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.
A Massachusetts school district is looking into the possibility of expanding the district's foreign language programs, taking into consideration which languages will offer the best preparation for students' careers and futures in a global economy, and will offer students practical operating knowledge of cultures in real life applications. While no decisions have yet been made, the language that has been most predominately talked about is Mandarin Chinese. Other languages like French and Spanish are likely to continue to be taught, as well as Latin and even Greek, which some committee members have recently suggested.
Parents of minority students are less likely to be involved in college-related decision-making with their children than their White counterparts, a new survey by the Higher Education Research Institute indicates. Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute, housed on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, describes the lack of parental involvement for minority students as troubling, particularly in the case of Hispanic students. The report reveals that White students are far less likely than students of other races or ethnicities to indicate "too little" parental involvement in dealing with college officials. Only 12 percent of White students surveyed reported "too little" involvement from their parents in dealing with college recruiters and counselors, compared to 32 percent of Latinos.
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.