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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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.

California District's English-language Specialists' Jobs on Block

California's Moreno Valley Unified School District trustees, employees, and parents met Saturday to discuss cutting English-language development specialists from the employee roster. In the district, English-language development specialists are credentialed teachers, but they do not work with students in the classroom. Some parents at the meeting suggested changing the job description of the specialist instead of eliminating the position as debate continues about the specialists' function and role in the district's ELL program.

Bills Control College Future of Undocumented Immigrants' Kids

With Daniela Moya's high school graduation looming, her parents offered her a joint mea culpa. Her parents brought her from Mexico to the U.S. at age 8 and enrolled her in Tennessee's Metro Nashville schools. The parents overstayed their visas, and their status shifted to undocumented. Now, Moya, 17, may be unable to attend college, though she has a 3.4 grade point average, received unsolicited recruiting packages from Princeton University, and speaks and writes in English and Spanish. Two proposed laws — one federal, one state — would deal with Moya's situation in far different manners. The federal Dream Act would let her and students like her enter public colleges and universities and would even hold out a possibility of in-state tuition. Tennessee's plan would bar state schools from admitting her and others who cannot prove they're in the country legally.

Colorado Reading Event Highlights Novel by Chicano Author

Next month, Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley community will launch a new effort to get more Spanish speakers and younger readers involved in their local "The Big Read" month-long event. As part of the effort, communities are being invited to read the same book and then discuss it. The book selected is <em>Bless Me, Ultima,</em> by celebrated Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya, a one-time Chicano-rights activist, former teacher, and recipient of the 2001 National Medal of Arts. The book is a coming-of-age story about a young Latino boy living in New Mexico who is guided by a mysterious <em>curandera</em>, or traditional healer, as he confronts problems and puzzles in his life.

Pat Mora Offers Mouthwatering Inspiration for Families to Read Together

<em>Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico!: Americas' Sproutings</em>, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López, is a book about many edible things. Peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more — all of these native foods of the Americas are celebrated in this luscious collection of haiku poems.