The University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools wants to end its requirement of SAT subject tests as a factor in admissions. Unlike the much broader SAT, subject tests measure a student's knowledge of specific subject areas covering 20 different topics, from advanced mathematics and science to fine art and language skills. Critics say the tests contribute little to predicting college success and may hurt the chances of minority students. Yet the facts strongly show otherwise.
Colorado's Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 used to have about 800 students classified as English language learners. This year, the number dropped to around 300, based on a new way of testing and classifying English language learners adopted by the district and the state of Colorado. But those 500 students dropped off the ELL rolls belong to a category of students who claim English as their primary home language yet struggle because of their limited background vocabulary. Students who lack a variety of experiences, do not come from highly literate backgrounds, or grow up in vocabulary-poor environments can end up in a similar situation as English language learners, with a small base vocabulary and poor knowledge of the structure of English, even though they might speak fluently.
A new community program in Green Bay, WI hopes to assist Latino families with language barriers at home. The Centro Comunitario Episcopal and Nicolet Elementary School have launched a homework program to assist children from Spanish-speaking families who need extra help staying on top of their homework. School principal Tammy Van Dyke said staff members already have identified 40 students from Spanish-speaking families with the greatest academic need who are eligible for this program. Like other schools in the Green Bay School District, Nicolet has seen its number of Latino students grow in the past dozen years. Fifty-one percent of the school's population is Hispanic, Van Dyke said.
At Pennsylvania's Shenandoah Valley School District, Eileen Marchetti teaches 62 students English as a Second Language in two rooms that used to be the staff lounge. "The number of students changes from year to year, but it's growing steadily. We're at a premium for space here," she said. According to Leah Harris, assistant press secretary from the state Department of Education, about 45,306 Pennsylvania students in kindergarten through 12th grade speak 175 different languages but do not read, write, or speak English proficiently.
If the young poets were nervous, it didn't show. Each of the teenage bards walked or bounded onstage and recited her or his verses with self-assurance and enthusiasm — apparently undaunted by the more famous poets with whom they shared the stage, the packed house full of attentive strangers and the presence of San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman in the front row. The WritersCorps poetry program sprang from a "marriage of NEA and AmeriCorps" as a pilot program in San Francisco, the Bronx, and Washington, D.C.
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.