Since Roxana Segura's family moved to a mobile home park in Inver Grove Heights, she has watched the Latino population blossom in her Minnesota community. The number of children from Skyline Village attending the school has doubled in the past few years, to about 70, including many students whose families speak Spanish at home. "I don't think that the school was kind of prepared for all these changes," said Segura, who has two children enrolled at Pine Bend. In response, the school is revamping its relationship with the mobile home park. This month the school plans to roll out an after-school tutoring program. Third- through fifth-grade students will get help with their homework in the community room at Skyline Village. In addition, extra English lessons will be offered at Pine Bend for a half-dozen kindergarteners. The school has also recruited volunteers to spend one-on-one class time with students who are just learning the language.
Maryland may be majority white, but its public schools no longer are. While white residents account for 58.3 percent of the state's population, according to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau data, they make up only 47 percent of the student body this school year. The new majority belongs to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities. The demographic changes are manifesting themselves in the classroom in unexpected ways and with breathtaking speed. The state's public schools quietly became majority minority in 2004 as part of a larger demographic shift occurring in the Washington region and the nation. School administrators across the region said they are spending more time and money, inside and outside the classroom, reaching out to their growing populations of minority students, thousands of whom are new to the United States.
Its the end of the school day at Minnesota's Prairie View Elementary School, but you wouldn't know it if you wandered into one of two Homework Zone classrooms. The classrooms are filled with students reading, filling out worksheets, or gathering together for a word or math game on the whiteboard. The Homework Zone program, which started about three years ago, is primarily used by ELL students. The two Zone classrooms include one for kindergarten and first-grade students and the other for second- through fourth-grade students. Teachers and high school volunteers help to supervise and aid the students, and since the students have access to resources like computers, atlases, and dictionaries, teachers report that homework is finally getting done.
Since Catholic Charities started relocating international refugees to the Pittsburgh area a number of years ago, the Baldwin Borough public library staff has watched the refugees become one of its largest user groups. So, to better serve them, the library recently started an English as a Second Language collection geared toward parents and other adult refugees, made possible by a literacy grant from Verizon. While the initial swell of refugees were from Bosnia, in recent years they have included people from a variety of countries, including some of the so-called "lost boys" of Sudan. The collection includes DVDs, numerous reference books teaching the English language, novels, biographies, books about American culture and occupations, and materials to help prepare for the Testing of English as a Foreign Language exam.
As Canada's Inuit people struggle to keep their native language — Inuktitut — alive, they are looking to Quebec for an example of how to preserve their culture and of how legislation can strengthen a minority language. Two language bills now on the drawing board would require government and territorial bodies to offer services in Inuktitut, English, and French. They would also require private companies and organizations to offer services in Inuktitut — a move that could have huge implications for the people and government in the northern territory.
The son of immigrants from Mexico, Salomon Hernandez Flores knew firsthand the difference an education could make, both in his own life and later as a professor and early proponent of bilingual education. One of the first professors to teach about bilingual education and to bring the bilingual movement to a national level, he became an activist in the civil rights and Chicano rights movements. Flores, who passed away in December, was remembered by his son as a man who "wanted to open minds to the possibilities (and) at least get people to the doors of opportunity."
Ralph Antony Louissant is a sweet-faced 16-year-old who arrived to join his family in Brooklyn from Haiti in August. His family's attempts to get him registered in a New York City public high school started back then and culminated during two weeks in September, in an odyssey through five public high schools, trying to find one that would accept him. Such is the situation with many English-language learners (ELLs), advocates say, where more than half of New York City's new small schools have student bodies in which less than 5 percent are ELLs. And despite a number of rulings saying that each school must provide services for ELLs, Ralph Antony's experience shows that it's perhaps only through family persistence and the intervention of advocates that many immigrant students are getting the services to which they are entitled.
For thousands of Latinos, high school is about more than just making the grade: it's about learning the language. Many of them don't know where to start when it comes to making long term plans. That's where "Opening the Doors to the Future," a college preparation workshop implemented in a Washington school district, comes in. The objective is to provide Latino students and their families an opportunity to speak Latino professionals about how to continue their education and succeed in this country.
School was difficult for Luis Estrada during his first year at an elementary school in Oregon. Even though Luis was a third-grader, he didn't know what was going on because his first language isn't English. Says Luis, "It was like if you were in another world. You were a different person that didn't know anything about that world." Now, after a little bit more than a year, it's not so complicated. While Luis gets about 30 minutes of English as a Second Language instruction, the rest of the day is spent in their regular classes, and all of the teachers at his school have had training on how to help English language learners.
At Excel High School, in South Boston, teachers do not just prepare students academically for the SAT; they take them on practice walks to the building where the SAT will be given so they won't get lost on the day of the test. Those efforts, and others across the country, reflect a growing sense of urgency among educators that the primary goal of many large high schools serving low-income and urban populations — to move students toward graduation — is no longer enough. As a result, many urban and low-income districts, which also serve many immigrants, are experimenting with ways to teach more than the basic skills so that their students can not only get to college, but earn college degrees.