School officials in Postville, Iowa, were still working last week to cope with the logistical and emotional aftermath of a raid on a local meatpacking plant by federal immigration authorities that left some students' parents in custody and tensions high in the local Latino community.
Just inside the front doors of Arkansas' Tillery Elementary School, 12 computers on child-sized desks line the walls under the train murals. Every few minutes, a group of 12 students comes into the area and sits on the floor, waiting to see where their name will pop up on one of the computer screens. When they see their name and picture on the screen, it's time to sit down and start learning. Tests results are not yet in for this school year, but with another month of school to go, almost all the first graders at Tillery are working at or above grade level. This is particularly impressive since many of those students are English Language Learners.
Princeton University is currently reviewing a proposal to offer a Latino studies program, an issue that has been on the administration's table for more than 10 years. If approved, the Latino studies program may be available to students as soon as two years from now. The program, which will now focus on the experience of Latinos in the United States, would be different from the existing program in Latin American studies.
Karen Mazzotta wasted no time on a recent morning, quizzing a dozen students at Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-5 in Squirrel Hill about the calendar, the weather, and the letter of the day. She had the children scour the room for words beginning with "Q," then count and pronounce them. "Who always hangs out with the letter 'Q'?" she asked, hinting, "It's a vowel." Ms. Mazzotta is one of 14 Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers who work exclusively with students learning English as a second language (ESL), a small if quickly growing group of students here.
The Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, New York — an English-Arabic public school — provoked controversy before it even opened. Critics described it as a <em>madrassa</em> headed by a radical Islamist hoping to proselytize to her students. Supporters saw the project as an educational environment for children of diverse backgrounds to learn Arabic language and culture, and say that the school should be viewed no differently than schools that specialize in Spanish or Chinese.
It's easy to understand why Valeria Silva and Armando Camacho have been rapidly rising stars in the highly diverse constellation of St. Paul's public school district. They're smart, passionate role models for a multicultural student population they connect with very well. Neither Silva nor Camacho knew English when they arrived in Minnesota in the early 1980s. Each has vivid memories of flying into America on a frigid December day, she from Chile at age 24 and he from Puerto Rico at age 6. Both ended up at St. Cloud State University, graduated summa cum laude and quickly found their niche in Twin Cities education circles, effectively teaching, leading, and reforming achievement rates for immigrant and special needs students.
Illinois' Plainfield School District 202 will take advantage of a special state program to recruit and hire bilingual teachers: a small group of district administrators will travel this month to Mexico City, along with officials from other nearby districts, in search of bilingual educators. The district plans to hire about 20 English Language Learner teachers this year, but even after doing so, it is anticipated that several positions will remain unfilled because of the district's rapid growth, officials said.
Rather than have the students sit at their desks and compose and read stories alone, Angela Werth, a teacher in California's Ventura County, was using "think, pair, share" — a group teaching method that allows students to help one another through the reading and writing lesson. To the children it was a simple reading lesson, but by letting them share before asking them to write independently, their teacher said she was employing a "collective" approach to teaching, a counterbalance to the "individualistic" approach most common in U.S. schools.
In a move that could prompt major changes in the way states measure the achievement of English-language learners, the U.S. Department of Education is planning to tell states they must each use a consistent yardstick in determining when a child is fluent in English and when that child no longer needs special ELL services. A proposed "interpretation" of the No Child Left Behind Act's Title III — the conduit for most federal funding for ELL programs — says that states must further standardize the criteria they use to report how well such students are learning English.
Top elected official in Virginia's Prince William County asserted last month that an exodus of immigrant families after the county's crackdown on illegal immigration is saving the school system millions of dollars because it has to educate fewer students who are learning English as a second language. But Prince William school officials say that the departure of nearly 760 students this school year from the English for Speakers of Other Languages program has not brought a financial windfall to the school system, contrary to an estimate of $6 million in savings cited by Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large).