ELL News Headlines

Throughout the week, Colorín Colorado gathers news headlines related to English language learners from around the country. The ELL Headlines are posted Monday through Friday and are available for free!

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Reaching Out: School Liaisons Bridge Parents' Education and Language Gaps

When parents of students at Maryland's Bladensburg Elementary School need help navigating the complex bureaucracy of their school system, they often wander to a room cluttered with music stands and boxes of chemistry equipment, just outside the main office. This is the Parent Resource Center, Olga Noriega's room. As the school's parent liaison, she serves as a bridge between the staff and the community with the ultimate goal of bolstering student achievement. But in a school where more than 83 percent of about 600 students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, Noriega sometimes provides much more fundamental assistance.

'Superior' Language Program Needs Funds

The English Language Learner population of Delaware's Indian River School District has increased from 259 children in 2001 to 683 this year. In the same period, state ELL funding has dropped from $530 per student to $212. That's $145,047 this year — only enough to pay for half a teacher and three paraprofessionals district-wide. North Georgetown Elementary has been affected the most: Seven years ago, 6 percent of the school's students were English language learners; more than 40 percent are today. Despite these challenges, however, North Georgetown is rated a "superior" school with a student population excelling on state exams.

Population Shift Sends Universities Scrambling

Colleges and universities are anxiously taking steps to address a projected drop in the number of high school graduates in much of the nation starting next year and a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic makeup of the student population, a phenomenon expected to transform the country's higher education landscape, educators and analysts said. After years of being overwhelmed with applicants, higher education institutions will over the next decade recruit from a pool of public high school graduates that will experience, among other trends, a double-digit rise in the proportion of minority students — especially Hispanics — who traditionally are less likely to attend college and to obtain loans to fund education.

Principal Sees Injustice, and Picks a Fight With It

One morning last August, Yvonne Watterson, the principal of Arizona's GateWay Early College High School, sat in her office, grimly scrolling through the database of its 240 students. At the behest of a new state law, she looked for which ones listed a Social Security number and which did not. Without a number, it was virtually certain that a child was in America illegally. Under the statute popularly known as Proposition 300, illegal immigrants could not receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Arizona. Nor could school administrators like Ms. Watterson use state money to pay it. After losing at least one student due to the law, Yvonne Watterson vowed to do something so she would not lose any more of her students, partly because of her childhood experiences in her hometown in Northern Ireland.

WASL: Take It Without a Bit of English?

The Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests have become a frustrating annual exercise for both students and educators at Seattle's Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center. The 263 teenage students there are all recent immigrants and refugees who don't yet speak or read well enough in English to transfer to one of Seattle Public Schools' traditional middle or high schools — meaning that even if they understand the material covered on a section of the WASL, there's still virtually no way they'll pass. Still, federal law requires the school to make sure its students meet the same test-score targets as students who speak English fluently — no exceptions. None of the students at the Bilingual Orientation Center in recent years has passed the WASL, landing the school on the federal "needs improvement" list, an embarrassing label that comes with new sanctions each year.

EdSource: Progress Report on California's ELLs

For at least a decade, one-fourth of California's primary and secondary school students have, on average, been English-language learners. So educators in states that are the "new kids on the block" in teaching such students might want to spend some time with EdSource's report, "English Learners in California: What the Numbers Say." (The 16-page report costs $5.) The report gives some answers to important questions about student achievement, and poses some additional questions that need to be answered. Those answers will carry weight because California enrolls one-third of the nation's ELLs.

Judge Gives State Additional Time to Boost ELL Funding

Legislators are getting more time to increase funding for instruction of Arizona public school students who are learning the English language, but the state also faces hefty fines if lawmakers miss the new deadline. U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins on Tuesday granted a request by Republican legislative leaders for an extension to a now-expired March 4 deadline that Collins had set last October.

Latino School Enrollment up in Cities with Immigration Laws

North Texas cities debating local laws to deal with illegal immigration are also home to school districts with some of the state's largest increases in Hispanic student enrollment, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram analysis found. The Irving and Carrollton-Farmers Branch school districts were in the state's top 5 percent for the greatest proportional increases in Hispanic students from 1995-96 to 2005-06. Of the more than 560 districts analyzed by the newspaper, the two school districts also ranked in the top 30 for the greatest percentage-point increases in poor children and students with limited English proficiency, according data from the Texas Education Agency.

Central American Studies Gaining Acceptance

The large wave of refugees from war-ravaged Central America that arrived two decades ago has transformed more than neighborhoods, the workforce, and restaurant cuisine of Southern California. Now, as Vanessa Guerrero's new diploma from California State University at Northridge shows, the influence of that migration is also being embraced academically by one of the region's largest public universities, as Guerrero recently became the first student in the United States to earn a bachelor's degree in Central American studies.

Schools Help ELL Students Adjust

Across Indiana and in local schools, the number of students identified as having limited English proficiency has grown exponentially since the 1990s. As the number of students who need help learning English grows, schools have had to adapt with programs to meet those needs. One principal said that about a third of the students in her school this year are Hispanic, but fewer students are coming from Mexico — more of the students were born here and speak Spanish at home. The lack of background knowledge and vocabulary is where those students tend to struggle, as well as the overlooked consideration that students come from diverse education backgrounds.