Representatives from Colorado's Mesa County Valley School District are sharing their strategies for a challenge facing many of the state's school districts: How to graduate more of its Hispanic students. A program providing extra support in the form of a liaison to the students most at risk of dropping out of school, as well as their families, was implemented four years ago in the district, and now serves as a model for other districts around the state.
Here's a new and significant research finding that won't surprise many of No Child Left Behind's (NCLB) school-based critics: high-stakes, test-based accountability — exactly what the law promotes — has a direct, negative impact on graduation rates. That result, from a new study out of Rice University in Houston and the University of Texas-Austin, flies in the face of NCLB's aim: to improve schools and create more equitable educational success for minorities. Indeed, each year 135,000 students leave Texas public high schools ahead of graduation, and a disproportionate number are African American, Latino, and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.
Larry Ferlazzo, who teaches English-language learners at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, CA, testified on his blog this week that it's possible for a high school with lots of English-language learners to make it out of "program improvement" status under the No Child Left Behind Act.
State and national civil liberties advocates have compelled a rural Nevada school district to roll back a policy prohibiting high school students from speaking Spanish on the bus. The guideline was approved at an October school board meeting and affected about a dozen children from Hispanic families who ride a school bus more than an hour each way between Dyer, in Esmeralda County, and Tonopah High School, over the Nye County line. Most of the Hispanic children are from immigrant families drawn to the area to work its cattle ranches and alfalfa farms.
Tennessee's Metro Schools celebrated the opening of the district's new ELL, or English Language Learners, center Thursday. Part of the expanded center is an academy aimed at teaching a select group of immigrant children, many of whom who have never seen a classroom before, how to attend school. Judy Edwards, teacher, said, "Most of our children came straight from refugee camps where there was just no educational experience whatsoever."
I sit across from an Afghan boy named Ali. Ten years old, he is doing reading and writing exercises tailored to his English-as-second-language level, part of a local non-profit program that helps refugee children with literacy. He asks me if I can help him with his schoolwork instead, and I agree. As I open up the Grade 5 reader and go through reading comprehension with him, I am baffled. Asked to underline the words he doesn't know, he turns the page red as he stumbles across each sentence, often resorting to phonics to read. He tells me that he is often frustrated because he falls behind in his classes. Ali is one of many students who struggle with the current integrated approach to ESL.
Having just returned from reporting in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan for Education Week and exploring Egypt (on vacation), I'm particularly interested in an article just published in <i>Childhood Education</i> that guides teachers in selecting children's literature about the Arab world. It seems that teachers of diverse groups of children have caught on to using various stories in their classrooms about Latin American culture. But the teaching of Arab children's literature is less prevalent. The <i>Childhood Education</i> article gives teachers an opportunity to expand their repertoire of children's literature in that regard.
Two Kansas institutions of higher learning are offering full scholarships to 20 future teachers in exchange for a commitment to teach for two years in the Kansas City, Kansas School District after graduation. The aim of the initiative is to support financially needy bilingual students interested in pursuing a degree in education while providing some of tomorrow's bilingual classroom English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teachers.
Pennsylvania's Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board is examining important issues affecting the county's Latino population, and most recently brainstormed about ways to keep Latino students in school. Latinos now make up the majority of students in the School District of Lancaster; in 2006, 51 percent of students did not make it to graduation. The board discussed ways to engage students and families, effective intervention strategies, and how to best address the issues that are having a significant impact the county's Latino community.
An effort to inject new blood into the teaching ranks of the St. Paul Public Schools is gaining serious steam. Since launching in late 2007, the St. Paul Teaching Fellows project has garnered 430 applicants and resulted in interviews of 39 prospective new teachers, said Norah Barrett, St. Paul site manager for the project. The project has focused on lassoing folks who have little or no teaching experience but are driven by the passion to help urban kids succeed in order to fill hard-to-place special education, math and science, and English language learner teaching jobs with recent college graduates and current professionals.