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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Schools Improve in Teaching English to Non-Native Speakers

Oregon schools have dramatically changed the way they teach English to non-native speakers over the past two years, and the new methods are paying off with more students reaching proficiency, new state figures show. Across the state, nearly 9,000 students passed the state English exam in 2006-07, demonstrating they had reached fluency in reading, writing, and speaking English, up from the fewer than 4,000 students that had reached full proficiency the year before.

Minorities and ELLs Get "Highly Gifted" Lift

More minority and poor students in Denver are being classified as highly gifted under a new system that gives extra credit to children who are economically disadvantaged or nonnative English speakers. Denver Public Schools is trying to fix a disparity in the program that serves its smartest and most talented students — which up until now has drawn mostly white students in a district that is largely Latino.

Opinion: State Must Properly Fund English Classes

Arizona public schools districts and charter schools say it will cost $274.6 million to comply with a state requirement that students who aren't proficient in English receive four hours of English instruction per day, separate from their classmates. The Arizona Superintendent of Schools, Tom Horne, announced this week that it will cost $40.6 million. Something doesn't add up.

Chicago Latino: "How to Get My Vote"

Radio Arte, a public radio station in the Pilson neighborhood of Chicago, is putting young Latinos' voices on the air. Martin Macias, who is 18, broadcast a commentary, "How to Get My Vote," on Radio Arte that was picked up last month by National Public Radio.

A Teacher in Training

When middle school teacher Robert Ortiz walked into his school's cafeteria Tuesday morning he wasn't expecting a red, white, and blue balloon send-off. Ortiz, who teaches bilingual social studies classes, is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and has been called for leadership training for the next four months in Georgia and Texas. Then, he plans to return home to Lockport, but he could be called for active duty, serving eight to 18 months.

Spanish-Speaking Students Must Take School Tests in English

Spanish-speaking public school students will have to take standardized tests in English beginning Tuesday, after the state rebuffed a last-ditch effort by Chicago Public Schools to delay the testing. Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan blasted the state Monday for moving forward with the Illinois State Achievement Test, even for students who are more fluent in Spanish. State officials have said they have no choice, since federal education officials said that a Spanish-language alternative, the IMAGE test, is not adequate.

Vocabulary Study May Boost Learning Among Spanish-Speaking Adolescents

English language learners often have trouble improving their vocabulary, leading to reading comprehension difficulties and problems with learning in all academic content areas. Elizabeth Howard is among a group of researchers who think that teaching native Spanish speakers about cognates — words comparable across English and Spanish because of their common Greek or Latin roots — may facilitate the process. Howard, an assistant professor of bilingual education at the University of Connecticut's Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is co-investigator of a four-year study exploring the use of cognates to promote vocabulary development and reading comprehension among native Spanish speaking adolescents.

Latino Culture: With This Mural, Home Is Where the Art Is

In North Carolina, Charlotte's growing diversity will soon become more colorful, with the start of work on the city's largest publicly funded Latino art project. Called "Home Sweet Home," the 9-foot-high, 25-foot-long mural on canvas is intended to depict the immigrant experience of straddling two cultures. It is funded by a new Arts & Science Council initiative that seeks to encourage Latinos to share their culture with the community, and Latino students from four city schools will help with the painting. The work will also be taped by filmmaker Catalina Echeverry for a documentary on the experiences of Charlotte's Latino population through the eyes of its children.

Riding the Bilingual Bandwagon

A wave of teaching children foreign languages in schools from an early age has emerged nationally as well as in Washington's Puget Sound area. Due to the region's extensive diversity, many of the area schools focus on the non-English speaking students by offering immersion programs such as English Language Learners (ELL), and the exposure to other languages for English speakers is reserved for high school students. Now, due to the growth of cultural diversity in the region, local school districts have implemented language immersion programs where children are being taught in English for half of the day and in a different language for the other half to encourage bilingual acquisition.

Bilingual Teaching Methods at Issue

Educators in Illinois' Diamond Lake District 76 were filled with pride when the state's top school official praised them recently for academic improvement. A few weeks later, though, the district got a different kind of feedback from the state. Officials were told to comply with the state's bilingual education program, or lose a $175,000 grant. Lawmakers and school leaders are scheduled to talk about the issue in coming weeks. At issue, local officials say, is a lack of enough bilingual teachers to meet the state's requirements.