News Digest
Recent Developments Affecting ELLs

Title III Professional Development Grants Awarded
September 13, 2011

"The U.S. Department of Education announced today the award of 42 National Professional Development program grants totaling $14.8 million to support professional development activities designed to improve classroom instruction for English Learners (ELs). The grants were made to colleges and universities, in collaboration with state and local school districts, and are awarded to promising programs that will help educational personnel working with ELs to meet high professional standards, including standards for certification and licensure in language instruction educational programs."


Arizona Halts Policy of Discriminating against 'Accented' Teachers
Arizona Daily Star, August 31, 2011

"State education officials will no longer force schools to retrain or reassign English-immersion teachers because they speak with an accent. In an agreement with two federal agencies, the Arizona Department of Education will stop trying to single out teachers who they believe do not have a good command of the English language -- a practice that resulted in complaints the state was illegally discriminating against teachers because they are Hispanic or are not native-English speakers. ... State School Superintendent John Huppenthal agreed to the settlement even though, LeFevre said, Huppenthal doesn't believe anything done was improperly."


Gates Joins Stanford ELL Project as Details Emerge
By Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, August 15, 2011

"The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $1 million to a Stanford University-led effort to develop English-language-proficiency resources for the states' common-core academic standards. The announcement comes as details begin to emerge about the project, which launched last month with a separate $1 million grant from the Carnegie Foundation of New York. Kenji Hakuta, an education professor at Stanford and a long-time expert on ELLs, and Maria Santos, the former director of programs for ELLs for the New York City school system, co-chair the project, which aims to create a framework of the English-language demands within the Common Core standards for math and English-language arts, as well as for the National Research Council's next-generation science standards."


Why States Should Refuse Duncan's NCLB Waivers
By Monty Neill, Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, August 9, 2011

"Federal education law most certainly needs a complete overhaul. Ending escalating, test-based sanctions on most schools is a good first step. But, based on his track-record with “Race to the Top” and School Improvement Grants, Duncan probably will replace these sanctions with a requirement to use student test scores to judge teachers. Meanwhile, the lowest scoring schools most likely will be forced to adopt RTTT-style changes, such as firing the staff or privatizing control over the schools, actions for which there is no evidence that they will improve education.  Many of the changes, such as closing schools, badly disrupt communities, as a coalition of civil rights groups pointed out last summer."


ELL Group Files Brief in Ala. Immigration Case
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, August 8, 2011

"An advocacy group for English-language learners has filed a 'friend of the court' brief backing a class action that challenges Alabama's new law requiring educators to record the immigration status of students in schools. The Somerville, Mass.-based Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, Inc., has filed the brief on its own behalf as well as for the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Hispanic College Fund, and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities."


Overriding a Key Education Law
By Sam Dillon, New York Times, August 8, 2011

"Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced that he will unilaterally override the centerpiece requirement of the No Child Left Behind school accountability law, that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. ... He is waiving the law’s proficiency requirements for states that have adopted their own testing and accountability programs and are making other strides toward better schools, he said. The administration’s plan amounts to the most sweeping use of executive authority to rewrite federal education law since Washington expanded its involvement in education in the 1960s. ... 'It sounds like they’re trying to do a backdoor Round 3 of Race to the Top, and that’s astonishing,' said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute."


Debt Deal Could Cut K-12 Spending
By Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post, August 2, 2011

"Schools have already suffered massive cuts in recent years, and lost about 200,000 public education employees, due to the recession and the drying up of stimulus funds. The debt deal's changes to the Pell Grant program, which helps disadvantaged students pay for college, have been highly publicized, but details of what the debt deal will mean for k-12 education funding are a bit hazier ... The spending caps, [Committee for Education Funding director Joel] Packer said, mean the overall budget will increase at less than the rate of inflation over the next 10 years. K-12 costs, on the other hand, increase with rising enrollment. 'There's no opportunity for growth,' Packer said."


Feds Look into Discrimination Claims at Framingham [MA] School
By Scott O'Connell, MetroWest Daily News, July 25, 2011

"The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights is investigating claims of discrimination at Barbieri Elementary School, according to several people with knowledge of the case. Laura Edwards, a supervising attorney with MetroWest Legal Services in Framingham, said the federal office has been looking into claims that the school failed to provide interpreters and other translation services to Spanish-speaking parents. Barbieri, the only bilingual elementary school in the district, enrolls an equal number of primarily English- and Spanish-speaking students. It runs a two-way instruction program that aims to make students fluent in both languages."


New Study Confirms Findings on ELLs in Charters
UFT Blog, April 20, 2011

"The Journal of School Choice recently published an article in which researchers Jack Buckley and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj confirmed the UFT’s findings in 2010 that charter schools in New York City enrolled a lower proportion of limited English proficient (LEP) students than the average district school in 2007-08. Overall, they find that among the city’s charters from 2006-2008, 'in the case of the LEP proportions, there is a large group of schools with very few, a handful with a larger proportion, and perhaps 1-3 schools, depending on the year, with a large share of LEP students.'”


Obama Blasts His Own Education Policies
By Anthony Cody, Education Week's Living in Dialogue Blog, March 29, 2011

"If only the Department of Education could hear this guy Obama, boy, they would have to rethink their approach!In a town hall meeting hosted by Univision, President Obama was asked by a student named Luis Zelaya if there could be a way to reduce the number of tests that students must take. His answer was superficially reassuring, but underneath, rather alarming. He replied: 'We have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there's nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at.' ...But here is what is alarming: Either President Obama is trying to mislead people, or he is unfamiliar with the policies being advanced by his very own secretary of education, who was seated just a few feet away from him at this event."


Feds Settle with Arizona in Dispute over ELL Programs
By Debra Viadero, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, March 25, 2011

"In letters mailed to state officials over the summer, federal civil rights officials said they had determined that some of the practices the state uses to identify and serve ELL students violate federal law. They cited two practices in particular: the surveys schools and districts give to parents to initially identify students to be tested for ELL services, and the process by which ELLs are reclassified as fluent in English."


Rosalinda Barrera, the Listener
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, February 24, 2011

"I'm wondering when Rosalinda B. Barrera, the director of the office of English-language acquisition for the U.S. Department of Education, will move beyond being in a listening mode to a stage in which she articulates new policy recommendations for English-language learners. Some people in the field of ELL education are eager for this to happen since her post didn't have a political appointee from May 2008 to when she took the helm of the office six months ago, and we didn't see much action from that office during those two-plus years."


Minneapolis Schools Go After the Language Gap
By Elizabeth Flores, Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 11, 2011

"In Minneapolis schools, language differences are partly to blame for the notorious and hard-to-bridge achievement gap. ... Regardless of the language they speak at home, students must pass state tests in English, or schools face sanctions. The issue has left urban educators, and increasingly their suburban peers, patching together solutions to a problem that has more to do with a language barrier than with intelligence. Testing students in their native languages would provide a better indicator of academic talent, said Jennifer Godinez, associate director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership. 'Without that, they're caught in a trap,' Godinez said. 'Almost any child forced to test in a foreign language is going to struggle.'"


Language Testing Rules Criticized as Unrealistic
By Heidi Hall, Nashville Tennessean, February 6, 2011

"Research shows it takes the brightest, most motivated students three years to learn English well enough that they can test in it. But federal law allows newcomers only a one-year pass on testing.Some lawmakers want to see the rules regarding students designated English Language Learners changed because they are particularly tough, and some say unrealistic, for schools and districts with high numbers of immigrant students. In Metro Nashville, 22 percent of students have a first language other than English, and the district missed testing benchmarks three of the past four years largely because of their standardized test scores. President Barack Obama has offered a blueprint to modify No Child Left Behind, the federal law that established performance standards for all students. His proposal, however, offered no specific guidance on assessing students who aren't fluent in English. ... Clara Lee Brown, an associate professor of English as a Second Language education at the University of Tennessee, contends it's pointless to base decisions about school performance on new English speakers' test results."


English as a Dead Language: ESL Cuts Leave Students Behind
By Meredith Kolodner, New York Daily News, January 31, 2011

"Almost a year after the state found that thousands of city students were not getting the language help mandated by law, the city still does not have a plan in place to fix the problem. And this year's budget cuts have made the situation even worse, teachers and parents say, as English as a Second Language instructors have been cut and services reduced even further. ... Advocates say that the kids' parents, who also may not speak English fluently, often don't know their children aren't getting the help they need."


The National Imperative for Language Learning
By Anthony W. Jackson, Charles E.M. Kolb, and John I. Wilson, Education Week, January 27, 2011

"With the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, it is a critical time for members of Congress to understand that multilingualism is not an option, but an obligation, for the rising generation of Americans. Responding to this challenge, U.S. Reps. Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., introduced the Excellence and Innovation in Language Learning Act in the recently concluded 111th Congress. The bill proposed measures to ensure that every young American is provided with the opportunity to become proficient in a second language within a generation. This legislation should be reintroduced as the 112th Congress gets to work and the reauthorization of the ESEA moves forward."


Pasco, Kennewick Schools Won't Seek Federal Grants
By Jacques Von Lunen, Tri-City Herald, January 24, 2011

"Pasco's superintendent said standardized tests don't consider the unique challenges facing many of her students and that the district is working on changes that are more promising than the federally mandated reforms. 'There is only one way schools are held accountable, and that's with standardized tests,' said Pasco Superintendent Saundra Hill. 'Those state tests are not normed for English language learners, but the state puts high stakes outcomes on them.' Hill said she has tried to argue the point with state education officials, but has gotten nowhere. 'Frankly, they don't give a rip,' she said. OSPI officials did not want to talk about the issue. 'We don't want to wade into these waters,' spokesman Nathan Olson told the Herald."


Ed. Department Backs English-Proficiency Tests for Common Standards
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week, January 19, 2011

"The federal government plans to pay for states to work together to create English-language-proficiency tests for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, according to a notice for proposed grant priorities published in the Federal Register on Friday. The plan calls for a minimum of 15 states to join together in each consortium that applies to create an English-proficiency test, prompting some observers to speculate that federal officials favor the idea of having a very limited number of such tests, if not one national test."


Study Calls for Better Identification of ELLs for Federal Funding
By Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week's Inside School Research blog, January 10, 2011

"Federal support of programs for English-language learners depends on a formula based on the number of ELL students in each state and district, but a long-awaited national study suggests officials need a more comprehensive way to identify the students who need help. The final report, developed by Washington-based National Research Council for the U.S. Department of Education, calls for federal policymakers to to change the funding formula for ELL grants to incorporate state-level counts of students with limited English proficiency in addition to the Census Bureau data now used to identify them."


Feds Make ELLs a Priority for Tests Based on Common-Core Standards

By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, January 7, 2011

"The federal government intends to provide grants for the development of English-language-proficiency assessments that are aligned with the national common-core standards. A notice of the U.S. Department of Education's new priority to support the creation of new English-proficiency tests for English-language learners appeared this morning in the Federal Register. ... Interestingly, the proposed grant competition would push the country toward more uniformity for the definition of English-language learner and common criteria for determining when ELLs should no longer get special help to learn English. The notice says that the states participating in a consortium to develop the new English-language-proficiency tests would have to use a common definition for ELLs and common criteria for considering them to no longer have that status."


State-Mandated English Policy Under Fire in Arizona
By Claudio Sanchez, National Public Radio, January 5, 2011

"No one really knows how many schools are defying the state-mandated policy. The state seems to be looking the other way, but it still expects kids to function in a regular classroom within one year. ... State officials admit they don't know how many students are struggling and forced to return to their ELL program, but the U.S. Department of Education and even the Department of Justice have gotten so many complaints about it, they're conducting several investigations."


Primero Hay Que Aprender Español
By Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, December 30, 2010

"I’m a fervent believer in more American kids learning Chinese. But the language that will be essential for Americans and has far more day-to-day applications is Spanish. Every child in the United States should learn Spanish, beginning in elementary school; Chinese makes a terrific addition to Spanish, but not a substitute. Spanish may not be as prestigious as Mandarin, but it’s an everyday presence in the United States — and will become even more so."


Charter Proposals Are Found Lacking
By James Vaznis, Boston Globe, December 20, 2010

"Nearly all the proposals for new charter schools statewide fall short in one key area — a strong commitment to serve students who lack fluency in English, according to research by a national organization that represents linguistic minorities. Most of the 23 applications failed to say whether the school would follow state guidelines for English language learner programs and few discussed strategies to recruit a specified number of these students, according to findings by Multicultural Education Training & Advocacy, which has offices in Somerville."


Immigration Vote Leaves Obama's Policy in Disarray
By Julia Preston, New York Times, December 18, 2010

"The vote by the Senate on Saturday to block a bill to grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students was a painful setback to an emerging movement of immigrants and also appeared to leave the immigration policy of the Obama administration, which has supported the bill and the movement, in disarray. The bill, known as the Dream Act, gained 55 votes in favor with 41 against, a tally short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for debate. Five Democrats broke ranks to vote against the bill, while only three Republicans voted for it."


Mixed Results in English Language Learners Report
By Stefanie Knowlton, Salem Statesman-Journal, December 14, 2010

"Oregon got mixed results in its effort to improve instruction for English language learners last year, according to a statewide report released today. On one hand, a greater percentage of ELL students gained proficiency and left the program. On the other hand, most ELL students failed to move up one level last year and, many did not meet federal testing benchmarks."


What Happens When a Charter School Fails?
By Bertha Rodríguez Santos, New American Media, December 13, 2010

"Representatives from Green Dot, the L.A-based charter school network that opened Animo Justice in 2006, informed the students that the school was being shut down in June. ... Teachers learned the news just 20 minutes before the announcement to students. ... The school’s 500 students, meanwhile, were shocked—and devastated. More than 90 percent of them were Latinos, nearly half were English Language Learners, and the school was the only one in the Green Dot network that offered classes in English as a Second Language. Where were students supposed to go? What would happen to the community they had worked so hard to create?"


Breaking Down the Language Barrier
By Amanda McGregor, Salem News (MA), December 11, 2010

"Parents who speak English might not think twice about meeting with a teacher, reviewing their child's homework or joining the PTO, but it can be difficult for parents who don't speak English and aren't rooted in local culture. In the Salem schools, there is a growing effort to reach out to non-English-speaking parents — something that is key in a district where one in four students doesn't speak English as a first language, according to state data."


Senate Delays DREAM Act Vote
By Stephanie Condon, CBSNews.com, December 9, 2010

"The Senate today voted to delay debate on the DREAM Act, an immigration measure that would help undocumented young people gain a chance at earning legal status by joining the military or entering college. Recognizing they could not win the 60 votes to break a Republican-led filibuster on their own version of the bill, Senate Democrats will now put the House version up for a vote next week. Yesterday, the House passed its version of the legislation by a vote of 216 to 198, with eight Republicans joining Democrats to support the bill and more than three dozen Democrats voting against it."


How Do Supreme Court Justices Refer to the Undocumented?

By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, December 9, 2010

"In court yesterday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. used the words 'illegal aliens' to describe people who are living illegally in this country while Justice Sonia Sotomayor tended to refer to them as 'undocumented aliens.' ... For the record, on this blog, while I sometimes write the words 'illegal immigration,' I don't attach the word 'illegal' to human beings, but rather call them 'undocumented immigrants.'"


School Committee Questions Cuts
By James Vaznis, Boston Globe, December 9, 2010

"A week before the Boston School Committee is to vote on a controversial proposal to close or merge more than a dozen schools, its members raised a range of questions last night and requested additional data, but did not indicate how they might vote. ... Among a long series of questions from Committee member Claudio Martinez was one about how the closing of Jamaica Plain’s Agassiz Elementary School would affect the large number of students learning to speak English there. 'Will they end up in general education classes with substantially less services?' he asked."


Illegal Immigrant Students Await Vote on Legal Status
By Julia Preston, New York Times, December 7, 2010

"With both houses of Congress set to vote this week on a bill that would give legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students, one of those students will wait for news of the outcome at an immigration detention center in Arizona. The student, Hector Lopez, 21, was deported to Mexico in August after having lived with his family in Oregon since he was an infant. ... Mr. Lopez’s deportation and effort to return offer a look at one prospect awaiting illegal immigrant students if the bill, known as the Dream Act, fails."


Constant Testing
By Susan Blackwell, Indianapolis Star's Our Schools blog, December 3, 2010

"As I work with my secondary candidates in teacher education, I am hard-pressed by the critical questions they are asking about a profession that seems to be spinning out of control. They ask me: How does all this testing make sense? How does it help kids learn in more critical and complex ways? How am I supposed to teach 41 students in a math class in which there are 10 English language learners, some with extremely limited English proficiency, and students with exceptional needs who need a lot of one-on-one support?"


Spanish Is Not the Top Language for ELLs in Some States
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, December 2, 2010

"Spanish is not the top home language for students who are English-language learners in some states, though it is the most commonly spoken native language for ELL students at the national level, according to a fact sheet released this week by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. Seven states have a language other than Spanish as the top language spoken by ELL students. In Maine, that top language is Somali, and in Vermont, it's Bosnian. The five other states have Native American languages, such as Ojibwa and Yupik, topping the list."


Learning English in Portland Public Schools
By Susan Nielsen, Oregonian, December 1, 2010

"Lack of money isn't the reason behind Portland Public Schools' spectacular inability to teach English as a second language. The real problem, as the school board conceded this week, is an extraordinary and enduring lack of leadership -- one that takes a lifetime toll on the children the district is entrusted to teach. ... On Tuesday night, the school board told Superintendent Carole Smith to overhaul the district's ELL program, which sports an abysmal academic record and has been in violation of state and federal law for most of the past two decades."


Groups Make Late Push To Salvage Bill Aiding Illegal Immigrant Students
By Julia Preston, New York Times, December 1, 2010

"Immigrant advocate groups have mobilized across the country in what they call a last-ditch effort to persuade Congress to pass a bill that would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students, pressing for action in the remaining weeks when Democrats control both houses of Congress. The groups held marches, hunger strikes, prayer vigils and protests at lawmakers’ offices on Monday and Tuesday in support of the bill, which they call the Dream Act. Opponents are also in high gear, swamping some senators who have not disclosed their positions with faxes and phone calls. "


Whipping the DREAM Votes
By Mario Solis-Marich, Huffington Post, November 30, 2010

"Senior Senate officials confirmed today that Leader Harry Reid continues to passionately look for votes to pass the Dream Act. ... The Act would provide a path to normalization for young undocumented immigrants that were brought to the US as children. Dream Activists and Senate staffers are encouraged by signals that GOP Senators Lugar (IN) and Bennet (UT) will vote for the DREAM Act as a standalone bill. However more GOP Senators are necessary to win the day for the young potentially college and service bound DREAM Act students."


Bilingual Mandate Challenges Chicago's Public Preschools
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week, November 29, 2010

"Administrators in the Chicago public schools are seeking to strike the right balance between providing guidance and permitting flexibility as they put in place the nation’s first state mandate for providing bilingual education to preschoolers. New rules approved by the Illinois state board of education in June flesh out a January 2009 change that essentially extends the same requirements for educating English-language learners in K-12 public schools to 3- and 4-year-olds in public preschool centers."


Let's Get Complicated
By Arthur Goldstein, Huffington Post, November 26, 2010

"I've been saying for years that it's absurd to administer the English Regents exam to my ESL students; they require a very different kind of instruction and examination than those of us born here. Preparing them for this exam deprives them of instruction they will likely need to revisit in college remedial courses -- courses they'd need not pay for if we were free to give them what they need in high school. The nonsensical manner in which this test will be administered exacerbates an already absurd situation. And it's just one more thing that happens when educational decisions get made without educators' input."


Unique Bilingual Program Spreading Across New Jersey
By Sarah Garland, NJSpotlight.com, November 24, 2010

"In New Jersey ... a growing number of districts are trying the dual-language system in the early grades that is showing promise in Long Branch. Experts say it may be the most effective, despite its relative rarity across the country. In the Garden State, Long Branch joins Elizabeth, Perth Amboy and Plainfield as one of the fewer than 400 dual-language programs nationwide, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit."


The Problem? English. Could the Cure Be Spanish?
By Emily Alpert, Voice of San Diego Blog, November 18, 2010

"Nearly 40 percent of English learners in San Diego Unified fail to become fluent by the time they reach middle school. Now, schools are starting to eye them, zeroing in on what holds them back. They're called 'long-term English learners,' students who ... can gab easily in English, but run into trouble with more sophisticated reading and writing in school. ... Pacific Beach Middle School is testing one way to tackle their needs, a way that might seem odd at first glance. To help seventh and eighth graders who still struggle with English, it is bulking up their skills in both Spanish and English."


American Children Need Bilingual Education
New America Media, November 17, 2010

"To help American children be competitive in the global economy, Congresswoman Judy Chu will introduce a bill on Thursday in support of early bilingual education. The Global Languages Early Education Challenge Fund (GLEE) would authorize $100 million to provide low-income students with access to high-quality pre-K to 5th-grade education programs that promote school readiness and narrow the achievement gap through bilingualism."


Month 3 as a Failing School: The Hatchet Drops
By Martha Infante, Accomplished California Teachers Blog, November 16, 2010

"Hundreds, if not thousands of hours lay ahead for [our] team of teacher leaders ... more meetings jam-packed with edu-speak, data, graphs, and proposals, and all the while, the root cause of our students’ under-performance continues to go neglected:  poverty, crime, violence, and hunger. I think of the millions of dollars the district is spending on consultants to examine how value-added measurement can be used to evaluate teachers.  I think of the amount of money that will be spent to pay for teachers to meet and write plans.  I think of all my students’ families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, and I wish we could just give them the money."


Obama, Hispanic Caucus Push for DREAM Act Passage Before Year's End
By Sam Youngman, The Hill, November 16, 2010

"President Obama and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) are pushing Congress to pass the DREAM Act before adjourning. ... 'This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service,' the White House said."


Science and Teacher Training Are on ELL Chief's Agenda
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week, November 12, 2010

"Rosalinda B. Barrera, the new director of the U.S. Department of Education’s office of English-language acquisition, has a strong interest in improving science instruction for English-language learners and building the overall capacity of the nation’s teachers to work with such students. ... Some observers say Ms. Barrera is inheriting a position that doesn’t have much influence because the oversight and monitoring of funds from Title III, the section of the No Child Left Behind Act authorizing money for English-language-acquisition programs, was moved out of the English-language-acquisition office, or OELA, and into the elementary and secondary education office at the end of the Bush administration. ... For fiscal 2011, Ms. Barrera is overseeing about $56 million of the $800 million Title III funds."


Will Ed. Department's Voice for ELLs Leave for L.A.?
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, November 11, 2010

"Whenever I ask anyone over at the Education Department who within the department is focusing on the interests of English-language learners, I'm given the answer: Thelma Melendez. My colleague Alyson Klein reports a rumor over at Politics K-12 that Melendez, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, is on the short list to become the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District."


New Voices Join In
By Daarel Burnett II, Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 9, 2010

"The St. Paul school district is gearing up to meet new language challenges from the Karen, a growing ethnic minority group from Myanmar. ... In just three years, enrollment has zoomed from 100 to more than 1,100. At least 4,600 Karen immigrants have received refugee status in St. Paul -- a number that is expected to climb with Sunday's election violence between Myanmar troops and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in the border town of Myawaddy."


Academic Progress Stagnant, Despite More Teacher Hires
By Sheena Dooley, Des Moines Register, November 7, 2010

"The Des Moines Register analysis looked at changes in the number of full-time and part-time teaching positions in Iowa's public school districts between the 2004-05 school year and 2009-10. Specifically, the analysis found:
• Iowa added 982 full-time teaching positions, bringing the statewide total to 34,643. Statewide, the number of full-time teachers increased 2.9 percent. ...
• Iowa districts have seen a 21 percent increase in the number of students from poor families, while the number of students who don't speak English has grown 43 percent. ..."


McGrath Works on Language Barrier
By Tammy Marashlian, Santa Clarita Valley Signal, November 7, 2010

"At McGrath Elementary School, Parent-Teacher Association meetings are held a little differently. They’re conducted entirely in Spanish, and translators are on hand to interpret discussions for the handful of English-speaking parents and administrators. ... Newhall School District figures show that 53 percent of McGrath students are English-language learners and 72 percent of its students are socioeconomically disadvantaged."


Divided Congress May Be Fertile Ground for No Child Reform
By Nick Anderson, Washington Post, November 4, 2010

If President Obama is seeking common ground with Republicans in the next Congress, one major domestic issue seems ripe for deal-making: education. Obama aides say the administration plans early next year to accelerate efforts to rewrite the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. Plenty of obstacles loom in a divided Congress. But key Republicans appear receptive to the president's overtures on education reform in part because Obama backs teacher performance pay, charter schools and other innovations that challenge union orthodoxy.


Trend Watch: A Bilingual Test for Speech-Language Disorders
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, November 3, 2010

"Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, have created an assessment designed to detect speech-language disorders in children who speak both Spanish and English, according to a story posted by the university. It's one more tool to expand the resources that schools can use for the difficult task of determining if children who speak two languages have a language barrier or disability."


English Only Law: Effects on State Gov't.
By Maria KJRH.COM (Tulsa, OK), November 3, 2010

"Voters passed eight of the eleven state questions on Tuesday. One of them makes English the state's official language. ... While the question may have passed with 76-percent approval, it will face legal challenges. University of Tulsa professor James C. Thomas says it violates the right of free speech, and he plans on filing a lawsuit within the next two weeks."


Increasing Immigrant Population Putting Pressure on School Resources
WLBZ2.COM (Portland, ME), November 3, 2010

"The latest census data shows that Maine is the whitest state in the nation at more than 95 percent. But that lack of diversity is definitely not present in the state's largest city. Portland has become so diverse that 23 percent of its overall school population is now learning english as a second or even third language -- and the school district has added teachers to its English language development program in a time of tight budgets."


At English-Mandarin Public School, High Test Scores, But Also Strife
By Sharon Otterman, New York Times, November 1, 2010

"When it opened in 1998, the Shuang Wen Academy was heralded as a new kind of boutique public school, rooted in a mission of cross-cultural understanding. Small and open to children of any background, it was billed as the nation’s first dual-language English-Mandarin public school, teaching fluency in both languages. ... [T]hough Shuang Wen, which means “double language” in Mandarin, has been called a dual-language program since its founding, it has taught almost exclusively in English during the school day, reserving Chinese instruction mostly for the after-school program, from 3 to 5:30 p.m."


Bilingual Ed Students Outperform Peers after 6th Grade
By Ramon Bracamontes, El Paso Times, October 29, 2010

"Students in bilingual education outperform their peers in English-only programs after the sixth grade, a San Jose State University professor said Thursday in El Paso. The professor, Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, told educators at the Texas Association for Bilingual Education Conference that she has studied bilingual programs in 10 states during the past 20 years. The conclusion of her studies was always the same.

'The bilingual students will outperform the other students in English and in math," she said. "There is a lot of high-quality research that backs that up.' "


Hispanics Cite Bias in Survey
By Julia Preston, New York Times, October 29, 2010

"More than 6 in 10 Latinos in the United States say discrimination is a “major problem” for them, a significant increase in the last three years, according to a survey of Latino attitudes by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group. ... The nation’s largest minority (at 47 million) feels beleaguered by backlash from the polarized debate over immigration in the last year, the survey shows."


Area Hispanic Students Overcoming Barriers
By Megan Gildow, Springfield (OH) News Sun, October 28, 2010

"When a new student enters Becky Young’s class, she starts as if they were in kindergarten — no matter what their age. ... Young is the only English as a Second Language teacher in Springfield City Schools, working with five ESL tutors and 140 students. She spends her days traveling among the district’s buildings working with kids who are deemed Limited English Proficient. ...”

Prince George's Aims To Improve School Readiness of English Language Learners
By Lindsay Powers, Southern Maryland Online, October 26, 2010

"Prince George's County is in the early stages of addressing how to help Hispanic children and other English-language learners gain more early childhood education so they are better prepared for kindergarten. The School Readiness for English Language Learners Working Group expects to make recommendations that will help to prevent these children from falling behind later in their education. ..."


Portland School Leaders Do Little To Fix Problems in English as a Second Language Program, Audit Says
By Betsy Hammond, Oregonian, October 23, 2010

"Portland Public Schools' program for educating students who don't speak English as their native language was blasted by the district's own auditor this week as ineffective, scattershot and chronically out of compliance with federal law. Worse, auditor Richard Tracy found that the district's top leadership hasn't shown it cares much about fixing its shaky system for helping non-native speakers learn English, master core subjects and graduate from high school -- which helps explain why most English language learners in Portland schools do none of those things..."


Science Grows on Acquiring New Language
By Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week, October 22, 2010

"Recent studies on how language learning occurs are beginning to chip away at some long-held notions about second-language acquisition and point to potential learning benefits for students who speak more than one language. ... "


Obama Signs Executive Order on Latino Education Ahead of Election
By the Associated Press, October 19, 2010

"President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday intended to boost Hispanic education achievement, a priority for a key voting bloc two weeks ahead of critical midterm elections. ... Tuesday's announcement broke little new policy ground but allowed the White House to showcase an issue important to the Hispanic community ahead of midterm elections that will determine whether Democrats maintain control of Congress. Hispanic leaders and educators were invited, and were greeted by a mariachi band in the Grand Foyer outside the East Room. ...


Educators Sue over Ethnic Studies Law
By Alexis Huicochea, Arizona Daily Star, October 19, 2010

"Eleven ethnic-studies educators have filed a legal challenge in federal court to a new state law that targets Tucson's Mexican-American studies program for elimination. The lawsuit names state Superintendent Tom Horne and the Arizona State Board of Education. ... The plaintiffs said they believe the law is the product of racial bias aimed specifically at Hispanics. ..."

The Benefits of Multilingualism
By Jared Diamond, Science, October 15, 2010

"Multilingualism—the ability to understand and speak several languages—is exceptional in the United States but common elsewhere, especially in small-scale traditional societies. For instance, once while I was camped with some New Guinea Highlanders conversing simultaneously in several local languages, I asked each man to name each language in which he could converse. It turned out that everyone present spoke at least 5 languages, and the champion was a man who spoke 15. What are the cognitive effects of such multilingualism? Recent studies show that children raised bilingually develop a specific type of cognitive benefit during infancy, and that bilingualism offers some protection against symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia in old people. ..."

ELL Civil Rights Probes Span from Coast to Coast
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week's Learning the Language blog, October 7, 2010

"While the Boston school district has settled with the U.S. departments of Justice and Education on how to fix civil rights violations for English-language learners, services for such students in eight other school districts are currently being investigated in compliance reviews by the Education Department's office for civil rights. ..."

Boston Schools Violated Rights: Students Lacking English Fluency Denied Services
By James Vaznis, Boston Globe, October 2, 2010

"A federal investigation has determined that Boston schools violated the civil rights of thousands of students who speak limited English by failing to provide specialized instruction, leading to a settlement agreement that calls for the school district to overhaul programs and bolster teacher training, officials announced yesterday. ..."


Bilingual Education Pays Off, New Documentary Says
New America Media, September 25, 2010

Interview with Marcia Jarmel, co-director of "Speaking in Tongues," a documentary that explores the benefits of learning two or more languages at a young age. Includes a video preview of the film.


DREAM Act Deferred
By Elise Foley, Washington Independent, September 21, 2010

"Senate Republicans filibustered the defense authorization bill Tuesday afternoon, ending a push by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide legal status to some undocumented immigrants in exchange for school or military service, and a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as amendments to the legislation. ... After the filibuster, Reid said he will continue to push for the DREAM Act, which was originally proposed in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — who voted against bringing the defense authorization bill to the floor today. ..."


In Illinois, Bilingual Learning for Non-English Speakers Now Starts in Preschool
By Tara Malone, Chicago Tribune, September 13, 2010

"As the school year begins, Illinois becomes the first state to mandate that public schools with preschool programs offer a bilingual education to 3- and 4-year-olds who don't speak English. Under the new regulations, school officials must determine whether students speak another language at home and measure how well they speak and understand English. They then must offer those who need it a seat in a bilingual preschool class, where they study basic academic skills in their native language as they learn English. ..."

Hearing Opens in Legal Battle Over Arizona ELL Programs
By Mary Ann Zehr, Education Week, September 2, 2010

"For two school years, Arizona has required that English-learners be separated from other students for four hours to learn English skills each day. Whether the approach is beneficial to such students has become a central issue in [Horne v. Flores], which was filed by parents from the state’s Nogales Unified School District in 1992. ..."


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Editor's Note

Articles are posted here to provide current information on research, policy, and practice in educating ELLs, drawn from a broad sampling of U.S. media. No endorsement is implied. Click on article titles to read the full stories.

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