Ingrid Ocampo said her autistic son waited a year for services from the Philadelphia School District because she does not speak English and couldn't understand the district's forms and policies. Irma Zamora, another public school parent, expressed concern about signing permission slips printed in a language she can't read. And Eleuteria Esteban told of seeking out her child's principal only to be told there was no one who could translate the meeting for her. They were among more than 200 parents who recently packed a South Philadelphia church basement to tell school district chiefs they must live up to a 2001 legal agreement that mandates translation services for non-English-speaking families.
As a whole, Frederick County Public Schools' class of 2009 has fared well on the latest round of High School Assessments and, for the most part, is on track to graduate in 2009, when the tests are a graduation requirement. But the performance of seniors in certain student subgroups, especially English Language Learners, still lags well behind. English Language Learners must take the High School Assessments in English, which can be an enormous challenge since they already struggle with the language, school officials said.
An Ozarks program teaching students how to read and write the English language is also helping young people learn about new customs and traditions as they settle into their new home. Group projects are what's helping students like Jesus Rodriguez, 10, better understand his school work. "At home I talk Spanish. The teachers help us to read," said Rodriguez. Rodriguez is one of the many students enrolled in ELL or the English Language Learning program in Missouri's Monett school district.
An hour and a half after his night shift ended at the grocery store, Jefferson Lara is sitting in art class, sketching warriors. Lara's education has never been neatly laid out in class schedules that flow into extracurricular activities, but it mattered little to him that he wouldn't graduate with his peers in June — he still would get his diploma. As the nation moves toward adopting a common graduation rate formula based on the number of students who obtain a diploma in four years, there are students such as Lara who will appear to have been failed by their school systems. They will not be counted as graduating on time. But what should be taken into account, educators say, is that many are succeeding — just not on the traditional timeline.
When Shabina Kavimandan first entered Kansas' Hillcrest School six years ago, she was immediately drawn to something near and dear to her heart: The Indian flag. "The first thing I saw was the flag of my country, and a huge map of all the kids from around the world," said Kavimandan, an English-as-a-Second-Language coach. "At that moment, my heart was sold to this country." From Navajo to Nihong, Laotian to Igbo and everything in between, Hillcrest speaks to the world. Many students are children of Kansas University students and professors, said Principal Tammy Becker.
More students will have a shot next year at going to one of Metro Nashville's most in-demand public schools, where a bilingual education is the main attraction. In fall 2009, Glendale Elementary School will tweak enrollment rules so that more spots will be open in the school's popular immersion program, which teaches math and science courses completely in Spanish. The program is the only one of its kind in the state and is in high demand by parents who want their children to have a more global view of the world, said Nicole Rodriguez, who teaches fourth grade at Glendale.
Recent efforts to get more black and Hispanic students into New York City's elite public high schools have fallen short, with proportionately fewer of them taking the admissions exam and even lower percentages passing it. The performance gap persists even among students involved in the city's intensive 16-month test prep institute, designed to diversify the so-called specialized high schools, including the storied triumvirate of Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech.
Many suburban educators say that there should be an asterisk next to this year's No Child Left Behind results. The state eliminated the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English from this year's tests, which forced students new to the English language to take the same standardized tests as everyone else. As a result, suburban schools that serve many English-language learners saw their test scores take a hit, especially in reading.
City of Poughkeepsie resident Lorena Perez came to her English as a second language class to help herself. As the Hispanic population in New York's Dutchess County grows, the need for ESL classes increases. Students said they take ESL classes to pass a high school equivalency test, get a job, or communicate better.
For decades, the Montana Constitution has made preservation of American Indian culture an explicit educational goal. But educators did little about it until 2004, when the state supreme court ruled that Montana had ignored its responsibility to teach about the state's seven tribes. That ruling jump-started an effort that has yielded curriculum materials created in consultation with those tribes, a state-sponsored curriculum Web site, and training workshops that have drawn thousands of teachers from across the state.