AT&T Inc. today announced plans to commit $100 million over four years to help reduce the dropout rate in U.S. high schools and better prepare students for college and the workforce. The effort is being billed as the company's largest single philanthropic commitment to date.
Undergraduates at the University of Maryland at College Park can now graduate with a minor in U.S. Latino studies after school officials recently approved the first such minor at a major university in the Washington region. Students and faculty members, some of whom have been promoting U.S. Latino studies at Maryland's flagship public university for a decade, said they were delighted by the move but said more needs to be done to meet the needs of historically underserved Latino students.
Sonya Gonzales wanted to volunteer in her son's classroom, but when she approached the school's front door, she froze. "She got to the door and turned around. She forgot the words," explained teacher Diana Ayala. Gonzales, who arrived from Mexico City eight months ago, forgot how to say in English that she was at the school to volunteer in her son's bilingual classroom when the secretary came on the intercom to buzz her into the school. After taking a Parents as Educational Partner course offered by her son's school district about the ins and outs of the public education and school procedures, however, Gonzales knew what to say and do the next time she went to the school to sign up as a parent volunteer.
Dora the Explorer just might be the first icon for the children of a new America — a country that is today about 14 percent Latino. This story, part of NPR's In Character series, looks at how TV channel Nickelodeon set about to create a character who could motivate kids to ask questions and participate.
Manuel Ventura, a senior at Bell Multicultural Senior High School in the District, came to the United States from El Salvador only five years ago. But last May, like every other junior at his high school, he took one of the most difficult English exams in the country: Advanced Placement English Literature. Next month, he expects again to join all of his classmates in taking another demanding exam: AP English Language and Composition. Last year, Bell Multicultural became the first public high school in the Washington, DC area to require all students to take college-level AP courses and exams. The mandate is all the more remarkable because its two required AP courses are both in English, and most of Bell's students are, like Ventura, from low-income families in which English is not the first language.
Minnesota's St. James School Board listened to parents and staff, and did not approve changes recommended by the administration that would reduce costs but increase class sizes. When the superintendent offered three options to the board that would not cut staff, but would reduce the number of sections in next year's fifth and sixth grades and create bigger class sizes, parents pointed out that their class has a high number of ESL and special needs students, and they said classes of that size would be too disruptive for their students.
A town hall meeting on the state-mandated English Language Learners law will be held by Sunnyside Unified School District officials this evening. District officials will present an alternative to the Arizona Legislature's plan for English language development in non-native English speakers. The plan adheres to the Legislature's required four-hour block of English language development daily for students identified as English-language learners, but only two hours of that would be with the ELL students segregated by English proficiency. During the final two hours, the ELL students would be together across proficiency levels, so the less skilled can learn from the more skilled, and math and science would be taught during those two hours.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act has helped prompt some school districts to develop, for the first time, a well-articulated curriculum for English-language learners — and even to work together in tackling what can be a daunting task for local educators.
In Cary, NC, a group of volunteers is taking an innovative approach to getting kids to read. Each Monday evening, the Read and Feed program holds two sessions for low-income students, many of whom are English language learners, and their parents at an RV where dinner is served before the lessons begin. The students in the earlier group are mostly second- and third-graders, working on understanding the main topic, the details, and the facts of a story, and translators are on hand to help parents participate in the lesson as well.
Western Kentucky University plans to unveil a certification program in the fall for students who want to teach English as a Second Language classes without getting a degree in education. WKU's English department has created a new ESL certification program that will qualify graduate students to teach ESL classes. The program is geared primarily toward students who are interested in teaching ESL classes abroad, with a lot of the interest coming from international students who want to teach English in their home countries.