When Jessica Caballero comes into her daughter's classroom, she wonders if the young special needs student is in the correct classroom for her abilities. Caballero's daughter, Martha Arancibia, was diagnosed with West syndrome when she was five months old while the pair was still living in Peru. Ten months ago, Caballero's father was able to get the mother and daughter into the country, partly to have the opportunity for a better life, and for Martha to get the special education that she could not get in Peru. While Caballero wades through the frustrating waters of the special education process, however, she is also bound by another difficulty — her inability to speak English.
Ma'Lena Wirth has been working to help non-English and limited-English speaking parents understand the importance of being involved in their children's education for the past seven years. As an interpreter paraprofessional in the district's English as a Second Language (ESL) program at an Oregon school, Wirth tells parents that they are partners in their children's education, employing a program she says is "designed to empower the parent."
When discussing lofty concepts such as "rule of law," it helps to use real-world examples. So as Alfonso Aguilar spoke to a class of Vietnamese immigrants prepping for the U.S. citizenship test yesterday, he noted that in his parents' homelands — Costa Rica and Italy — people view stop signs as "recommendations," not mandates. The mood was light. But to Aguilar, the classroom was no less than a front in an "assimilation movement for the 21st century." As chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship, Aguilar has spearheaded a new federal initiative to get immigrants to embrace English and American political values at a time of surging immigration — a trend that he warned could lead to a "country of enclaves."
By dividing Maryland's Montgomery County school district into two zones (the "red zone," where mostly poor, minority, and English-language learning students live, and the "green zone," where predominantly white, affluent, and English-speaking students live) and addressing needs in both, district leaders are making headway in conquering achievement gaps. So far, leaders have maintained a delicate balance between "raising the bar and closing the gap" that has enabled the nation's 16th-largest school district to narrow achievement gaps while retaining the support of wealthier, highly educated parents. But as the district moves onto the much tougher shoals of middle school reform, that balance could be sorely tested.
Foreign-born newcomers to New York City's public schools are performing better than native-born newcomers, a New York University study shows. The working paper by NYU education researchers titled "Do Immigrants Differ From Migrants?" has also deflated any notions that immigrant students tend to do worse in American schools the older they are when they arrive. On the contrary, the findings demonstrated that immigrant students actually do better if they begin their American education in high school rather than in elementary or middle school.
Poet and novelist Margarita Engle found a kindred soul in Juan Francisco Manzano, a Cuban poet born into slavery in 1797. The one-time agronomy professor and daughter of a Cuban mother was so inspired by Manzano's story that she wrote a book of free-verse poetry about him, <i>The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano</i>, which has been selected as the American Library Association's 2008 Pura Belpre Award. The award is given along with the Newbery and Caldecott medals to a Latino or Latina writer and illustrator "whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."
Libreria México, a unique bookstore in east Salinas, California, has been recognized by its city council for its literacy promotion during the past quarter-century. The book store was established in 1982 by a family of Mexican immigrants. "The idea about our store was because my father believed in education," said Stella Sanchez, the business' owner. "He tried to get books for people who couldn't read in English, so they could read in Spanish." The store sells books, magazines, and newspapers in Spanish, filling a niche neglected locally by big corporations.
A week or two before a big game, Arkansas' Rogers High School hallways are often decorated with student-made signs exhorting the athletes to do their best. Next week, the signs will have a slightly different message. The signs, aimed at Hispanic students, will remind them to do their best on the upcoming 11th-grade literacy exam.
New Jersey's School Report Cards, released last week by the state Department of Education, show that the percentage of LEP, or Limited-English Proficient, students in the state is spreading into suburban districts. The expansion into suburban schools has increased the need for specialized programs and the demand for teachers certified in bilingual education and English as a Second Language.
Lorena Ellett is finding her way around this country with a little help from road maps like the Ozark Literacy Council and the Adult Education Center. Before she moved to the U.S. last year, Lorena worked as a health and safety engineer for the Ministry of Health for the government of Chile. In this country, her continued efforts to learn English are slowly yielding some results as she tries to find her way back to the work for which she was educated.