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ELL News

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Throughout the week, Colorín Colorado gathers news headlines related to English language learners from around the country. The ELL Headlines are posted Monday through Friday and are available for free!

ELL News Updates

Note: These links may expire after a week or so, and some websites require you to register first before seeing an article. Colorín Colorado does not necessarily endorse these views or any others on these outside web sites.

English Language Learners In Vermont Schools

Vermont Public Radio

July 24, 2014

If you had to take a standardized test right now, how do you think you would score? Now imagine that test is in a language you can barely read. Since the English language dominates our educational system, a gap in English language ability is often equated with a gap in intelligence. We talk to Shawna Shapiro, assistant Professor of Writing & Linguistics at Middlebury College, and Susan Blethen, an ELL teacher at Burlington High School, about the challenges facing English language learners and what some educators are doing to bridge the gap.

Want to Learn a Language? Don’t Try So Hard


July 24, 2014

A new study from MIT shows that trying harder can actually make some aspects of learning a new language more difficult. While researchers have known that adults have a harder time with new languages than children do, the latest findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that adults' stronger cognitive abilities may actually trip them up. Children have a "sensitive period" for learning language that lasts until puberty, and during these years, certain parts of the brain are more developed than others. For example, they are adept at procedural memory, which study author Amy Finn describes as the "memory system we get for free." It's involved in tasks we learn unconsciously such as riding a bike, dancing, or subtle language rules. It's a system that learns from observing and from experience; neural circuits in the brain build a set of rules for constructing words and sentences by absorbing and analyzing information — like sounds — from the world around them.

This Aspiring Astronaut Might Be the World's Most Amazing Teen

National Public Radio

July 24, 2014

At age 7, Gideon Gidori knew exactly what he wanted to be: a rocket ship pilot. The only thing was, he was living in a tiny Tanzanian village where schools only went through grade six and books about space (or, for that matter, any books) were scarce. But that didn't stop him. Now 15, Gidori is determined to become Tanzania's very first astronaut. With the help of Epic Change, his dream isn't just wishful thinking. The nonprofit, which raises money for education and technology, gave him a scholarship to study in the U.S. This May, Gidori completed his first year of flight-training school at Florida Air Academy.

Cutting to the Common Core: The Positive Side of the Digital Divide

Language Magazine

July 23, 2014

Imagine this challenge: Mr. Reed’s class of 30 students includes a mix of learners with diverse abilities and needs. Some students are reading at grade level; those reading above grade level want to be challenged; the struggling readers need help with vocabulary and comprehension; and the English language learners have trouble connecting their first language and knowledge to the new concepts presented in the class. In addition, four students have identified learning disabilities. How can one, dedicated teacher differentiate and personalize instruction in ways that help every student to succeed? We suggest that you explore the various features and functions found in digital text, also called etext.

Guadalajara International Book Fair

School Library Journal

July 23, 2014

How can we bring high quality Spanish-language books into American libraries? Here’s one answer: I recently spent an afternoon with Kay Cassell. a fellow professor at Rutgers, and Linda Goodman of Bilingual Publications. Linda helps connect librarians in the United States with books written in Spanish from around the world. Kay and I were meeting with her to plan a trip to the Guadalajara International Book Fair for our students. Earlier this year, Thom Barthelmess told me that his students at Dominican University would be going to Guadalajara as well, so I thought it was an event worth discussing here. The fair is a conduit to Spanish books that all librarians should know about. This year it runs November 29-December 7, but it’s the first three days that most librarians choose to attend.

The ABCs of English-Learning Students

Voice of San Diego

July 23, 2014

Parents at Hoover High don’t care why the only teacher at the school assigned specifically to help English learners is going away next year. They care about the impact: They don’t want their kids to be mediocre. Hoover’s new principal, Joe Austin, had only been on the job a couple of months when he learned about the district’s plan to save money. Instead of hiring new teachers to replace those who left or retired, Superintendent Cindy Marten made a last-minute call to move support teachers out of supplementary positions, and make lead classroom teachers out of them. That’s what happened at Hoover. And that’s why about 12 parents crammed into a small, hot conference room on a Friday afternoon to hash it out with Austin

Accurate Identification of ELLs With Disabilities Challenges Schools

Education Week

July 22, 2014

Pinpointing whether an English-language learner's academic struggles stem just from a lack of proficiency in the language or if there is another issue unrelated to language acquisition is a complex task. And it's something that continually vexes educators in school districts. I was reminded of this important issue today when I read a story in the Boston Herald that cites data from Boston school officials, who told the newspaper that more than 21 percent of their English-language-learner students are also enrolled in special education classes.

Note: This links to content from Education Week. You can register for free to access 10 Education Week stories a month, or subscribe for unlimited access.

NYC Teachers Sharpen Digital Tools for the Classroom


July 22, 2014

It may be vacation season but hundreds of New York City teachers are spending their summer days brushing up on the latest technology tools for the classroom. The educational director at the local public television station WNET, Sandy Goldberg, walked educators through free online resources, like Oh Noah!, a game that teaches Spanish vocabulary to elementary school students with the help of an English-speaking child going to visit his Spanish speaking abuela.

English-language learners in Bethlehem Area to get opportunities at St. Luke's

Morning Call (Lehigh, PA)

July 22, 2014

English-language learners in the Bethlehem Area School District will have more opportunities to apply their schooling to real-world experiences under a partnership with St. Luke's University Hospital. The district expects to continue a long-running program with St. Luke's in Fountain Hill that places 18 English-language learners from Liberty High School into the hospital to work with volunteers and learn about health care careers while simultaneously practicing and expanding their English vocabulary. "It helps them feel the self-confidence to use their language in a work setting and to try to take risks even if their pronunciation is a little wrong," said Doris Correll, who oversees the district's English-language learning program.

Obama to Report Widening of Initiative for Black and Latino Boys

The New York Times

July 21, 2014

President Obama will announce on Monday that 60 of the nation’s largest school districts are joining his initiative to improve the educational futures of young African-American and Hispanic boys, beginning in preschool and extending through high school graduation. The districts, which represent about 40 percent of all African-American and Hispanic boys living below the poverty line, have committed to expand quality preschool access; track data on black and Hispanic boys so educators can intervene as soon as signs of struggle emerge; increase the number of boys of color who take gifted, honors or Advanced Placement courses and exams; work to reduce the number of minority boys who are suspended or expelled; and increase graduation rates among African-American and Hispanic boys. President Obama announced in February a five-year, $200 million initiative, known as My Brother’s Keeper, to help black and Latino youths.

Barrier grief: English issues mistaken for learning disabilities in Boston schools

Boston Herald

July 21, 2014

Even as the state braces for a wave of unaccompanied immigrant children, school systems, including Boston, are failing in assessing and educating non-English speaking students they already have. More than one in five children of immigrants who are learning English in Boston schools have been placed in special education classes in what advocates say is a costly waste of taxpayer dollars that could also be robbing hundreds of bright students of any chance to go to college and create better lives. “Part of the problem is the parents don’t speak English or know what’s going on,” said Yael Zakon-Bourke of the Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education. “They’re just being told that their children need extra help. The problem is they may not be getting the extra help they need.”

New York Communities Prepare for Influx of Unaccompanied Minors

Education Week

July 21, 2014

The mayor of Syracuse, N.Y., is urging federal officials to open a shelter to house some of the surging numbers of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America, while leaders in New York City have launched a task force to help public schools, nonprofits, and other city agencies mobilize resources to serve the influx of children and youth. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday requesting that federal officials speed up the approval process for opening a shelter for up to 200 children in a former convent, according to the Associated Press.

Note: This links to content from Education Week. You can register for free to access 10 Education Week stories a month, or subscribe for unlimited access.

Two High Schools for English-Learners to Open in Prince George's County, Md.

Education Week

July 18, 2014

School officials in the Prince George's County, Md., school system just outside Washington announced on Tuesday that they will open two new high schools for their growing population of immigrant students and English-language learners. The 125,000 student district — along with CASA de Maryland, a Latino and immigrant advocacy group and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a group of 17 high schools across the country that serve ELLs — won a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to help pay for the new schools that will open in the fall of 2015.

Note: This links to content from Education Week. You can register for free to access 10 Education Week stories a month, or subscribe for unlimited access.

Power of Partnerships: Getting More Latino Students into STEM Fields

Ed Surge

July 18, 2014

At the annual California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA) Summer Institute, STEM discussions took center stage. But it wasn't just because of the "STEAMing Towards the Digital Age" conference theme. Today, CALSA and STEM education nonprofit JASON Learning announced an exciting partnership designed to get more Latino and Latina students engaged in STEM fields.

Classical Music Program Thrives in Milwaukee's Latino Community

NBC News

July 18, 2014

Close your eyes and the music will transport you to a symphony hall, to a Mozart violin concerto worthy of a prime stage. You would never know it just by listening, but none of the students have ever played an instrument before enrolling in the program. That's the magic of the Latino Arts Strings Program at the United Community Center in Milwaukee. The program has helped Latino children gain more than just musical mastery — it's been a key to scholarships, musical careers and self-confidence and pride.

Lynch School Program to Certify Bilingual Educators

Boston College Chronicle

July 17, 2014

The Lynch School of Education will launch a program in September to certify bilingual education teachers who work in schools offering dual-language immersion classes where English- and Spanish-speaking students develop fluency in both languages across their academic subjects. The Teaching Dual Language Learners (TDLL) Certificate Program is the first to be offered in Massachusetts and builds on the Lynch School’s strengths in bilingual education. The school already offers a certificate in Teaching English Language Learners (TELL) for educators in programs that offer English-only “sheltered” immersion instruction to students.

Charlottesville, Albemarle schools embrace refugee students

Charlottesville Tomorrow

July 17, 2014

Just before the morning bell silences homeroom classes at Charlottesville High School, 31 different languages buzz in the air. In neighboring Albemarle County, a homeroom might burst with any of the 79 languages spoken in the public schools. But these aren’t the voices of students learning French or Spanish for graduation credit. They are the voices of students for whom English is a second language, and for whom Charlottesville is a safe haven from the suffering they faced in their home countries. Located in downtown Charlottesville, the International Rescue Committee has made the city one of 22 in the nation to receive refugees from countries as diverse as Bhutan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Colombia. As a result, both local school divisions have a significant refugee population supported by specialized English language programs.

Delco students improve English language skills

Delaware County Daily Times

July 17, 2014

They come from all parts of the world to feel like they belong to at least this small part of the United States. They come from places such as Nigeria, El Savador, Ghana, Guinea, Greece, Guatemala, Liberia, Jordan, China, Vietnam, Turkey, India, Kosovo and Morocco. They come hoping to find at least someone else they can somewhat relate to. But they do all have one common goal: To learn the English language a little bit better. And they come not because they have to, but because they want to. A little over 50 middle school and high school students are taking part in the Delaware County Intermediate Unit’s English Language Learners Camp this summer. It means they have to catch a school bus to Springfield High School by around 8 a.m. in order to be on time for the 9 a.m. to noon program, which is in its fifth year.

Mobile library fights summer reading slump

Houston Chronicle

July 17, 2014

Scattered across a row of blue beanbags in a shaded courtyard between two brick buildings, 22 kindergartners sit at attention. "Today, I'm going to read to you about a monster," librarian Christin Banes tells the kids seated in front of her. But story time isn't the main attraction. That's on the bus waiting some 10 feet behind the row of beanbags. Instead of the usual vinyl seats, this bus is filled with rows of books, with titles in English and Spanish. Banes and the Reading Express, as the retrofitted bus is known, stop at Eiland Elementary every Monday morning as part of a summer reading program organized by the Klein Independent School District. It's meant to keep kids, particularly those who might have limited access to books, reading even after the school year ends.

Oregon State University researchers studying academic performance of English language learners

The Oregonian

July 15, 2014

Oregon experts want to figure out what happens to students after they're deemed English proficient and no longer tracked as language learners. The U.S. Department of Education granted Oregon State University almost $400,000 to examine the academic performance of current and former English language learners and determine what type of instruction best supports their achievement. OSU is partnering with the Oregon Department of Education and education research nonprofit WestEd on the study, which received an additional $29,000 in non-federal funding. The three agencies comprise the Oregon English Learner Alliance, a new partnership aimed at improving educational outcomes for those students.