Having just returned from reporting in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan for Education Week and exploring Egypt (on vacation), I'm particularly interested in an article just published in <i>Childhood Education</i> that guides teachers in selecting children's literature about the Arab world. It seems that teachers of diverse groups of children have caught on to using various stories in their classrooms about Latin American culture. But the teaching of Arab children's literature is less prevalent. The <i>Childhood Education</i> article gives teachers an opportunity to expand their repertoire of children's literature in that regard.
Two Kansas institutions of higher learning are offering full scholarships to 20 future teachers in exchange for a commitment to teach for two years in the Kansas City, Kansas School District after graduation. The aim of the initiative is to support financially needy bilingual students interested in pursuing a degree in education while providing some of tomorrow's bilingual classroom English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teachers.
Pennsylvania's Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board is examining important issues affecting the county's Latino population, and most recently brainstormed about ways to keep Latino students in school. Latinos now make up the majority of students in the School District of Lancaster; in 2006, 51 percent of students did not make it to graduation. The board discussed ways to engage students and families, effective intervention strategies, and how to best address the issues that are having a significant impact the county's Latino community.
An effort to inject new blood into the teaching ranks of the St. Paul Public Schools is gaining serious steam. Since launching in late 2007, the St. Paul Teaching Fellows project has garnered 430 applicants and resulted in interviews of 39 prospective new teachers, said Norah Barrett, St. Paul site manager for the project. The project has focused on lassoing folks who have little or no teaching experience but are driven by the passion to help urban kids succeed in order to fill hard-to-place special education, math and science, and English language learner teaching jobs with recent college graduates and current professionals.
More than half of the students at Iowa's McKinley Elementary School speak a first language other than English. Teachers like Renee Flack work to provide extra support to those students to keep them caught up in their classrooms. About 150 of McKinley's approximate 300 students are enrolled in the English Language Learner program there. Flack, one of three ELL teachers, said the students are at different levels of English proficiency, but for the most part she tries to reinforce what they are learning from their classroom teachers.
A controversial scholarship that benefited Arizona State University students who are in the country illegally has quietly faded away. As many as 200 students who graduated from Arizona high schools received the private scholarship money through the university this year. Now the money is spent, and ASU is advising students who depended on it to "seek private funding sources." The scholarships were a response to Proposition 300, a voter-approved law that requires illegal immigrants to pay the out-of-state tuition rate at the state's public universities and colleges.
When Jessica Caballero comes into her daughter's classroom, she wonders if the young special needs student is in the correct classroom for her abilities. Caballero's daughter, Martha Arancibia, was diagnosed with West syndrome when she was five months old while the pair was still living in Peru. Ten months ago, Caballero's father was able to get the mother and daughter into the country, partly to have the opportunity for a better life, and for Martha to get the special education that she could not get in Peru. While Caballero wades through the frustrating waters of the special education process, however, she is also bound by another difficulty — her inability to speak English.
Ma'Lena Wirth has been working to help non-English and limited-English speaking parents understand the importance of being involved in their children's education for the past seven years. As an interpreter paraprofessional in the district's English as a Second Language (ESL) program at an Oregon school, Wirth tells parents that they are partners in their children's education, employing a program she says is "designed to empower the parent."
When discussing lofty concepts such as "rule of law," it helps to use real-world examples. So as Alfonso Aguilar spoke to a class of Vietnamese immigrants prepping for the U.S. citizenship test yesterday, he noted that in his parents' homelands — Costa Rica and Italy — people view stop signs as "recommendations," not mandates. The mood was light. But to Aguilar, the classroom was no less than a front in an "assimilation movement for the 21st century." As chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship, Aguilar has spearheaded a new federal initiative to get immigrants to embrace English and American political values at a time of surging immigration — a trend that he warned could lead to a "country of enclaves."
By dividing Maryland's Montgomery County school district into two zones (the "red zone," where mostly poor, minority, and English-language learning students live, and the "green zone," where predominantly white, affluent, and English-speaking students live) and addressing needs in both, district leaders are making headway in conquering achievement gaps. So far, leaders have maintained a delicate balance between "raising the bar and closing the gap" that has enabled the nation's 16th-largest school district to narrow achievement gaps while retaining the support of wealthier, highly educated parents. But as the district moves onto the much tougher shoals of middle school reform, that balance could be sorely tested.