Ever since 2003, when a leggy Muslim girl from Senegal named Hawa Kebe immigrated to Brooklyn, in the eighth grade, she has dreamed of going to her senior prom. So in the late fall, when she learned that her high school wasn't planning a prom, she volunteered to organize one. Never mind that many of Hawa's classmates at the International High School at Prospect Heights, a public school that serves newcomers to the United States, had no clue what a prom was or that there was no translation for the word "prom" among the 28 languages spoken by the school's 411 students.
Learning a new language can be a daunting task for anyone. Combine that task with learning a new social system and arriving on time for the first day of school, and it seems like more than a five-year-old should endure. That is exactly the idea behind the Jumpstart Hispanic Program held at Alberta Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, AL. The free program is aimed at Hispanic children, all of whom speak little to no English, preparing for their first year in an English-based classroom, and was started by students from the University of Alabama.
School officials in Houma, Louisiana are considering a policy that would require all commencement speeches to be in English. The proposal comes after Hue and Cindy Vo, cousins who were co-valedictorians at Ellender High School, delivered part of their commencement addresses last month in Vietnamese. Cindy Vo, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, spoke about high-school memories, friends and the future. Then Ms. Vo, 18, recited a sentence in Vietnamese dedicated to her parents, as they watched. She told classmates that the line, roughly translated, was a command to always be your own person.
Educators and advocacy organizations who recently spoke during a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill said that teachers must be sensitive and inclusive to all students' cultural backgrounds. The briefing, "Culturally Based Teaching: A Model for Student Success," provided educators and student advocates with the opportunity to share their views and provide federal policymakers with first-hand accounts on how using a culturally based education model will empower students and help close the achievement gap.
The University of California is considering a major shift in the way it determines which students are eligible for admission — a formula some say is now too rigid. Supporters say the changes would create a fairer approach and broaden access for students at inner-city and rural high schools. Critics, however, are voicing concerns, saying the proposal not only undermines the politically popular guarantee of admission to the top 12.5 percent of high school graduates but might reduce the number of African American, Latino and Asian American students who would be assured admission.
While opponents of the initiative to make English the official language of [Nashville's] Metro government bide their time, Councilman Eric Crafton's group has collected half of the necessary signatures to put the measure on the ballot this fall. Groups like the state and local chapters of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in addition to education and immigrants-rights advocacy groups say they are waiting to see if the English Only initiative officially gets on the ballot before they begin a campaign to combat the movement.
Big changes are in the works for how the Metro Nashville Public Schools District's students learning English are assigned to schools. The district is in the process of a shift from emphasizing placement of students at English Language Learner (ELL) Centers to kids into ELL Program Schools closer to home. This coming school year, because of the changes, about 600 kids will receive ELL services in their regularly zoned schools. Kids being transported to ELL Centers often have to ride buses up to one hour each way, according to LaWanna Shelton, executive director of ELL for MNPS.
The small classroom where John Kuhlman teaches English to immigrants is a far cry from the large lecture halls and auditoriums where he used to lead 1,000 students in lessons on economics. He no longer teaches on a platform, but sits just inches from his students, intensely concentrating to understand what they are saying. Thirty-five years ago, while a professor at the University of Missouri, Kuhlman lost his hearing. A cochlear implant, lip reading and sheer dedication now allow him to spend five days and 21 hours a week teaching 15 immigrants how to read, write and speak in English.
It was a small but heartfelt graduation ceremony at Jones Avenue Adult Centre. The hard work of the ones who didn't make it was praised as highly as the success of those who did. Ana Hernandez made it. From barely being able to speak English last September, the doctor from Mexico zoomed to ESL Level 4 by June and will begin the summer semester next week in Level 5.
Some of Arizona's greatest education dilemmas deal with the languages that are heard — or not heard — in its classrooms and homes. Now, Arizona State University is hoping to create a body of doctoral-level scholars, and research, to tackle those issues. A new Applied Linguistics Ph.D. program, which is seeing its first five candidates enroll this fall, aims to prepare linguists to find solutions to challenges dealing with issues of language and literacy.