Last year, leaders with the Trussville school district in Alabama wanted to help their teachers learn more about integrating Web technologies into their lessons, a central aim of the district's curriculum. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough money in their budget to bring in leading ed-tech experts to provide professional development. So they did it anyway — in a manner of speaking.
Farzana Morshed arrived from Bangladesh three years ago without any real grasp of English. Her husband had to help her open a bank account, an interpreter was necessary when she needed medical care, and she couldn't go anywhere by herself for fear of getting lost. Morshed soon got the language lessons she needed through her local library and a community-based nonprofit organization, and her English is good enough that she can work as an interpreter at a hospital. But other immigrants around the country are worried that they won't have the same chance as Morshed because states are slashing budgets for adult literacy classes — an important lifeline in immigrant communities.
Public schools in the Washington, DC region and elsewhere are abandoning their check-one-box approach to gathering information about race and ethnicity in an effort to develop a more accurate portrait of classrooms transformed by immigration and interracial marriage. Next year, they will begin a separate count of students who are of more than one race.
Ethan Lopez became an instant celebrity at his Los Angeles elementary school Friday, the day after President Obama selected the 8-year-old to ask the final question at a town hall meeting. Media crews filmed the boy and his family while the school principal and teachers gushed over his question about teacher layoffs, and classmates cheered. The moment was not lost on the third-grader.
More than 250 elementary school students in the Newport News School District who are learning to speak English as their second language may get to attend their neighborhood schools next year. The school board will take up the proposal to switch from using two schools focused on such instruction to teaching the students language skills in their neighborhood schools later this spring. Carla Williams, supervisor of the district's English as a second language program, said the move is based on research, the growing number of students with limited English skills, and parents' requests that their children attend schools closer to home.
While officials in school districts across the country are making some very tough decisions in this dour economy, one school district in Michigan is doing the unprecedented: pushing the reset button and laying off every employee. Pontiac is an industrial sister city to Detroit. And like the Motor City, this gritty suburb shows all the signs of economic decline.
Filipino exchange teacher Ferdinand Nakila landed in Los Angeles expecting "Pretty Woman" scenes of swank Beverly Hills boulevards and glittering celebrities. What he got was Inglewood, where he stayed for two weeks in temporary housing and encountered drunkards, beggars, trash-filled streets, and nightly police sirens. It got worse. But Nakila said his American sojourn has transformed him into a far better educator.
Holding the skirt on her spring-appropriate white and blue dress, Rubi Mendez Gonzalez carefully approached steps on the side of the stage. The 8-year-old twirled her skirt while she waited in line with a smile until it was her turn to give John Baker, deputy superintendent of the Redwood City Elementary School District, a card with her name. Then, Gonzalez was handed a certificate denoting her mastery of English. Now she can help translate if needed, she said.
Days after it was criticized by lawmakers for failing to make gains with students struggling with English, the city's Department of Education released a report on Tuesday showing that unprecedented numbers of those students became proficient in English last year and that more of them passed state tests in English and math. But despite efforts to improve the performance of the city's 150,000 students who are still learning English, nearly 70 percent of them do not graduate within four years and older students in particular lag behind their peers on state tests.
A recent statewide mandate to expand the English proficiency exam to kindergartners has many school officials up in arms. MacArthur Elementary School Principal Anthony Colannino said the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment exam is too complicated for young learners, "filling in bubbles much too small for their tiny hands and not-yet- coordinated fingers." In the past, the test was only administered to third- to 10th-graders whose first language is not English and who are "unable to perform ordinary classroom work in English," according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This year the exam will be given to students in kindergarten through second grade.