Elaine Rasmussen's classroom at Hoover Elementary in Cedar Rapids has gone international. She's in charge of one of the district's growing English Language Learner's programs. This is the first year the ELL program as been at Hoover, but the students at Hoover come from 13 different countries and speak 12 different languages. The teachers say having extra diversity is teaching everyone lessons they weren't expecting.
University of California, Davis, researchers presented findings this week that say African American and Latino students lag behind their white counterparts in earning university degrees despite an increase in minority students attending college. The researchers found that between 1972 and 1992, the percentage of African American and Latino high school graduates who entered college rose, but college completion rates for both minority groups fell.
It doesn't take much to bring Mary Helen Berlanga, the senior member of the Texas State Board of Education, back to her own school days. Sometimes the memories are tough, but it helps drive the daughter of immigrants to fight for what she thinks minority children need to succeed. Berlanga, who as a child learned English from seven older siblings, has pushed her colleagues to develop a new English language arts and reading curriculum that takes into consideration the growing ranks of minority children who struggle with the language barrier. Now in her 26th year on the board, she is still waiting. Her opponents among the board's 15 members finally agreed last week to invite two Hispanic experts to work on a final version of a new English language arts and reading plan for Texas public schools. The impact of that concession won't be known for another month or so.
The State Board of Education gave unanimous approval last week to a new English and reading curriculum for Texas' 4.6 million public school students, although the contentious battle over what gets included in language arts textbooks and what gets taught in classrooms is far from finished. The product of nearly three years of work, the new curriculum will affect the teaching of reading, writing and grammar in kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as the content of the state's high-stakes standardized tests.
Inside this classroom at Massachusetts' Stacey Middle School, filled exclusively with "English language learner" students, Maria Smolina, 13, was enough at ease to share an essay she wrote about her arrival in the United States two years ago. Smolina is one of about 200 students attending the Milford school system's redesigned program for newcomers to English. The initiative will be put to the test over the next week, as Milford joins schools across the state in administering the English language arts segment of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
Immigration is changing urban libraries in this country as well as public schools. "Welcome, Stranger: Public Libraries Build The Global Village," a report published by the Chicago-based <a href="http://www.urbanlibraries.org/" target="_blank">Urban Libraries Council</a>, tells how libraries are reaching out to immigrants by providing computer and English classes, integrating books written in foreign languages into their collections, and hiring bilingual staff members.
Most high school seniors are focused on ways to finance their own college tuition expenses. High school senior Victoria Reid is helping complete strangers afford a Catholic high school education. Tori, as she is known, and her family have created the Victoria Reid Scholarship for Hispanic students who want to attend a local Catholic high school near St. Louis.
If her native tongue was one commonly spoken in the U.S. instead of the less familiar Khmer, Thana Ouk might have more help at school. But Thana, a junior at Roosevelt High School, is Cambodian and can find few services tailored to her needs. Instead, she falls under the broad umbrella of "Asian" for public school funding and testing purposes. Because many families of Asian heritage are well-educated and have comparative material advantages, and because students in the broad Asian category often perform as well as or better than white students on standardized tests, resources are scarce for Asians who are struggling in public schools.
King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA is in the midst of a five-year, grant-funded effort trying to offer a smattering of help to Northeastern Pennsylvania's exploding Hispanic population. The program is serving people from Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and other countries, and includes assistance to adults hoping to take GED tests, as well as after-school mentoring for students at local high schools. The program is expected to add adult computer classes and middle school creative writing classes. "The goal," said the program's director, "is to build bridges."
Each year, Nashville's public school system invests $15 million into the English Language Learners program. With a diverse student body that continues to expand that dollar amount may grow in the future. More than 6,000 students across the district are enrolled in the program, and about 150 different languages are spoken throughout the district.