Maxima Valdez wanted to help her daughters with their homework. Balbina Vasquez signed up to be able to speak with doctors and her four children's teachers. The Spanish-speaking mothers and others like them find assistance through the Even Start Family Literacy Program, a state-funded program run by Reading Area Community College.Even Start's goal is to make parents self-sufficient and prepare children from low-income city families for kindergarten in the Reading School District, said Janet G. Sands, program coordinator.
The valedictorian at Fresno's Bullard High School won't be attending college in the United States this fall because he's scheduled to be deported. Seventeen-year-old Arthur Mkoyan's 4.0 grade-point average qualified him to enter one of the state's top universities. But he and his mother have been ordered back to Armenia after their last appeal for asylum failed. The family fled from what used to be part of the Soviet Union and has been seeking asylum since 1992.
Ong Vue's very first day of school came when she was 15 and was enrolled in 9th grade at Sacramento's Luther Burbank High School after arriving here as a refugee from Thailand, speaking Thai and Hmong but no English. Four years later, Ms. Vue is a senior, has passed the math section of California's high school exit exam, and plans to attend community college in the fall. Despite her clear academic progress, Ms. Vue's showing on standardized tests has been a handicap in her school's quest to meet the yardstick for adequate yearly progress, or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Her experience is an example of why some educators here say the accountability provisions of the law don't provide a complete picture of the quality of education at a school that has a high number of ELL students.
Watching fourth-grader James Savas dominate a "Geography Jeopary" game at his Illinois elementary school, one would never guess he wasn't a native English speaker. But he moved to Elburn, IL from Puerto Rico less than two years ago, and this social studies class is an English Language Learner class. James' rural school district has seen an explosion of ELL students in the past few years — and they are not alone. As the school year comes to a close, plenty of districts are refining their ELL curriculums, incorporating new teaching strategies and adding new staff. They're also recognizing the opportunity that ELL students offer: a firsthand look at world cultures for all students.
Each morning at the Early Learning Center in Green Bay, Spanish- and English-speaking five-year-olds join hands and get a free lesson in cultural exchange. Through fun activities, they are learning each other's language. The only hurdle for the bilingual program is finding teachers. "It's very difficult to find bilingual teachers who are certified to teach in bilingual education," John Wilson of the Green Bay School District's human resources department says.
From passionate stories of imaginary friends to bed-jumping and play dates gone awry, preschool teachers are often amused by the tales their students tell in school. But in Marisol Sierra's classes at Chicago's McKinley Park Elementary School, the stories told by 4- and 5-year-olds often have startling twists. They talk about riding their bicycles and playing house. But they also bring up "los gang bangers" and how to avoid getting shot.
With several Chicago Public Schools students killed by gunfire this year, Sierra has had to update her curriculum to include lessons that could mean life or death to her pupils. Her work earned her a 2008 Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award.
In the past three years, the number of children enrolled in Georgia's Barrow County School System who struggled to speak English has almost doubled. At the same time, about 10 percent more of the students enrolled in Barrow County's English Language Learner program passed all parts of state-mandated standardized tests than students in similar programs across the state. While there's no one strategy Barrow ELL Director Julie Garrison sees as key to the program's success, she thinks it's partly due to the fact that Barrow County teachers had a head start in dealing with substantial groups of students who weren't native English speakers.
No one can read our thoughts, for now, but some scientists believe they can at least figure out in what language we do our thinking. Before we utter a single word, experts can gauge our mother tongue and the level of proficiency in other languages by analyzing our brain activity while we read, scientists working with Italy's National Research Council say. For more than a year, a team of scientists experimented on 15 interpreters, revealing what they say were surprising differences in brain activity when the subjects were shown words in their native language and in other languages they spoke. The findings show how differently the brain absorbs and recalls languages learned in early childhood and later in life, said Alice Mado Proverbio, a professor of cognitive electrophysiology at the Milano-Bicocca University in Milan.
Every year, more than 50 kindergartners enroll in Albany schools needing help learning English. As a result, a new committee will study whether Albany can deliver better services to English language learners (ELLs) through more bilingual classes, particularly at the young elementary level. Albany schools have established a 10-member committee, made up of administrators, ELL teachers, and a school board member, to explore this idea. The plan is to present a recommendation to the school board in December or January and maybe have a pilot program in a classroom or two by next fall.
Two groups in Austin are joining forces to help families succeed through basic literacy tutoring and ESL classes. Literacy Austin and Lifeworks are now able to expand their services while helping children and their families. According to Literacy Austin, 24 percent of Texans read below the 5th grade reading level, and Texas ranks 11th in percentage of people over the age of 25 who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.