One year ago, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico. For the educators, students, and parents who remain on the island, nothing has been the same since. In sheer practical terms, they are grappling with lingering storm damage, shifts in school assignments after hundreds of buildings were closed in the wake of the hurricane, and the implications of a system-wide reorganization. Amid it all, the island’s education leaders are still trying to grasp the extent of the trauma they and their school communities are suffering, and how best to address that emotional and psychological pain.
Last month, the Providence public schools were sharply criticized by the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to provide adequate services to its English language learners. In a settlement agreement with Justice, the School Department agreed to make sweeping changes to how students are identified as needing language services, what types of services are provided and promised to hire more teachers trained in this field. Providence isn't alone. The Justice Department has entered into similar agreements with Boston, Worcester, Arizona and California.
For undocumented immigrant families who live with the constant fear of deportation, Hurricane Florence presented an extra set of challenges. Many immigrants in the Carolinas live in trailers and other forms of low-income housing that can be especially vulnerable in natural disasters. Hurricane Florence forced them to think about whether seeking government resources like shelter, food or other aid would help them get through the storm, or put them at greater risk.
When the heavy rains from Tropical Storm Florence finally let up, the operations crew from the New Hanover County district in North Carolina found flooded classrooms, leaking roofs, downed trees, blown-out light bulbs on athletic fields, a massive sink hole in front of a high school with a toppled tree blocking the driveway, and no electricity in most schools. But of all the damage that Superintendent Tim Markley had seen, there's one image he can't shake: the sight of one of his teachers, arriving at a shelter.
Florence, which struck the Carolinas as a Category 1 hurricane Friday and continues to breed tornadoes and floods on the East Coast, has taken a particularly harsh toll on North Carolina's most vulnerable residents — tens of thousands of homeless, working poor and farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented. Homeless shelters have seen an influx of people who rode out the storm at emergency evacuation centers but now have nowhere to go. Advocates for farmworkers have said many did not know the Hurricane Florence was coming, because there were few warnings in Spanish, and stayed in crowded housing facilities with inadequate food and water. Others who went to shelters are nervous about leaving them, afraid they will be taken into custody by immigration agents.
For decades, two factors drove the demand for dual-language education: a desire to preserve native languages and recognition that dual-language learning can boost overall achievement for English-language learners. Now, a growing number of states also see bilingualism as key to accessing the global economy, as evidenced by the surging popularity of the "seal of biliteracy" — a special recognition for graduates who demonstrate fluency in two or more languages. The popularity of the seal is spurring even more demand for dual-language-education programs.
In this essay about her National Honor Society Scholarship, college freshman Jenny Rodriguez writes, "Throughout my schooling, I always worked hard and aimed high — traits I see in many immigrant families. I found ways of helping others in my community, volunteering with church, and playing the role of tutor, translator and advocate for students who had experiences similar to mine. I knew I could help them in ways that my parents would have wanted to help me. The day I won the National Honor Society Scholarship changed everything for my family."
It just so happened that as Hurricane Florence was approaching the Carolinas, teacher Justin Parmenter was giving a lesson on empathy to his students in a seventh-grade language arts class at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte. In this post, Parmenter writes about the real-life lesson in empathy kids can get from the hurricane.
Over the past year, a flurry of new immigration policy directives and actions have gushed forth like water from a broken fire hydrant, layering over each other and causing confusion for schools and other service providers. The shifting landscape means educators must proactively consider how the current U.S. political climate is affecting their increasing number of students from immigrant families, including those who are undocumented and whose families are of mixed legal status.
In 1930s Kentucky, in coal country, books made their way to remote and isolated regions of the state through The Pack Horse Library Project.