The campus of California State University San Marcos is nearly deserted at this time of year, but five classrooms have been busy with learning. This week, about 100 fourth- and fifth-graders from a local elementary school have been studying at the university during their winter break in an effort to increase vocabulary development and reading comprehension in new subjects. The program also allows the young students, many of whom come from low-income families and are learning English, to work in a real university setting, and encourages them to start believing that they too can go to college.
One of the first things teacher Suzan Moore does when she meets a new ELL student for the first time is give them a tour of the lunchroom. Moore, who serves as an English as a second language teacher for the Powhatan County, VA school system, is tasked with helping students with limited English skills succeed in their new environment. Moore travels from school to school during the course of her work day, addressing specific issues each student in the program might be having. It might be eighth grade science vocabulary words one day and elementary school phonics the next. One thing is clear, though — her skills are in demand. Since first coming to Powhatan in 2005, Moore has seen the ESL program grow by nearly seventy percent.
When the coach of Clinton Young Elementary's fifth-grade basketball team heard that more tutors were needed to help Hispanic students learn English, he knew who would volunteer. Coach Travis Hensler, a fourth-grade teacher at the Perry Township public school, asked the 10 players on his fifth-grade team to volunteer. They quickly agreed. Sarah Harbert was delighted with the team's response. A teacher in the school's English Language Learners program, she is the one who issued the call for help and immediately assigned the players to start working with the youngest students most in need of assistance.
So in November, the players began early morning tutoring and paired up for about a half-hour with at least one ELL student.
As the University of North Carolina's Hispanic student population has grown, so has the number of classes, faculty members, and recruitment efforts aimed at the Hispanic community. An increase of the campus's Hispanic population by 3.5% from 2000 to 2007 correlates with a statewide trend: between 1990 and 2000, the Hispanic community in North Carolina grew by about 400 percent. For UNC students, the changes mean more opportunities through new classes, a new Latino studies minor, and more study abroad opportunities in Latin America.
Many educators of language-minority students say they teach more effectively when they align their instruction with their students' culture. And some states have teacher-credentialing policies based on a similar assumption. Yet few research studies have actually examined whether culture-based instruction affects the achievement of such students, and a research review by the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth concluded, for instance, that not one study showed that culture-based education improved achievement in reading and writing, and that more research is needed on the topic.
Matthew Peterson arrives at his office wearing sports sandals and carrying a backpack. He is 35 years old. But with his baby face and hair gel, he looks about 15. Is this the guy who is going to radically change the way your child learns math? Peterson is the inventor of hundreds of computer "games" that teach the basic building blocks of math without relying on language. His method has been adopted by 270 schools, and the MIND Research Institute is boosting scores. It is particularly effective for English language learners since students can play the games even with a limited English proficiency.
Latino students have walked the halls of Wisconsin's Delavan-Darien public schools for decades. Despite the rich ethnic diversity, though, youths in this district of a little more than 2,700 students often found themselves on different academic tracks for years, based on how quickly they could grasp English and manage content in their classes. But that's changing this year as the district pushes to better integrate English language learners into mainstream classrooms, pairing up content-area teachers with those who previously specialized in English as a Second Language or bilingual education.
Zoom Language Center sits on a gray, industrial block in Ballard that's filled with the sound of muffled machinery and the faint smell of plastic. But step inside Zoom and the world becomes a blur of vibrant colors and little kids so cute they'll have you at "Hola!" Which is how you're likely to be greeted by Angelica Camargo, the energetic 28-year-old owner and director of the center, which offers Spanish-immersion classes for kids as young as 1. Most of the students come from homes where English is the primary language. But anyone is welcome, regardless of their home language.
When Cassandra Luera's oldest son, now 20, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at age five, she had nowhere to turn for help. Like many Latino families, hers never discussed mental health needs, and any services that existed were not offered in Spanish. This experience of struggling to support her son's unique needs continues to inspire Luera in her role as a family advocate for the United Advocates for Children and Families (UACF) organization. In this job, Luera, helps families to understand and seek the services they need for their children, and to help them cross any language and cultural bridges necessary.
When Zahra Al-Attar bounded into a kindergarten classroom in an Iowan elementary school early last month, the walls were decorated with paper candy canes for Christmas, but she was greeted with the chirping chorus of an Arabic song. Ms. Al-Attar, a native of Iraq, is teaching Arabic to children in the school, and has established an Arabic culture club in an effort to share her culture with students, parents, and teachers in the community.