Utah schools are seeing more students — and more diversity — this year than last, according to Utah Office of Education enrollment data. Districts statewide are working to make sure they have programs in place to best serve increasingly diverse student bodies, especially Latino students. Latinos are Utah's largest minority group and make up about 14.4 percent of the state's public school students this year.
Inti Guaman is a senior on the brink of either going off to college or staying behind to get through high school. It all depends on how quickly he is able to soak up vocabulary words so that he can pass his High School Assessment exam in English II. Educators fear that a large number of English-language learners like Guaman, as well as a large population of special-education students, might be denied a diploma in June because they cannot pass the High School Assessments.
Igor Kovalchuk used to worry a lot about college. The junior at Minnesota's Shakopee High School moved to the United States from Ukraine when he was 9. Kovalchuk dreams of becoming a music producer, but neither of his parents has a college degree, and he used to believe a two-year program might be the best he could do after high school. Kovalchuk started feeling more confident after he landed in Language Enrichment for Academic Purposes (LEAP), a class in Shakopee that aims to reduce the number of bilingual students who drop out of high school or don't go to college.
School districts across the country are enrolling growing numbers of homeless children, as parents lose their jobs, leases, and mortgages in what many observers are calling the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Many districts were already seeing a spike in homeless enrollments last spring, when the subprime-mortgage crisis began unfolding. But this fall's numbers are rising at an even faster clip as more families feel the fallout of a stumbling economy, said Barbara Duffield, the policy director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, in Washington.
This year for the first time English language learners took the same Illinois Standards Achievement Test as other students did. Results released today show many of these students scored poorly on the reading portion of the test. That was enough to get 69 schools state wide labeled as failing. West suburban Elgin took it hard — almost half of the district's elementary schools didn't meet the mark. This means that Elgin may need to rethink how it's educating students who aren't fluent in English.
The head of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville said the state must do everything it can to encourage more students to seek bachelor's degrees — including possibly offering undocumented immigrants the lower tuition rates given to residents. University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart stopped just short of endorsing a possible measure by an incoming state senator that would give in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. However, the head of the Fayetteville university said most higher education officials want to be "frankly forgiving if we can" when it comes to students living without documentation in the state.
In this letter to Senators McCain and Obama, Harold L. Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of The Boston Consulting Group and author, writes, "Clearly one of your challenges as the next President is to revive American education. The key is not how much we spend, but spending smarter. If we don't, America will find itself falling further behind those countries that can and do properly educate their children. And we will have to import more talent, a challenge in a global economy already struggling with talent shortages."
School district leaders urged their colleagues last week to make concrete plans for taking care of students whose parents have been picked up in workplace raids by federal immigration agents. As the federal government focuses on employers who hire large numbers of undocumented immigrants, school districts with large immigrant populations will see more students' lives disrupted by the sudden disappearance of one or both parents, said superintendents, school board members, and a policy analyst who spoke about the raids at a recent panel discussion at the Council of the Great City Schools' annual conference.
The number of Hispanic children attending Missouri's Branson and Hollister schools has nearly doubled in the last few years with no sign of slowing down. Branson educators agree that continual communication with parents and family members of Hispanic students is important. "We don't offer bilingual instruction," said Bradly Allen, director of federal programs for Branson schools. "However, we do offer bilingual support. We are reaching out to the Hispanic community and providing Spanish-speaking families with documents in their native language for better communication."
Call it the Hispanic baby boom. Fertility has surpassed immigration as the primary factor in the United States' Latino population growth, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report released on Thursday. "We are now seeing secondary repercussions," said Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center. "A large group of second-generation kids are having a big impact on the school system, and as they mature, it will affect voting and the labor market."