When Carlos de Mestral came from Paraguay as a high school sophomore, the total of his English vocabulary was: "My name is Carlos." By his senior year, while he worked carpentry and car wash jobs to help his family pay the rent, he was taking Advanced Placement English. Not only did he get into college, he got into Harvard. Not only that, he received a full scholarship. De Mestral and his 18-year-old sister, Celia, are among the latest students to be awarded a small scholarship by El Centro Hispano, a community agency in White Plains. The program, designed to help young Latino students go to college, began humbly in 1980.
A lack of good quality children's books in Arabic means that parents are reading to their children from English books, said a publisher. Isobel Abul Houl, publisher for Jeroboam books that publishes children's books in both English and Arabic, said: "There's a lack of good children's books in terms of illustration, quality and imagination, so the majority of children's books in Arabic are often translated or they're poor quality."
The creators of the One Laptop per Child initiative may have been thinking of helping children in the developing world, but cities such as Immokalee, FL, feel its kids would benefit, too. Nevertheless, it's unclear how much the laptops can bridge the achievement gap for the kids of migrant workers.
Students raised speaking languages other than English have been a steadily growing part of Wisconsin's population, but few were prepared for this finding when the state adopted a new test for identifying such children a few years ago: The suburban school districts of Racine and St. Francis surged ahead of Milwaukee Public Schools, each with a higher percentage of their students labeled English language learners, in the 2005-'06 school year.
It's often said that play is a child's work. When fall comes, a group of young children in Naperville, IL will be doing their work at a child development center entirely in Chinese. Program directors say that their goal is for the younger students to spend two or three years learning the language and then head for kindergarten fully fluent in Mandarin.
Immokalee, FL, is the largest center for migrant farmworkers on the East Coast. Juan Medina, a former agricultural worker, worked the fields with his family, planting onions in west Texas and picking tomatoes in Homestead, FL. Medina now works for the Florida Department of Education, trying to help the children of migrant workers deal with the challenges of migrant life. He is part of a town effort to help the children stay in school with a new tool — free laptops.
Maryland has adopted a promising new strategy to deal with the U.S. shortage of skilled foreign language speakers, one that offers a model for other states. A new state law seeks to make better use of an under-valued language asset: immigrants and their descendants. Many of these "heritage speakers" converse in a foreign language at home and learn English at school. This early bilingual experience helps them in mastering critical languages such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Chinese, and Wolof, to name just a few.
Gov. Martin O'Malley recently signed into law a bill creating the Task Force on the Preservation of Heritage Language Skills. It charges the task force with making an inventory of existing heritage resources and recommending steps to use them better.
Through a summer school immersion program focused on communication skills of English language learners in Yuma, AZ is striving to improve immigrant students' chances of overall academic success, according to a school official. The English Language Learners (ELL) Academy intends to integrate students into the community and expects to provide a firm foundation of language skills first, said Gary Wright, governing board member of Yuma Elementary School District 1.
Each Friday after school, teachers at East Boston's Donald McKay K-8 School brush up on basic Spanish with help from their young Latino students to help them connect with their classes, boost the confidence of those new to this country, and instill pride in the students' heritage. In a school system where Latinos are more likely than any other ethnic group to drop out, McKay stands out as a shining exception. University researchers are studying McKay and four other schools with high levels of Latino achievement to identify what they are doing right.
At the Welcome Center at Mifflin International Middle School, students are cramming for a test that English language learners continue to struggle with. Most Ohio high-school students, who start taking the Ohio Graduation Test in 10th grade, must pass all five sections — math, reading, science, social studies and writing — to earn a diploma. "The test winds up being a reading test. It's about how well you can read and understand," said Ken Woodard, who heads the Columbus City Schools' English as a Second Language programs.