Some of Stephanie Bartlett's middle school students played the role of restaurant wait staff. Others pretended to be ordering from a menu. All of them were practicing how to speak English. The lesson was one example of a new approach toward teaching English to students who speak another native language. Like Bartlett, teachers throughout Oregon have been trained in Systematic English Language Development, an instructional methodology that focuses on teaching students practical English, from ordering a steak and baked potato at a restaurant to returning a defective product to a store. By also adopting a curriculum, school officials hope to bring consistency to ELL instruction throughout the district and reinforce the instructional techniques teachers learned in their recent training.
Last week at New Jersey's Fairleigh Dickinson University, 24 Korean-speaking degree-seekers began a new, three-year associate in arts degree program in which they simultaneously enroll in ESL and credit-bearing courses — the latter taught largely in Korean the first year, equally in English and Korean the second, and only in English the third. The program is modeled on a very similar program for Spanish-speakers that Fairleigh Dickinson introduced in fall 2003.
An elementary school in Halifax is struggling to accommodate a growing number of refugee students, including 16 who have arrived just since December. Duc d'Anville Elementary School has 68 children from almost 30 countries in its English as a Second Language program. The students receive half-hour lessons in groups of five to 10 students at a time. The addition of 16 students since Dec. 1 is straining the school's resources, administrators say. "We're reaching such a crux in the numbers," said teacher Diane Walker. "We're getting to the point that we don't have enough chairs, and we can't put anymore chairs in the room. We're going to look at graduating children out, whether they're ready or not."
Beginning next school year, all public schools in Arizona will be required to teach four hours of English a day to students who aren't proficient in the language. But the state mandate concerns officials in some districts, who wonder where they're going to find the money, space, and teachers to support the program.
Efforts to put a Tennessee school district back in the good graces of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) continue, but unexpected challenges could threaten progress. Despite the efforts made to improve the district's situation with NCLB, the ripple effect caused by a recent immigration scare in the region during December could hamstring the school system. All told, approximately 11 percent of the county's Hispanic students are no longer in classrooms. Should they return for whatever reason before the end of the school year, the school system will be held accountable for their test scores and that could impact whether benchmarks are met this year for NCLB.
The Michigan City Area School District (MCAS) is seeing a number of success stories in its English as a Second Language program due to the hard work of teachers and students alike. For example, the state expected 40 percent of ESL students to increase their performance on standardized tests by 12 points. In MCAS, 63 percent exceeded that expectation. The state expected 50 percent of students with limited ability in English to reach what is called a Level 5 English language proficiency in spring of 2007. In MCAS, 65 percent of students reached that goal. While the majority of the 210 ESL students in MCAS are native Spanish speakers, others come to school speaking Arabic, Polish, Chinese, several dialects of the languages of India, and a dozen or so other languages.
Two public hearings for a bilingual charter school proposal many thought would be controversial caused little stir. But that doesn't mean people aren't talking about Pennsylvania's Vida Charter School; there has indeed been some backlash from the community. Nevertheless, the school's founders note that interest in the school has come not only from Latino parents but from English-speaking parents who want their children to be fluent in Spanish. School board leaders are taking notice of the community's discussion about the school, and have suggested that even if Vida's application is denied, the district might want find a different way to address the needs Vida has highlighted.
Since Roxana Segura's family moved to a mobile home park in Inver Grove Heights, she has watched the Latino population blossom in her Minnesota community. The number of children from Skyline Village attending the school has doubled in the past few years, to about 70, including many students whose families speak Spanish at home. "I don't think that the school was kind of prepared for all these changes," said Segura, who has two children enrolled at Pine Bend. In response, the school is revamping its relationship with the mobile home park. This month the school plans to roll out an after-school tutoring program. Third- through fifth-grade students will get help with their homework in the community room at Skyline Village. In addition, extra English lessons will be offered at Pine Bend for a half-dozen kindergarteners. The school has also recruited volunteers to spend one-on-one class time with students who are just learning the language.
Maryland may be majority white, but its public schools no longer are. While white residents account for 58.3 percent of the state's population, according to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau data, they make up only 47 percent of the student body this school year. The new majority belongs to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities. The demographic changes are manifesting themselves in the classroom in unexpected ways and with breathtaking speed. The state's public schools quietly became majority minority in 2004 as part of a larger demographic shift occurring in the Washington region and the nation. School administrators across the region said they are spending more time and money, inside and outside the classroom, reaching out to their growing populations of minority students, thousands of whom are new to the United States.
Its the end of the school day at Minnesota's Prairie View Elementary School, but you wouldn't know it if you wandered into one of two Homework Zone classrooms. The classrooms are filled with students reading, filling out worksheets, or gathering together for a word or math game on the whiteboard. The Homework Zone program, which started about three years ago, is primarily used by ELL students. The two Zone classrooms include one for kindergarten and first-grade students and the other for second- through fourth-grade students. Teachers and high school volunteers help to supervise and aid the students, and since the students have access to resources like computers, atlases, and dictionaries, teachers report that homework is finally getting done.