learning the Language" blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "President-elect Barack Obama's transition team includes at least one person — Juliet V. Garcia, the president of the University of Texas at Brownsville — who must know quite a lot about English-language learners. Her university is located on the bank of the Rio Grande River, which defines the U.S.-Mexico border, and enrolls a great number of ELLs or former ELLs."
On tiny desks lie books like "Huevos verdes con jamón," ("Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss) and "Si Le Das Una Galletita a Un Raton." ("If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Joffe Numeroff.) The textbooks and bulletin boards are in Spanish, the displayed student writing assignments are in Spanish, and the teacher speaks only in Spanish. The dual-language immersion program at High Point Elementary school in Clearwater, FL is an innovative program that helps both Spanish- and English-speaking children become bilingual and biliterate in both English and Spanish.
Australia's Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma has foreshadowed a massive backlash in remote Aboriginal communities if the Northern Territory government proceeds with plans to effectively scrap bilingual education. During a public lecture on Monday night, Mr. Calma said it was a fallacy that bilingual education "killed off English literacy," and even suggested the government initiative could violate human rights which stipulate indigenous people should be allowed to control their educational systems and provide education in their own languages.
Maryland is getting slot machines in exchange for about $660 million for education. Oregon's schools can continue to teach English-language learners in their native language for as long as they want. And Nebraska universities and school programs won't be able to use race as a factor in admissions. Far down on state ballots across the country, those and at least a dozen other measures affecting education and hot-button social issues were decided on Election Day by voters.
Eager to hire teachers for bilingual education programs, the Dallas public school system assigned fake Social Security numbers to newly hired foreigners so it could get them on the payroll quickly, an internal investigation found. The district continued the practice for years, the investigation found, even after it was admonished by a state agency. It was only halted this summer.
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.