Across California, community college leaders are writing action plans for improving so-called "basic skills" (otherwise known as remedial or developmental) and English as a Second Language education as part of a system-wide initiative. Foundations have poured in funds to improve instruction and the scaffolding that supports it. And in the classrooms, often with foundation support, faculty are talking about developmental education in new ways, re-imagining what it is and how to do it, and experimenting with curricular innovations — with the goal of creating models for other instructors operating in solitude behind their classrooms' closed doors.
Canada's Greater Victoria school district is looking at doubling the number of full-day, English-as-a-second-language kindergarten classes it offers in an effort to reach as many students as possible. ESL kindergarten, which has provincial funding, is currently offered at two of the district's elementary schools, but the district is gauging interest in adding classes at two more schools in schools that serve big ESL populations.
When Marco Carrillo, a naturalized American and a high school valedictorian, went to meet with his college counselor, her major worry about his future had little to do with his SAT scores or essay or extracurricular activities. It had to do with his citizenship. Such questions have become commonplace in Arizona, where voters passed a 2006 referendum, Proposition 300, that forbids college students who cannot prove they are legal residents from receiving state financial assistance. One of several recent immigration statutes passed by Arizona voters and legislators frustrated by federal inaction, the law also prohibits in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Administrators at several campuses fear that the provision has priced some out of their classes, particularly at the state's popular community colleges.
North Carolinian school secretary Beverly Joy used to pull her school's ESL teacher out of class each time she had to make a phone call to a Spanish-speaking parent. This year, something changed — Joy decided it was time to learn a little Spanish. As Durham schools officials turned their focus to customer service this year, several staff members realized a good start to improving school-family relations was pretty simple — speak the same language. It would give both the school workers and Spanish-speaking parents more confidence in communicating, and also would help relieve those ESL teachers from always being tapped for extra translating work. So the school district has arranged for a Durham Technical Community College Spanish instructor to give district educators Spanish lessons.
When it comes to administering standardized tests to students this spring, officials of an Illinois school district are facing a multiple choice problem of their own. Students who speak limited English will not be able to take an adapted test as they have in past years. To help these students, the state will provide a glossary of "non-content-based words." But such accommodations will only be available in 10 languages, although dozens more languages are spoken in the district. Teachers and assessment directors say that these changes are going to put students in a difficult situation and will not be a true measurement of what they know.
Almost every day, Frederick County Public Schools' English Language Learning Department fields a request for an interpreter to communicate with a family who doesn't speak English. While schools often need a Spanish speaker to translate transcripts or talk to a family about PTA meetings, more elaborate scenarios are becoming common — last week a request as made for an interpreter who spoke a Nigerian language. With a growing and increasingly diverse population of foreign-born students, Frederick County Public Schools is facing a more pressing need for services to support them.
A Massachusetts school district is looking into the possibility of expanding the district's foreign language programs, taking into consideration which languages will offer the best preparation for students' careers and futures in a global economy, and will offer students practical operating knowledge of cultures in real life applications. While no decisions have yet been made, the language that has been most predominately talked about is Mandarin Chinese. Other languages like French and Spanish are likely to continue to be taught, as well as Latin and even Greek, which some committee members have recently suggested.
School administrators across the state say chickens are coming home to roost for the Arizona Legislature and its handling of a potentially costly education funding issue. Trying to resolve a class-action lawsuit over the adequacy of programs for students learning English, the Legislature in 2006 enacted a law that sets new mandates on instruction and created a process for school districts to get state dollars to cover the costs. That pricetag amounts to $304 million in increased costs if the state doesn't shortchange districts and provides them with the necessary funding, according to Arizona School Administrators, a statewide association.
Parents of minority students are less likely to be involved in college-related decision-making with their children than their White counterparts, a new survey by the Higher Education Research Institute indicates. Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute, housed on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, describes the lack of parental involvement for minority students as troubling, particularly in the case of Hispanic students. The report reveals that White students are far less likely than students of other races or ethnicities to indicate "too little" parental involvement in dealing with college officials. Only 12 percent of White students surveyed reported "too little" involvement from their parents in dealing with college recruiters and counselors, compared to 32 percent of Latinos.
Some of Stephanie Bartlett's middle school students played the role of restaurant wait staff. Others pretended to be ordering from a menu. All of them were practicing how to speak English. The lesson was one example of a new approach toward teaching English to students who speak another native language. Like Bartlett, teachers throughout Oregon have been trained in Systematic English Language Development, an instructional methodology that focuses on teaching students practical English, from ordering a steak and baked potato at a restaurant to returning a defective product to a store. By also adopting a curriculum, school officials hope to bring consistency to ELL instruction throughout the district and reinforce the instructional techniques teachers learned in their recent training.