Standing in front of the classroom and filling in for absentee teachers has traditionally been a promising place of work for the unemployed ranks — until now. As unemployment continues to rise, school districts nationwide are being flooded with applications for substitute teaching jobs. Those applying range from a laid-off finance manager for Harley-Davidson to a vice president of a collapsed financial institution, all for work that pays $45 to $160 a day.
When Antonio Sacre wrote <em>The Barking Mouse</em>, a retelling of a Cuban folk tale he heard as a child, he decided to include numerous Spanish words and phrases throughout the book. That's what makes the award-winning bilingual author so special, said Laura Fair, who recently had the opportunity to hear Sacre reading his book at a Michigan school with her 10-year-old son, Sabri. "To find a bilingual book is very exciting," the Eaton Rapids woman said, adding that few children's books use multiple languages.
The recently enacted economic-stimulus bill requires every state to take steps to improve teacher effectiveness, as well as to tackle one of the most pervasive problems in K-12 education: inequities in access to top teaching talent for poor and minority children. In those two provisions, which governors must address to get their cuts of $53.6 billion in state fiscal-stabilization aid, some experts see glimpses into the future of federal teacher-quality policy.
As Early Childhood Campus teacher Claudia Ortiz works with a handful of young students on the alphabet, the kids chatter in Spanish and English as they color pictures of cowboys at other tables. Wanting to show off a bright red color sharpener, young Stefanie Hernandez holds it up to her friends at her table and says, "mira, mira, mira," which means "look, look, look." Hernandez is one of the campus' English as a Second Language students, and the district hopes next year to take at least 20 such students and combine them with 20 English-speaking students to create a dual-language program, said Antonio Corrales, the district's bilingual coordinator.
For the English-as-a-Second-Language students in Oregon public schools, it's rare to have the upper hand when it comes to language. But in Tracy Patterson's advanced Spanish class at North Medford High School, the Latino English Language Learners help teach Spanish to the Anglo students. The bimonthly conversation group, launched three years ago with a Medford Schools Foundation grant, is intended to give Spanish students practice talking with native speakers and to foster leadership skills in the ELL pupils.
Some high school teachers worry about grooming students for admission to elite universities. Judah Lakin worries about getting his students' immigration papers so that they can afford college. Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for federal financial aid, and those living in Rhode Island, as in 39 other states, do not qualify for in-state tuition at public universities. Since out-of-state tuition is about three times as high as in-state, many young immigrants forgo higher education.
Touches of Cecilia Flores can be found all over North Carolina's Oakley Elementary School. Whether it's the mural she helped design, the tissue box she painted or the 36 English as a Second Language students she works with every day, her presence can be felt throughout the school. In June, Oakley Elementary may lose that presence. Flores is a citizen of Mexico, and Buncombe County Schools has decided to no longer sponsor her work visa. If she doesn't find another employer before June, she may have to return to Mexico.
Jeff Sorensen's students are wary of strangers. A mix of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from impoverished and war-torn countries, they thrive on routine. Sorensen's "newcomers" program at Glendale Middle School is meant to ease non-English speaking refugees and immigrants into their new surroundings through specialized instruction and smaller class sizes. But a community activist alleges the program isolates kids and constitutes a form of "institutional racism."
The National Science Foundation recently came to Hispanic-serving institutions for advice on the best way to tackle the dearth of Latinos in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The advice from college administrators gathered for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' Capitol Forum came back loud and clear: Pay Hispanic students to do research. Or you'll never get them — and keep them — in STEM fields.
An Iowa teenager was suspended from school this week because she refused to take a test for students who are not fluent in English. Lori Phanachone, the U.S.-born daughter of immigrants from Laos, says she proved her grasp of English in other ways. The Storm Lake High School senior has a near-perfect grade-point average and acceptance letters from two Iowa colleges.