In this opinion piece, parent and daughter of Cuban émigrés Carmen Juri discusses why the idea of affirmative action is offensive to her, and highlights a new children's book that shares her view. She quotes Tony Robles, author of <em>Joey Gonzalez, Great American</em>, "My mother didn't tell me I was a minority and so a victim, a second-class citizen who needed to be treated differently from everyone else. She taught me that learning and diligence were the keys that would free me from poverty, but affirmative action policies have seduced an entire generation of black and Hispanic kids into believing that special preferences are a necessity and a birthright."
Maria Chavez and two of her classmates recently went to a Hispanic Education Conference in Modesto, CA to learn that the path to college and the career opportunities that follow are accessible. About 500 students attended the 24th annual conference, which was hosted by Modesto Junior College. The event provides local high school students with information on a variety of careers and encourages them to choose a career, focus on a goal, and consider attending MJC.
After years of growth, enrollment in Alabama's Hoover City School District of students with limited English proficiency has dropped for the first time. Hoover school officials say they don't know why enrollment is down, but anecdotal information from teachers and others suggests immigrant families may be leaving Hoover for economic reasons — to purchase homes in more affordable communities, or to find lower rent. Hoover's English Language Learners program, which provides instruction to students who are not proficient in English, is among the largest statewide. Yet this year, despite a larger student population overall, the number of English language learners in Hoover declined.
The University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools wants to end its requirement of SAT subject tests as a factor in admissions. Unlike the much broader SAT, subject tests measure a student's knowledge of specific subject areas covering 20 different topics, from advanced mathematics and science to fine art and language skills. Critics say the tests contribute little to predicting college success and may hurt the chances of minority students. Yet the facts strongly show otherwise.
Colorado's Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 used to have about 800 students classified as English language learners. This year, the number dropped to around 300, based on a new way of testing and classifying English language learners adopted by the district and the state of Colorado. But those 500 students dropped off the ELL rolls belong to a category of students who claim English as their primary home language yet struggle because of their limited background vocabulary. Students who lack a variety of experiences, do not come from highly literate backgrounds, or grow up in vocabulary-poor environments can end up in a similar situation as English language learners, with a small base vocabulary and poor knowledge of the structure of English, even though they might speak fluently.
A new community program in Green Bay, WI hopes to assist Latino families with language barriers at home. The Centro Comunitario Episcopal and Nicolet Elementary School have launched a homework program to assist children from Spanish-speaking families who need extra help staying on top of their homework. School principal Tammy Van Dyke said staff members already have identified 40 students from Spanish-speaking families with the greatest academic need who are eligible for this program. Like other schools in the Green Bay School District, Nicolet has seen its number of Latino students grow in the past dozen years. Fifty-one percent of the school's population is Hispanic, Van Dyke said.
At Pennsylvania's Shenandoah Valley School District, Eileen Marchetti teaches 62 students English as a Second Language in two rooms that used to be the staff lounge. "The number of students changes from year to year, but it's growing steadily. We're at a premium for space here," she said. According to Leah Harris, assistant press secretary from the state Department of Education, about 45,306 Pennsylvania students in kindergarten through 12th grade speak 175 different languages but do not read, write, or speak English proficiently.
If the young poets were nervous, it didn't show. Each of the teenage bards walked or bounded onstage and recited her or his verses with self-assurance and enthusiasm — apparently undaunted by the more famous poets with whom they shared the stage, the packed house full of attentive strangers and the presence of San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman in the front row. The WritersCorps poetry program sprang from a "marriage of NEA and AmeriCorps" as a pilot program in San Francisco, the Bronx, and Washington, D.C.
Now that they have new English-language-proficiency tests to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, state education officials are trying to come up with guidelines on how school districts use those tests to decide when English-language learners no longer need specialized instruction. States vary widely in how prescriptive they are in the use of those test scores, but most seem to be taking steps toward standardizing the process.
Starting next fall, students in the English Language Learners program in North Dakota's Grand Forks Public Schools will have iPods to assist them with the transition not only to a new language, but also to a new school and a new country. A $14,370 grant from the North Dakota Educational Technology Council will pay for 60 iPods, which will be loaded with material to cater to each of the 60 students in grades K-12 considered to be at levels one or two in the ELL program, meaning they have little to no grasp on the language. iPods will be loaded with grade-customized material for each student, and will be audio and video compatible and will be issued to individual students, meaning students can take them home.