ELL News Headlines

Throughout the week, Colorín Colorado gathers news headlines related to English language learners from around the country. The ELL Headlines are posted Monday through Friday and are available for free!

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Sticking With It: Lily's Story

Seventeen-year-old Lily Mejia didn't speak any English when she began the seventh grade at Scenic Middle School in Central Point, OR. Nearly six years later, Lily is poised to graduate June 4 from Crater High School's Academy of Business Innovation & Science in the top 5 percent of her class and with a 4.0 GPA. Lily's father and mother, Refugio and Petra Mejia, never advanced past the second and third grades in Mexico. Their dream to see their children complete high school drove them to immigrate to the United States, where one son and one daughter have already done so. Lily will be their third child to graduate from high school and the first in her family to go to college.

Educators Oppose English Standards OK'd by State

The preliminary approval of new English and reading curriculum that will set guidelines for textbooks and standardized tests for the next 10 years was met with anger and frustration by many Texas teachers on Thursday. If given final approval, the curriculum will remain in effect for the next decade and set standards for state tests and textbooks.

About to Burst at Seams, St. Louis School District Consider Options

Attracted by relatively low housing costs, working-class immigrants have flocked to St. Louis' Bayless School District. Today, nearly 40 percent of the district's students — double the number of just four years ago — are English-language learners. Between now and the end of the next decade, Bayless projects a gain of one-third over its current enrollment.

Where Teachers Learn Diversity

Even a lesson on quadrilaterals can cover more than just four-sided shapes if a teacher really wants to connect with the cultures of the classroom. Take student teacher Iman Abamoussa, part of a special program at Canada's York University that grooms future teachers for diverse schools. She decided to turn a Grade 4 class on quadrilaterals into a lesson on the mosaics of Morocco — part of her heritage — that happen to be made from four-sided tiles. The simple geometry class ended up weaving in culture and a respect for diversity, which is just what York's unusual teaching program preaches: that culture must feed the curriculum and race should play a role in the 3 R's.

Immigration Raids' Impact on Children Focus of Congressional Hearing

Congress should enact legislation giving more teeth to existing federal guidelines aimed at ensuring that children's needs are considered when their parents are arrested in raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, a California congresswoman said today. The agency's November 2007 guidelines outlining humanitarian concerns to be addressed during raids "are not being followed in a consistent fashion," said Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey, a Democrat from California and the chairwoman of the workforce protections subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee, who presided over a hearing this morning about how raids by the agency known as ICE affect children.

Breaking the Language Barrier

Eyad Ghoname, 12, scooted close to the microphone and recited a narrative in Arabic he helped write about Bellefonte Area Middle School. Then other students took their turn at the microphone, recording voiceovers in Chinese, Punjabi, Russian, and Spanish. Over the past several months, Ghoname and his peers in his school's ESL program have been assembling DVDs to help introduce new families to the middle school. The film explains how busing works, what rules must be followed, and the types of extracurricular activities available to students.

Teachers Following the Homework Home

A voluntary tutoring program that kicks off just as the weather is getting nice is a recipe for low attendance, right? Wrong, at least not at this public housing complex in Taunton, MA. "That's the miracle," said Eric Coury, a seventh-grade social studies teacher. Coury and another teacher help kids from kindergartners to twelfth graders with their homework in the complex's community center each afternoon so that children who don't have transportation can still get the extra help they need.

Nearly Deaf Professor Teaches English Literacy with Empathy, One Student at a Time

After three degrees, five universities, and 40,000 pupils, John Kuhlman has circumnavigated his way back to the essentials of education: a teacher and a student in a room. Mr. Kuhlman is a volunteer teacher at an adult English-literacy program in North Carolina. What is often surprising to students when they first meet him is that the professor is almost deaf. According to Mr. Kuhlman, however, this disability enables an affinity. "A deaf person, a person with damaged hearing, is exactly like a Spanish speaker or a Chinese speaker in a room full of English speakers," Mr. Kuhlman put it. "If I'm in a room for a cocktail party, I can hear everything, but I can't understand a word. So I'm pretty good at understanding their problem. I've got empathy, sympathy, patience."

Schools Want More Flexibility on Bilingual Education

Viviana Torres, a 6-year-old first-grader at Illinois' Fairhaven School, is learning about the life cycle of chickens. What's unique is that Vivian, and the other native Spanish speakers in the bilingual program, are doing it primarily in English. Officials at Vivian's school district wants the state to allow districts more flexibility regarding how they teach students who speak limited English. "We would like bilingual education to be optional, not mandatory," said Superintendent Roger Prosise. "If a district like our district finds another program that works, which our program does, we should be able to use that program without losing funding."

Catholic School Sued Over 'English Only' Policy

Four Hispanic families are suing St. Anne's Catholic School in Wichita, KS over a policy that requires students to speak English at all times while at school. The lawsuit, filed Monday, calls for an end to the policy and asks for an order barring similar policies at other diocese schools. It seeks the return of one student to the school who was allegedly kicked out for refusing to sign the "English only" pledge. And it asks for court costs and unspecified damages for discrimination and emotional suffering. "Language is an essential characteristic of one's national origin," according to the complaint filed in the case. "The ban on Spanish at St. Anne's created an atmosphere of intimidation, inferiority, and isolation for Hispanic students."