In the heart of Minneapolis on Riverside Avenue, Somali men gather on the white plastic chairs outside Starbucks. Just a few blocks away, Eve MacLeish spins her favorite Latino music when she hosts one of KFAI Radio's many multicultural shows. The station broadcasts in 12 languages, including Spanish, Hmong, and Somali. The Twin Cities have changed significantly during the past 35 years, with wave after wave of immigrants transforming everything from schools to restaurants, churches to sports tournaments.
In her Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in <em>Horne v. Flores</em>, a case concerning English-language learners in Arizona, touches on a lot of the big questions that educators of these students have been discussing for decades…Which is better, a bilingual education or English-only approach? What are the best measures for telling if ELLs are making progress? What are the components of a solid program for ELLs? What's the relationship between funding and effectiveness of programs? Where should the bar be set for determining if ELLs have made sufficient progress?"
A teacher since 1968, Barbara McHuron has seen a thing or two in the classroom. Her four decades in front of the chalkboard have mostly been an accumulation of challenges, with one exception: California's almost $2 billion class-size reduction program, initiated in 1996 and aimed at capping classes in kindergarten through third grade at 20 students. But California's ongoing budget drama has forced many Bay Area districts to partially or completely scrap the program in favor of saving millions through teacher layoffs.
Angel Rodriguez stood on the front lawn, cradling his infant son, in front of personal items on display in a yard sale he was holding. Hispanic immigrants, chiefly those who are undocumented, are particularly vulnerable as the recession lingers. Without proper documentation, those out of work can't access unemployment and other government benefits, increasing the pressure to pull up stakes and look for opportunity elsewhere. Still, many who came to the United States looking to improve their life — make money, open up opportunities for their children, help support family still in Mexico — are hardly eager to return.
A year ago, Florida's Brevard County Schools ran a robust summer program here, with dozens of schools bustling with teachers and some 14,000 children practicing multiplication, reading Harry Potter and studying Spanish verbs, all at no cost to parents. But this year Florida's budget crisis has gutted summer school. Brevard classrooms are shuttered, and students like 11-year-old Uvenka Jean-Baptiste, whose mother works in a nursing home, are spending their summer days at home, surfing television channels or loitering at a mall.
Jean Bernstein rang a cowbell, her cue to quiet the sixth-graders at Roberto Clemente Middle School for a lesson on multiplying decimals. "You need to settle down," she said. Last fall, Bernstein entered Peer Assistance and Review, a Montgomery County, MD program that identifies struggling teachers and tries to help them improve. Those who do not face dismissal.
In her Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "Wisconsin becomes the 11th state to permit students who are living illegally in the country to pay in-state tuition rates at state schools, according to a story published this week in the <em>Milwaukee Journal Sentinel</em>."
The highly touted and controversial Teach for America program announced today it would expand into the Twin Cities. Forty college graduates will teach in public and charter schools around the Twin Cities this fall, the first class of 120 recruits Teach for America is sending to the metro area over the next three years.
School officials in Storm Lake, Iowa say they overestimated the number of students last year who were not fluent in English. Officials said 100 students, nearly a tenth of "English language learners" in the 2008-09 school year, did not deserve the label. They included an honor student who was punished when she refused to take a fluency test, and whose case garnered national attention. The label is significant because it qualifies school districts for more federal money and puts students on the hook for government-required language tests.
In her Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "Latino adolescents are happier and healthier if both they and their parents have one foot firmly planted in Latino culture and the other in U.S. culture, a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found. In other words, Latino adolescents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as abusing alcohol or drugs or dropping out of school, if they take steps to stay involved in their culture of heritage and their parents also take steps at the same time to integrate into U.S. culture."