Many educators of language-minority students say they teach more effectively when they align their instruction with their students' culture. And some states have teacher-credentialing policies based on a similar assumption. Yet few research studies have actually examined whether culture-based instruction affects the achievement of such students, and a research review by the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth concluded, for instance, that not one study showed that culture-based education improved achievement in reading and writing, and that more research is needed on the topic.
Matthew Peterson arrives at his office wearing sports sandals and carrying a backpack. He is 35 years old. But with his baby face and hair gel, he looks about 15. Is this the guy who is going to radically change the way your child learns math? Peterson is the inventor of hundreds of computer "games" that teach the basic building blocks of math without relying on language. His method has been adopted by 270 schools, and the MIND Research Institute is boosting scores. It is particularly effective for English language learners since students can play the games even with a limited English proficiency.
Zoom Language Center sits on a gray, industrial block in Ballard that's filled with the sound of muffled machinery and the faint smell of plastic. But step inside Zoom and the world becomes a blur of vibrant colors and little kids so cute they'll have you at "Hola!" Which is how you're likely to be greeted by Angelica Camargo, the energetic 28-year-old owner and director of the center, which offers Spanish-immersion classes for kids as young as 1. Most of the students come from homes where English is the primary language. But anyone is welcome, regardless of their home language.
When Cassandra Luera's oldest son, now 20, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at age five, she had nowhere to turn for help. Like many Latino families, hers never discussed mental health needs, and any services that existed were not offered in Spanish. This experience of struggling to support her son's unique needs continues to inspire Luera in her role as a family advocate for the United Advocates for Children and Families (UACF) organization. In this job, Luera, helps families to understand and seek the services they need for their children, and to help them cross any language and cultural bridges necessary.
When Zahra Al-Attar bounded into a kindergarten classroom in an Iowan elementary school early last month, the walls were decorated with paper candy canes for Christmas, but she was greeted with the chirping chorus of an Arabic song. Ms. Al-Attar, a native of Iraq, is teaching Arabic to children in the school, and has established an Arabic culture club in an effort to share her culture with students, parents, and teachers in the community.
Seattle, along with more than 150 other cities across the nation, is trying to reduce its number of high-school dropouts by sending home visitors to make a literacy house call to low-income and mostly immigrant or refugee families. The Parent-Child Home Program, created four decades ago by a clinical psychologist who concluded that the best way to reduce the number of dropouts was to intervene when children are 2 and 3, encourages more conversation between parent and child by providing a model for parents of how to read and play with their children in ways that build vocabulary and conversation skills.
A mother's tears gave Terese Jimenez, a Loyola Marymount University education professor, her first understanding of the confusion and frustration that comes from having a child with special education needs. Navigating the bureaucratic and complicated special education system can be daunting for any family. When cultural differences and language barriers are added to the process, the result is often an inadequate education. In effort to address this challenge, Jimenez joined the executive director of the nonprofit Learning Rights Law Center two years ago in a program that teaches families, mostly poor and Spanish-speaking, what their special-needs children's educational rights are and how to get them.
1st grader Isabella Pierce spends the first 90 minutes of her school day learning vocabulary words in her native English, writing in a journal and working on calendar lessons. Then she and her classmates at an Elgin elementary school switch rooms, teachers and languages. They repeat their lessons, this time in Spanish, while another group of 1st graders, who started the day learning in Spanish, switches to English. The two classrooms participate in an innovative dual-language program at Channing Elementary School in Elgin-based Unit District 46. More than 200 of Channing's 580 pupils are enrolled in the program, which has proven popular with them and their parents.
For Claudio Galvan, one of the more difficult parts of learning English is that lots of things are backward.
In Spanish, he explained, American cheese would be said "queso Americano." Remembering that adjectives come before the nouns in English takes some getting used to. Mr. Galvan is getting free help from the Scranton Council of Literacy Advance, better known as SCOLA Volunteers for Literacy, a nonprofit group that helps people learn to read. Twice a week, he and fellow student Vincente Ayala attend a class led by volunteer tutor Don Noll.
If you don't speak Spanish, Miami really can feel like a foreign country. In any restaurant, the conversation at the next table is more likely to be in Spanish than English. And Miami's population is only 65 percent Hispanic. El Paso is 76 percent Latino. Flushing, N.Y., is 60 percent immigrant, mainly Chinese. Chinatowns and Little Italys have long been part of our urban landscape, but would it be all right to have entire U.S. cities where most people spoke and did business in Chinese, Spanish or even Arabic? Are too many Third World, non-English-speaking immigrants destroying our national identity?