When school started this year, districts across the state were supposed to put students with poor or non-existent English skills into language-development classes for four hours a day. Mostly, it's not happening. In part, it's because there were a number of exceptions written into the plan so schools with few English learners or schools participating in certain approved reading programs are excluded from the requirement.
Last year was Manhattan Charter School's first year teaching third grade and its first year of state testing. All 19 third graders passed both the 2008 English Language Arts and math exams. In School District 1, 61 percent of students passed the English Language Arts exam and 86 percent passed the math.
As more than 14,000 Roanoke County students head back to school today, some of their parents may be getting ready to go back to the classroom, too. Roanoke County's 2-year-old adult education program, which more than doubled in size in its first year, could well see another jump in enrollment when the fall classes resume Sept. 9. About 134 people took classes preparing them for a GED test, and 158 took classes to help them learn English last year.
Many students in the Buffalo school district speak English as their second language. New statistics show those students are scoring higher on tests than their English-speaking classmates.
<p>When Randi Kay Johnson decided to improve her Spanish this summer she chose to live the language.</p>
<p>"If you want to be a teacher with Spanish as a concentration you need to be able to speak well," she said.</p>
The first three Phoenix school districts to adopt a Spanish-English immersion program more than doubled the percentage of language learners who tested proficient in English in 2007-08 over the previous year, according to the state Department of Education.
A switch in testing for students who are learning English fueled a rebound in scores this year for immigrant-rich schools in Northern Virginia that had failed the year before to meet targets set under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Scores dipped last year when the federal government for the first time required Virginia school systems to give English learners the same reading tests as classmates who speak English fluently, a mandate that local educators vehemently opposed as unfair.
For some students at McDougle Middle School, walking into a history class taught completely in Spanish is not as intimidating as it sounds. It's a normal day for students entering into the new dual language program at the Chapel Hill school. "It's a very popular program," said Neil Pedersen, superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Pedersen said initially the native English-speaking students learn slower in the dual language program, but they excel by the end of elementary school.
An alarming number of students who need extra help learning English are being let down by the New York City's school system, according to advocates. They are now calling on the state to intervene.
In Meg Lawrence's classroom, children speak Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai and Telugu daily. "The key word in teaching is differentiation: Teaching has to be differentiated for different kinds of learners," said Lawrence, one of two English as a Second Language teachers at Chapel Hill's Seawell Elementary School. With students from countries across the globe speaking what she said is about 60 different languages, Lawrence has a lot of differentiating to do.