The large wave of refugees from war-ravaged Central America that arrived two decades ago has transformed more than neighborhoods, the workforce, and restaurant cuisine of Southern California. Now, as Vanessa Guerrero's new diploma from California State University at Northridge shows, the influence of that migration is also being embraced academically by one of the region's largest public universities, as Guerrero recently became the first student in the United States to earn a bachelor's degree in Central American studies.
Across Indiana and in local schools, the number of students identified as having limited English proficiency has grown exponentially since the 1990s. As the number of students who need help learning English grows, schools have had to adapt with programs to meet those needs. One principal said that about a third of the students in her school this year are Hispanic, but fewer students are coming from Mexico — more of the students were born here and speak Spanish at home. The lack of background knowledge and vocabulary is where those students tend to struggle, as well as the overlooked consideration that students come from diverse education backgrounds.
California's Moreno Valley Unified School District trustees, employees, and parents met Saturday to discuss cutting English-language development specialists from the employee roster. In the district, English-language development specialists are credentialed teachers, but they do not work with students in the classroom. Some parents at the meeting suggested changing the job description of the specialist instead of eliminating the position as debate continues about the specialists' function and role in the district's ELL program.
With Daniela Moya's high school graduation looming, her parents offered her a joint mea culpa. Her parents brought her from Mexico to the U.S. at age 8 and enrolled her in Tennessee's Metro Nashville schools. The parents overstayed their visas, and their status shifted to undocumented. Now, Moya, 17, may be unable to attend college, though she has a 3.4 grade point average, received unsolicited recruiting packages from Princeton University, and speaks and writes in English and Spanish. Two proposed laws — one federal, one state — would deal with Moya's situation in far different manners. The federal Dream Act would let her and students like her enter public colleges and universities and would even hold out a possibility of in-state tuition. Tennessee's plan would bar state schools from admitting her and others who cannot prove they're in the country legally.
Next month, Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley community will launch a new effort to get more Spanish speakers and younger readers involved in their local "The Big Read" month-long event. As part of the effort, communities are being invited to read the same book and then discuss it. The book selected is <em>Bless Me, Ultima,</em> by celebrated Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya, a one-time Chicano-rights activist, former teacher, and recipient of the 2001 National Medal of Arts. The book is a coming-of-age story about a young Latino boy living in New Mexico who is guided by a mysterious <em>curandera</em>, or traditional healer, as he confronts problems and puzzles in his life.
<em>Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico!: Americas' Sproutings</em>, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López, is a book about many edible things. Peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more — all of these native foods of the Americas are celebrated in this luscious collection of haiku poems.
The Panther Cafe at Maryland's Annapolis High School is a teenager's after-school paradise. Students can grab a banana smoothie and dive into the virtual world of Nintendo Wii. They can opt for the old-fashioned fun of ping pong, air hockey, or chess. Some may decide to take salsa lessons. All of this is available three days a week in the school cafeteria, as long as they attend a mandatory help session with a teacher or tutor other students. Since the cafe opened in October, grade point averages have increased, there have been fewer incidents of bad behavior during lunch periods, and the student body has become more cohesive — all goals for the school as it seeks to improve its reputation.
Emmanuel Bolio, a second-grader at Hoover Elementary School in Redwood City, CA, looks at a difficult sentence in the storybook that's open on his desk. He wants Grace Walovich to read it for him, but she insists he try it himself. "You can do it," she says. In a classroom with some 20 kids, most of them nonnative English speakers, a teacher rarely gets the chance to devote so much individual attention to one student. But Walovich isn't Bolio's teacher — she's a sophomore at Woodside High School who serves as his "buddy" in a mentoring program called Forever Read.
From <em>Education Week</em>'s Learning the Language Blog: "I draw your attention to the reporting project that took me to Amman, Jordan, for 10 days: "The Lost Years: Iraqi Students in Jordan," a collection of photos, videos, and an in-depth article about Iraqi refugees. It was published this week by <em>Education Week</em>. The project isn't, of course, about English-language learners in the United States — the subject of this blog — but many of the nation's ELLs are refugees and the piece might give you some insight into issues affecting displaced people in general."
More Utah students will soon have an opportunity to learn languages such as Arabic and Chinese thanks to a last-minute decision by state lawmakers Wednesday night. Just before midnight, the Senate approved House changes to a bill that would put $750,000 toward dual-immersion language programs and language classes. Twenty Utah high schools and junior highs already offer Chinese and Arabic, and the bill, if signed by the governor, would enable another 40 schools to also offer Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. It also would help create 15 elementary school dual-immersion programs in Chinese, Spanish, French, and Navajo.