The State Board of Education gave unanimous approval last week to a new English and reading curriculum for Texas' 4.6 million public school students, although the contentious battle over what gets included in language arts textbooks and what gets taught in classrooms is far from finished. The product of nearly three years of work, the new curriculum will affect the teaching of reading, writing and grammar in kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as the content of the state's high-stakes standardized tests.
Inside this classroom at Massachusetts' Stacey Middle School, filled exclusively with "English language learner" students, Maria Smolina, 13, was enough at ease to share an essay she wrote about her arrival in the United States two years ago. Smolina is one of about 200 students attending the Milford school system's redesigned program for newcomers to English. The initiative will be put to the test over the next week, as Milford joins schools across the state in administering the English language arts segment of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
Immigration is changing urban libraries in this country as well as public schools. "Welcome, Stranger: Public Libraries Build The Global Village," a report published by the Chicago-based <a href="http://www.urbanlibraries.org/" target="_blank">Urban Libraries Council</a>, tells how libraries are reaching out to immigrants by providing computer and English classes, integrating books written in foreign languages into their collections, and hiring bilingual staff members.
Most high school seniors are focused on ways to finance their own college tuition expenses. High school senior Victoria Reid is helping complete strangers afford a Catholic high school education. Tori, as she is known, and her family have created the Victoria Reid Scholarship for Hispanic students who want to attend a local Catholic high school near St. Louis.
If her native tongue was one commonly spoken in the U.S. instead of the less familiar Khmer, Thana Ouk might have more help at school. But Thana, a junior at Roosevelt High School, is Cambodian and can find few services tailored to her needs. Instead, she falls under the broad umbrella of "Asian" for public school funding and testing purposes. Because many families of Asian heritage are well-educated and have comparative material advantages, and because students in the broad Asian category often perform as well as or better than white students on standardized tests, resources are scarce for Asians who are struggling in public schools.
King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA is in the midst of a five-year, grant-funded effort trying to offer a smattering of help to Northeastern Pennsylvania's exploding Hispanic population. The program is serving people from Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and other countries, and includes assistance to adults hoping to take GED tests, as well as after-school mentoring for students at local high schools. The program is expected to add adult computer classes and middle school creative writing classes. "The goal," said the program's director, "is to build bridges."
Each year, Nashville's public school system invests $15 million into the English Language Learners program. With a diverse student body that continues to expand that dollar amount may grow in the future. More than 6,000 students across the district are enrolled in the program, and about 150 different languages are spoken throughout the district.
A surge in immigrants anxious to learn English has created an unexpected lineup for language classes in Ontario, with dozens left waiting for weeks. Observers say the spike could be the result of manufacturing job losses among immigrants who never formally learned the language, and more refugee claimants.
<a href="http://www.breakthrough.tv/" target="_blank">Breakthrough</a>, an international human rights organization, put out a curriculum guide this week to correspond with its free video game: <a href="http://www.breakthrough.tv/product_detail.asp?proid=92&id=7" target="_blank">"ICED: I Can End Deportation."</a> In the game, players take on the role of one of five immigrant teens — and see what they encounter in day-to-day life. The 115-page curriculum guide, which Breakthrough says it has aligned with New York State and New York City social studies and English-language-arts standards, takes the position that current U.S. immigration laws deny due process for immigrants. The guide suggests that teachers can use the game and curriculum to teac a 10-day unit on "Fair Immigration Laws and Human Rights."
The Southeast's growing Hispanic population will force schools to focus more attention on Spanish-speaking students as K-12 systems work to meet federal No Child Left Behind act requirements. According to the Southern Regional Education Board, an education policy think-tank, the number of Hispanic public high school students is expected to continue to grow, particularly at the high school level. The SREB says high school enrollment of Hispanic students in the region will more than double between 2008 and 2022. Florida, Georgia, and Texas are expected to see the most growth. Alabama is in the middle tier of Hispanic student population growth, along with Delaware and Virginia.