For the first time, a detailed portrait of America's least literate adults is emerging. About 30 million people — 14 percent of the US population 16 and older — have trouble with basic reading and writing. Correlating factors that were explored in a new government report include poverty, ethnicity, native language background, and disabilities.
After 20 years of sporadic English classes, Esperanza Marrufo still stumbles over the language, exasperated when unable to find the right word. "Part of my problem is…I can't express myself!" said Marrufo, 43, in her native Spanish. "I want to keep practicing so I can enter fully into American society." Though that desire is shared by thousands of immigrants — even as critics often chastise them for not integrating quickly enough — opportunities to learn English are harder to come by in Illinois, according to a study released Monday.
Fifth-graders who feel they've been mistreated because of their skin color are much more likely than classmates without such feelings to have symptoms of mental disorders, especially depression, a study suggests. There is evidence that racial discrimination increases the odds that adolescents and adults will develop mental health problems, but this is the first study to examine a possible link in children of varied races, says Tumaini Coker, the study co-author and a RAND Corp. researcher and UCLA pediatrician.
A new program in Minnesota is aimed at teaching both children, and their parents, English. District 112 in Carver County had pieces of its Family Literacy program in place for the past five years, but this is the first year officials brought classes for children from birth through kindergarten, together with parenting classes at the District Education Center.
Five years ago, Keicha Muriel only knew three words of English: "how," "are" and "you." Now she is fluent in the language and will graduate in May from Rowan University with a bachelor's degree in civil and environmental engineering. Muriel, 21, moved from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to South Jersey at age 16. Soon after her arrival, she enrolled in entered high school where she attended ESL classes. Although she knew very little English at the time and had to adjust to the culture shock, she applied herself and learned the language.
President Barack Obama's first budget proposal would boost U.S. Department of Education spending by 2.8 percent and provide substantial resources to turn around low-performing schools, reward effective teachers, and bolster early-childhood programs. But — not counting massive one-time increases in the recent economic-stimulus legislation — the plan also provides no more than level-funding for special education and, arguably, a cut to grants for districts under the Title I program for disadvantaged students.
Try spelling promiscuous, sacrilegious, or milieu. Fourteen-year-old Yulkendy Valdez can. A native Spanish speaker, Valdez moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States less than four years ago and has since mastered the English language. Host Michel Martin speaks with Valdez as she prepares to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee later this month.
Two weeks ago, El Sol charter school in Santa Ana opened a family and children's services center, with what was thought to be an ambitious goal: To register 100 low-income families for services within a year. It took a week. "These are parents who were in the service sectors, or construction, and they were the first to lose their jobs," said Monique Daviss, executive director of El Sol. "They've been hanging on since August. They were working families, and they want to be working again."
The number of elementary and middle school students meeting standards in English rose sharply in New York City and across the state, according to test results released on Thursday by the State Education Department. But the scores used to determine who has met the standards showed much smaller gains, with signs that many students continued to struggle.
In her Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "After 12 weeks of lessons, students in Boston public schools who participated in the program scored as well on vocabulary tests as students who didn't participate who were 2 years older, according to the article. And the impact was strongest among ELLs."