What has often been overlooked in our community's ongoing dialogue on graduation rates is the simple fact that Latino students have the lowest rates in the district. Why should this concern anyone? After all, Latinos are relatively new to Rochester. My value system leads me to the conviction that every child deserves equality. This holds true regardless of race, citizenship status, or learning ability — surely we can all agree that each is worthy of the best education.
A Kansan school district is feeling the statewide teacher shortage, and is fighting back. The De Soto Board of Education last week approved 5-0 a proposal to reimburse teachers in the district who complete their special education or English language learners certification. The board waited to approve the policy until negotiations could occur between the district and the De Soto Teacher's Association.
More than 100 school superintendents recently rallied in Phoenix to convince state legislators to fund the English Language Learners program they made a law in 2006 and which takes effect at the start of next school year. "We have between 167 and 187 ELL students, and they'll be required to receive English language development for four hours per day," said one superintendent. "With the model adopted it would cost us between $400,000 and $500,000 to implement. That includes hiring an extra teacher we would keep in the second and third years of the program." Administrators also shared concerns regarding the budget forms developed by the state Department of Education, a news release from the Arizona School Administrators Association states. Those forms require districts to deduct from their costs federal funds as stated in the original law. However, a federal court in Tucson has ruled those deductions can't be required.
In the last decade the number of students in California schools learning to speak English has increased more quickly in school districts that already had a large percentage, according to state numbers. Enrollment appears to be particularly rising in inland communities as lower-income, Spanish-speaking families leave expensive coastal areas and as migrant workers move their families into communities with plenty of agricultural work, school officials speculate.
Across California, community college leaders are writing action plans for improving so-called "basic skills" (otherwise known as remedial or developmental) and English as a Second Language education as part of a system-wide initiative. Foundations have poured in funds to improve instruction and the scaffolding that supports it. And in the classrooms, often with foundation support, faculty are talking about developmental education in new ways, re-imagining what it is and how to do it, and experimenting with curricular innovations — with the goal of creating models for other instructors operating in solitude behind their classrooms' closed doors.
Canada's Greater Victoria school district is looking at doubling the number of full-day, English-as-a-second-language kindergarten classes it offers in an effort to reach as many students as possible. ESL kindergarten, which has provincial funding, is currently offered at two of the district's elementary schools, but the district is gauging interest in adding classes at two more schools in schools that serve big ESL populations.
When Marco Carrillo, a naturalized American and a high school valedictorian, went to meet with his college counselor, her major worry about his future had little to do with his SAT scores or essay or extracurricular activities. It had to do with his citizenship. Such questions have become commonplace in Arizona, where voters passed a 2006 referendum, Proposition 300, that forbids college students who cannot prove they are legal residents from receiving state financial assistance. One of several recent immigration statutes passed by Arizona voters and legislators frustrated by federal inaction, the law also prohibits in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Administrators at several campuses fear that the provision has priced some out of their classes, particularly at the state's popular community colleges.
North Carolinian school secretary Beverly Joy used to pull her school's ESL teacher out of class each time she had to make a phone call to a Spanish-speaking parent. This year, something changed — Joy decided it was time to learn a little Spanish. As Durham schools officials turned their focus to customer service this year, several staff members realized a good start to improving school-family relations was pretty simple — speak the same language. It would give both the school workers and Spanish-speaking parents more confidence in communicating, and also would help relieve those ESL teachers from always being tapped for extra translating work. So the school district has arranged for a Durham Technical Community College Spanish instructor to give district educators Spanish lessons.
When it comes to administering standardized tests to students this spring, officials of an Illinois school district are facing a multiple choice problem of their own. Students who speak limited English will not be able to take an adapted test as they have in past years. To help these students, the state will provide a glossary of "non-content-based words." But such accommodations will only be available in 10 languages, although dozens more languages are spoken in the district. Teachers and assessment directors say that these changes are going to put students in a difficult situation and will not be a true measurement of what they know.
Almost every day, Frederick County Public Schools' English Language Learning Department fields a request for an interpreter to communicate with a family who doesn't speak English. While schools often need a Spanish speaker to translate transcripts or talk to a family about PTA meetings, more elaborate scenarios are becoming common — last week a request as made for an interpreter who spoke a Nigerian language. With a growing and increasingly diverse population of foreign-born students, Frederick County Public Schools is facing a more pressing need for services to support them.