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.
The George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development received a $600,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the math and science aspects of English Language Learner programs in California and New York. "Math and English are gate keeper courses that are necessary for everyone to succeed," said Charlene Rivera, executive director of GW's Center for Equity and Excellence in Education. "The whole goal of this project is to make sure ELL students have the same opportunities as others students. If language is blocking them from making those achievements, that's something we need to work on." The Center for Equity and Excellence in Education received the grant and will conduct a 26-month investigation in collaboration with California and New York state departments of education to identify the academic language demands implicit in state content standards for algebra and biology.
The showing at the city's Spanish spelling bee Friday was far from <i>raquítico</i> â€” a cognate for the English word rachitic, a medical term meaning sickly â€” as was the pride of winner Helena Cortina, 13. <i>Raquítico</i> was the winning word for the eighth-grade English-language-learner whose family recently arrived in Las Cruces from Spain's Canary Islands. Emma Galindo Armendáriz, director of bilingual programs for Las Cruces Public Schools, said the other contenders represented a range of students, from those learning Spanish as a second language to "our Chicanitos."
England's state schools are being barred from choosing pupils from middle-class families by the government's education watchdog on admissions. The schools have been hit by a series of rulings which block them from doing anything that might be seen as giving preferential treatment to middle-class applicants. The policy is being forced through by the government in a drive to use admissions to tackle "segregation" in society. The judgments, which set a precedent extending throughout the state school system, include banning headteachers from asking parents why they want to come to the school, in case this puts non-English speakers at a disadvantage.
Arizona has problems keeping Latino students in high school. It also lacks Spanish-speaking interpreters for hospitals, courts, and businesses. A project in Tucson for both middle and high school students is addressing both issues in a creative and empowering way.
Schools should be taking steps to get parents of English-language learners involved in their children's education despite the significant challenges, says a new policy brief from the researchers at Arizona State University. Doing so will help ELL students overcome the isolation many feel and give non-English speaking parents tools to help their children succeed in school.