Bosnian, Chinese, Vietnamese — these are just a few of the native languages spoken by children attending classes in Missouri's Affton and Bayless school districts. The immigrant and refugee make-up of the metropolitan St. Louis area has exploded seemingly overnight, increasing by over 65 percent since 1990. In the trenches integrating these different cultures are the faculty, staff, and administrators at St. Louis County schools.
A group of teens in Los Angeles took cameras to tell stories of immigrants in America. For some students of first-generation immigrant families, this meant looking inward. The project, funded by the non-profit group Facing History and Ourselves, is now hanging in the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Host Scott Simon talks with the high school photographers about the exhibit, titled "The Way We See It: L.A. Teens on Immigration."
Twelve-year-old Edwin is known as "feet" to his sixth-grade class. But it's not because his feet are big or particularly smelly. It's because they carried him from Guatemala to the United States. Edwin's family settled in Ohio and has made its home in Canton. Immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Romania, Ukraine, Vietnam, Thailand and China, are among those who have settled in Ohio's Stark County, and local educators are trying to keep up with the greater demand for ESL instruction in their schools.
When schools in Oregon's Jackson County enroll a student who doesn't speak English their first priority is teaching the student the language. But educators say they are also concerned with improving the student's academic skills, a process that can be stalled during the transition to English. To help students keep up with their academic skills, the state has had a partnership with the Mexican government for the past 17 years that provides supplemental Spanish instructional materials to Oregon schools at no charge or for a nominal fee. In January, the state will begin determining how to fill in the gaps where the Mexican elementary, secondary and adult-level curricula don't meet Oregon's academic standards.
In South Los Angeles, nearly one half of all high school students drop out before graduation day. At Verbum Dei it's a different story — in part due to the Catholic school's unusual strategy. The young men who attend are required to supplement their tuition by working one day a week. School administrators say it helps students take more pride in their education. The program seems to be working; in past years, every single Verbum Dei student has gone on to college.
In their forthcoming book, "The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies," two U.S. professors detail the educational challenges confronting this country's Latino community. UCLA's Patricia Gandara and Frances Contreras of the University of Washington examine not only the causes but also the social and economic consequences of this worrying educational gap. According to the study, Latinos, the country's biggest and fastest-growing minority, academically are being left behind at a dangerous rate.
Northern Territory Education Minister Marion Scrymgour has buckled to a backlash from the bush in her bid to force teachers in remote Aboriginal schools to teach predominantly in English. The backdown comes after federal minister and Territory MP Warren Snowdon slammed the NT Government's plan to effectively kill off bilingual education. "I don't think it'll be successful. In terms of community outcomes, not only literacy and numeracy but the outcomes for the community … they'll be negative," he said last week.
In seven years as chief executive of Chicago public schools, Arne Duncan has supported a range of measures to shake up the status quo in urban education, including new charter schools, performance pay, and tough accountability for struggling schools. But he has also gained a reputation for reaching out to the teachers union and the community, helping to neutralize some potential critics and win allies.
Before being named President-elect Barack Obama's Education secretary, Arne Duncan ran Chicago schools for seven years. Chester Finn, Jr., president of Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based, education think tank, offers his insight on the appointment.
In her Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr writes, "I have only one clue to offer about what kind of policies Arne Duncan, who has been nominated as the secretary of education for President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet, might favor for English-language learners. As the superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, he has argued that English-language learners should have a separate test other than the state's regular reading and math tests for ELLs."