[No Child Left Behind] was an ambitious program to improve education without the necessary funding to see it through. But no need to go to Washington for an example. We have one right here in Arizona: the 2006 law that requires school districts to boost services for English language learners (ELL).
Seven boys and girls attend the Arapaho Immersion Preschool in Casper, WY. They're developing a broad Arapaho vocabulary and learning the basics of the language. Once they graduate from preschool, however, and go off to attend public school, they're going to quickly lose everything they've learned, says Jerry Redman, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Council of Elders. As a matter of cold arithmetic, the Arapaho language will be dead in less than three decades if children don't start learning it and using it fluently.
Change is on the horizon for students who are enrolled in the English Language Learners' Program in Malden, MA, Public Schools. In two years' time, Superintendent of Schools Sidney Smith, hopes to have English as a Second Language and Sheltered English Instruction programs concentrated in two Malden K-8 schools.
Tens of thousands of Los Angeles students could be on the brink of being qualified to apply to the state's four-year universities, according to a report made public Monday. The report's authors asserted that huge numbers of students could, with the right advice and academic assistance, become bound for the University of California and Cal State University systems. The bad news is that, in too many cases, they aren't getting this help. In fact, a new software system that would, with a push of a button, provide a status report on a student's college preparation is apparently languishing largely unused, said one of the co-authors of the report.
Latino students in early grades are learning, but they aren't moving much beyond basic skills, spurring an achievement gap that widens compared with peers in later grades. That was a key message from Eugene Garcia, vice president for education partnerships at Arizona State University, who spoke to about 100 students and educators at the University of Northern Colorado last week. Garcia shared statistics revealing that while Latino students of first-, second-, and third-generation U.S. families stay close in achievement with Anglo peers in early grades in math and reading, they begin to tail off by third grade. The third-generation Latinos, however, perform most competitively. Garcia said achievement gaps can drop through better-trained teachers, more involved parents and more investment in pre-kindergarten programs.
Blanca García has heard the complaints about immigrants not learning English, and she agrees. Now, she's enrolled in an English as a second language class for adults at her children's school district. When her children pull out their homework to study after dinner, Mrs. García's right there with them, studying new words and grammar, too. The García family represents a growing segment of the population — immigrants struggling to learn a new language who may often rely on their children to translate for them. Like the Garcías, many parents and children are learning together and, in some cases, being taught by the same teachers.
Last week, parents in Tracy, California got a chance to sit with their kids in class and take a backseat to professionals who talked about careers and education during a conference aimed to inspire Latino students to think beyond high school. The Tracy Hispanic Youth Conference at West High School was like a career day for middle- and high school-aged Latinos, though some non-Latino students registered, too, just to hear the speakers. College representatives, news anchors, police officers, and doctors told the stories of how they got to where they are today. Families of older students took younger siblings and went from one classroom to another to hear as many speakers as possible, and some students agreed that having parents participate in the workshops made them more interested.
In the second-floor foyer of the Colorado's Moffat County High School, it's standing room only for parents and children. More elementary and intermediate students arrive with parents in tow as the evening progresses. The space gets tighter. Each year, the annual Family Literacy Carnival has drawn nearly 300 children, plus parents and guardians. Yet, unlike other community events, this one has a distinctive educational purpose. The games the children play at booths require them to read, write, and use basic math skills. The council's message: Reading and writing skills belong in the home as much as the classroom. The carnival "shows parents how to play games with kids at home and reinforce reading and writing skills in a fun way," said one of the event organizers, adding that the carnival demonstrates games that are easy to reproduce and require little equipment.
Students are being asked not to speak Spanish on their bus ride in the 68-student Esmeralda County School District in Nevada — and the decision has prompted an outcry and concern about its legality, as well as intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Conventional wisdom says it is never too early for children to learn a foreign language. But conventional wisdom predates the days of paying someone to teach your child another tongue. An increasing number of American parents fluent in a foreign language, as well as their English-only counterparts, want their children to be bilingual if not multilingual — and are willing to pay a hefty price to do so. While no one knows how much is spent in total on games, books, DVDs, online tools, and foreign-language baby sitters, the amount can easily reach thousands of dollars a year per toddler. That counts tutors who charge $70 an hour, classes for $50 a week, foreign au pairs who can cost $16,000 a year, and annual tuition at private immersion schools that charge $20,000 for nine months of study.