ELL News Headlines

Throughout the week, Colorín Colorado gathers news headlines related to English language learners from around the country. The ELL Headlines are posted Monday through Friday and are available for free!

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Federal Probe Rules in Favor of School Whistleblower and Advocate for ELLs

Federal investigators found "credible evidence" that certain Arizona school officials retaliated against their district's former ELL coordinator for advocating for minority students and being a whistleblower in a federal probe of the district's shortcomings in serving ELL students. "The District's actions were intended to intimidate, threaten, coerce, and discriminate against you," the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reported to her last month at the conclusion of its investigation. The district, on the other hand, argued that its actions to demote and terminate the employee were for unacceptable job performance, not because she was a whistleblower. However, the OCR concluded the district could not show, by its treatment of any other employees, that its handling of the whistleblower was usual and customary.

For Bronx School's Dancers, the Moves Are Irish

With a student body that is 71 percent Hispanic and 27 percent black, Public School 59 does not seem an obvious home for a thriving Irish dance troupe. And when Caroline Duggan first arrived from Dublin at age 23 to try her hand as a New York City public school music teacher, it wasn't. Many of her students had never heard of Ireland. Why, they wanted to know, did she talk funny? Then, to stave off homesickness, Ms. Duggan hung a "Riverdance" poster in her fifth-floor classroom, and one thing led to another. The children pointed to a long-haired dancer on the poster and asked if it was her. No, she laughed, but I could show you a few steps. The impromptu lesson grew into a wildly popular after-school program and, for the first time last year, a trip to Ireland that still inspires dreamy looks among those lucky enough to go.

Schools Don't Do Enough to Help Kids Get Into 4-Year Colleges, Study Says

A large number of Chicago public high school students "sell themselves short" by attending two-year colleges or vocational schools when they could go on to four-year colleges, a new report says. The study, "From High School to the Future: Potholes on the Road to College," released Wednesday, found that many students simply gave up trying to go to four-year colleges, discouraged or intimidated by the application and financial-aid processes. The three-year study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago found that Latino students were least likely to apply to four-year schools.

Reaching Out: School Liaisons Bridge Parents' Education and Language Gaps

When parents of students at Maryland's Bladensburg Elementary School need help navigating the complex bureaucracy of their school system, they often wander to a room cluttered with music stands and boxes of chemistry equipment, just outside the main office. This is the Parent Resource Center, Olga Noriega's room. As the school's parent liaison, she serves as a bridge between the staff and the community with the ultimate goal of bolstering student achievement. But in a school where more than 83 percent of about 600 students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, Noriega sometimes provides much more fundamental assistance.

'Superior' Language Program Needs Funds

The English Language Learner population of Delaware's Indian River School District has increased from 259 children in 2001 to 683 this year. In the same period, state ELL funding has dropped from $530 per student to $212. That's $145,047 this year — only enough to pay for half a teacher and three paraprofessionals district-wide. North Georgetown Elementary has been affected the most: Seven years ago, 6 percent of the school's students were English language learners; more than 40 percent are today. Despite these challenges, however, North Georgetown is rated a "superior" school with a student population excelling on state exams.

Population Shift Sends Universities Scrambling

Colleges and universities are anxiously taking steps to address a projected drop in the number of high school graduates in much of the nation starting next year and a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic makeup of the student population, a phenomenon expected to transform the country's higher education landscape, educators and analysts said. After years of being overwhelmed with applicants, higher education institutions will over the next decade recruit from a pool of public high school graduates that will experience, among other trends, a double-digit rise in the proportion of minority students — especially Hispanics — who traditionally are less likely to attend college and to obtain loans to fund education.

Principal Sees Injustice, and Picks a Fight With It

One morning last August, Yvonne Watterson, the principal of Arizona's GateWay Early College High School, sat in her office, grimly scrolling through the database of its 240 students. At the behest of a new state law, she looked for which ones listed a Social Security number and which did not. Without a number, it was virtually certain that a child was in America illegally. Under the statute popularly known as Proposition 300, illegal immigrants could not receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Arizona. Nor could school administrators like Ms. Watterson use state money to pay it. After losing at least one student due to the law, Yvonne Watterson vowed to do something so she would not lose any more of her students, partly because of her childhood experiences in her hometown in Northern Ireland.

WASL: Take It Without a Bit of English?

The Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests have become a frustrating annual exercise for both students and educators at Seattle's Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center. The 263 teenage students there are all recent immigrants and refugees who don't yet speak or read well enough in English to transfer to one of Seattle Public Schools' traditional middle or high schools — meaning that even if they understand the material covered on a section of the WASL, there's still virtually no way they'll pass. Still, federal law requires the school to make sure its students meet the same test-score targets as students who speak English fluently — no exceptions. None of the students at the Bilingual Orientation Center in recent years has passed the WASL, landing the school on the federal "needs improvement" list, an embarrassing label that comes with new sanctions each year.

EdSource: Progress Report on California's ELLs

For at least a decade, one-fourth of California's primary and secondary school students have, on average, been English-language learners. So educators in states that are the "new kids on the block" in teaching such students might want to spend some time with EdSource's report, "English Learners in California: What the Numbers Say." (The 16-page report costs $5.) The report gives some answers to important questions about student achievement, and poses some additional questions that need to be answered. Those answers will carry weight because California enrolls one-third of the nation's ELLs.

Judge Gives State Additional Time to Boost ELL Funding

Legislators are getting more time to increase funding for instruction of Arizona public school students who are learning the English language, but the state also faces hefty fines if lawmakers miss the new deadline. U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins on Tuesday granted a request by Republican legislative leaders for an extension to a now-expired March 4 deadline that Collins had set last October.