Now that they have new English-language-proficiency tests to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, state education officials are trying to come up with guidelines on how school districts use those tests to decide when English-language learners no longer need specialized instruction. States vary widely in how prescriptive they are in the use of those test scores, but most seem to be taking steps toward standardizing the process.
Starting next fall, students in the English Language Learners program in North Dakota's Grand Forks Public Schools will have iPods to assist them with the transition not only to a new language, but also to a new school and a new country. A $14,370 grant from the North Dakota Educational Technology Council will pay for 60 iPods, which will be loaded with material to cater to each of the 60 students in grades K-12 considered to be at levels one or two in the ELL program, meaning they have little to no grasp on the language. iPods will be loaded with grade-customized material for each student, and will be audio and video compatible and will be issued to individual students, meaning students can take them home.
Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget for 2009 could cut more funds from the city's schools than previously expected, a report released yesterday by the city's Independent Budget Office says. The indirect cuts will be caused by budget initiatives such as "recouping more in school lunch payments from students, reduction of reserves for summer school and English Language Learner programs, and shifting the cost for school-based information technology purchases to the schools," the report says.
Illinois' Troy School District will send two administrators to Spain next month to recruit two bilingual teachers to teach its growing number of students who speak Spanish as a first language. Nearby Plainfield School District has had to go to Texas and Georgia to recruit minority teachers and Spanish-speaking teachers. Currently, Plainfield's district has about 71 teachers teaching 2,060 English language learners (ELL) and expects an additional 450 ELL students in the next school year. These are just some of the creative ways school districts are trying to meet the needs of students who speak Spanish as their first language and to satisfy state and federal laws.
As Florida's Hispanic population grows, more immigrants teeter between two worlds: They want to keep their own language and ties to their culture and homeland. They also want their children — some American born — to speak their mother tongue and keep their traditions alive for generations to come. On the other hand, most immigrants want to blend into the English-speaking community. In Florida and other states where, the issue of language has entered the immigration debate, mostly due to public perception. "Not being able to speak English is often associated with being disloyal to America," said April Linton, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California in San Diego.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action against the Palm Beach County, FL, school district, claiming its low graduation rate is a violation of the Florida Constitution. Even using the "most generous" measures, the lawsuit says, almost a third of the students in the 175,000-student district do not graduate. The graduation rates of black and Hispanic students, which are lower than those of white students, further establish that the district is failing its students, it says.
Thousands more students, including many more Latino students, will likely graduate from Utah high schools in the next 14 years, thanks partly to population shifts, according to a Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education report. That means Utah schools need to focus now more than ever on making sure students are ready for college, say state education leaders.
"Second Life," the online world that brings players together from across the globe to socialize, shop, and even fly, is developing a second career as a hot spot for learning English as a second language (ESL). English-language instructors who spend time with students there say they're combining fun and learning--and getting excellent results. Kip Boahn, who has co-led a real-life English-language school in Germany for the last eight years, has become passionate about teaching in "Second Life" and has now built his own ESL center. "Second Life English," Boahn's new project, is a virtual island entirely dedicated to providing free online resources to language teachers and students.
More professionals, but no additional funding. That's the offer the Colorado Department of Education has made to school districts throughout the state. Under its "Forward Thinking" initiative, the Department of Education is taking applications for educational service providers to help close achievement gaps between students of different races and income brackets, including English language learners. Currently, the district receives about $30,000 from state and federal funding for its ELL programs each year, but the average amount the district spends for these services annually is about 10 times that amount.
Delaware public schools have made recent gains in closing achievement gaps. A growing number of educators, parents, students, business leaders, and elected officials attest, however, that greater potential exists. Finding the money to pay for the changes necessary to reach that potential is one of the hurdles that the state faces. ELL teacher Mary Norton believes that the current system is not serving her ELL students, and parent Melanie Cord believes that the system is not challenging her gifted daughter. As Delaware educators and policymakers look ahead to the future, they are facing difficult decisions about which programs to fund, and which to cut.