Check out this link to the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s online Q & A with Karen Nemeth, a longtime bilingual educator, teacher trainer and author of Many Languages, One Classroom. She’ll be taking questions through Friday, September 16.
Faced with the prospect of a civil rights lawsuit, the state of Arizona will no longer monitor the English fluency of ELL teachers and will now leave that monitoring to districts and charter schools. According to the Arizona Republic, a civil rights complaint filed last year claimed that teachers with accents were being reassigned.
The state claimed that fluency monitoring was required under the No Child Left Behind Act. However, federal officials told Arizona the monitoring program could violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it discriminated against Latinos and non-English speakers.
Arizona’s top school official said state monitors will continue to advise districts to watch for teachers with faulty English pronunciation or grammar.
“Students should be in a class where teachers can articulate,” John Huppenthal, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, told the Arizona Republic.
The Arizona case provides fodder for some possible story topics:
- Are Latino or immigrant teachers unfairly targeted or monitored because of their accents or the perception that they might have an accent? Do native English-speaking teachers with poor grammar or syntax skills face similar monitoring or consequences? In Arizona, monitors cited teachers who “pronounced ‘levels’ as ‘lebels’ and ‘much’ as ‘mush.’ Last year, federal officials found monitoring reports that documented teachers who pronounced ‘the’ as ‘da’ and ‘lives here’ as ‘leeves here’,” the newspaper reported. As anyone who has tried to learn a second language knows, accents are difficult to shed and having an accent alone does not denote lack of fluency in a language.
- How are students affected when their teacher — especially an English as Second Language teacher — demonstrates lack of fluency in English? Does it impede the students’ learning or does it help to have a teacher who might speak their native language and can understand what it is like to learn a new language? Does your state or district have a similar monitoring procedure — and if so, what do they do when teachers are cited for lack of fluency? It would be interesting to look at the demographics of ELL teachers in your districts and break down the number of native English speakers.
Yesterday I had the chance to visit Chicago’s Erikson Institute, the nation’s only higher education center exclusively dedicated to early childhood education. Erikson won a federal i3 grant to expand its Early Math Project, which coaches early educators in strategies that help children progress in mathematical thinking. Jacqueline Jones, Arne Duncan’s deputy for early childhood, and some other U.S. Department of Education staff visited yesterday as the institute kicked off their first year of expansion from just working with pre-K and kindergarten teachers to tackling the primary grades, too.
A large number of the Chicago Public Schools involved in the project are in Latin0-heavy neighborhoods on the city’s north and northwest sides, so Erikson has taken steps to ensure young Spanish-speaking children and their teachers will get the support they need. Five of the eight coaches recruited for the project are bilingual in English and Spanish, as is one of the two coach supervisors. A key element of the work helps teachers think about the mathematical language they use in lessons and activities; there’s a nice example of how to help multilingual children develop words related to spatial reasoning here. Program director Jennifer McCray says they want to encourage teachers to learn key words in both languages and use them with their students. “We’re aware of [the need] and doing what we can. We’re trying to help teachers think about it. Often there isn’t anyone there to help them think about it.”
Erikson also recognizes the common reality that in Chicago pre-K classrooms, the teacher may be a monolingual English speaker while the teacher assistant is bilingual in Spanish and English. Though the program is only able to offer its “learning labs” (training sessions) to teachers, coaches will have some direct access to classrooms and thus opportunities to interact with assistant teachers.
About one in four American children are immigrants or were born to immigrant parents. By 2050, immigrant children–the fastest growing student population–are expected to make up one-third of the country’s under-18 population.
For those children, the majority of whom are Latino, learning English is key to academic achievement. But how well are English as Second Language programs–designed to help non-English speakers master academic English–working?
It’s a question that often crossed my mind as an education reporter–and has grown louder in the last couple of years, as I’ve stepped into the role of a classroom teacher.
One of the roles of English teachers in Texas is to help assess the writing and speaking skills of ELL’s. But we were given only superficial training in how to do so. All that was required was passing an online course, which most of us accomplished through educated guesswork. Yet, we were tasked with helping to decide which students were beginning, intermediate, or advanced English speakers.
Recently, in a comment posted to this blog, a teacher suggested that education reporters look into how ELL’s are identified. Are children being placed in ESL programs because of poor vocabulary or poor knowledge of English? What do schools gain or lose by placing students in ELL classes?
And what are students in ELL programs learning? I recently attended a faculty training session for college instructors, where one teacher–a former ESL high school teacher–mentioned that she had worked in four different districts. In all four, ELL students were assigned writing exercises that involved just copying material directly from their texts. Even if such rote assignments help students master basic English structure, how might it affect the students’ academic growth?
Recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that ELL’s have lower rates of enrollment in Algebra I and advanced placements courses.
About 79 percent of ELLs speak Spanish as their native language, making this a key issue for anyone covering Latinos and Latino education.
For reporters interested in digging a little deeper, here are some good resources to start with:
- The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs collects research and resources on issues related to ELL’s.
- The Clearinghouse publishes a quarterly review filled with useful information and possible story leads. Here’s a recent edition.
- The Future of Children, a collaboration between Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, recently published a comprehensive report on Immigrant Children, containing research and analysis of the best practices for ELL’s.
This week a few items crossed my desk and got me thinking about how improving the quality of early educators is likely to benefit both Latino preschoolers and those Latinos (mostly Latinas) entering early education as a career.
In August, the inspector general’s office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services released a report saying that 81 percent of Early Head Start teachers now hold at least the minimum credential, a Child Development Associate (CDA), which requires 120 hours of class time and 480 hours of supervised professional experience with children. More than half of those teachers who didn’t yet have a CDA were in the process of earning one. Some centers reported trouble finding qualified teachers to hire; the Center for Law and Social Policy suggests that could be a result of Early Head Start’s rapid expansion thanks to stimulus funds.
At the same time, there’s a debate about how best to train early educators. Many experts agree that a CDA is not enough training to guarantee highly qualified teachers and the field’s typical salaries arguably encourage low-quality teaching and high turnover. The average preschool teacher in the United States earns only $23,870 annually, compared to $51,009 for public elementary and secondary school teachers. Some say the solution is for early educators to earn bachelor’s degrees and higher, just like K-12 teachers do, and that they should be on public school teacher salary scales with incentives to take more coursework.
Others argue that we should redesign early educator training from the ground up. In a recent Brookings paper, Sara Mead and Kevin Carey argue for the creation of “charter colleges” of early education. They argue that research has not proven bachelor’s degrees to guarantee educator quality, that most early-childhood degree programs don’t provide the skills early educators most need and that undergraduates with demographic profiles similar to many entering the early childhood field (low-income and minorities of all kinds, including Latinos) have low rates of college graduation.
Mead and Carey cite Texas School Ready as a potential model for the training such colleges could offer. The program is run by an offshoot of the University of Texas at Houston and works with thousands of Texas preschool classrooms to help them ensure their children leave ready for kindergarten.
I’d like to see some reporters take a look inside both their local CDA training programs, often run through community colleges, and watch the graduates at work in local preschool programs to see how they do when they enter the field. Here in the Chicago area, the Erikson Institute is working with community colleges to increase and improve their pre-service work with aspiring early educators on how to teach math. Are there similar efforts elsewhere? How are they faring?
There’s been some good news on the Latino education front.
A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center shows that Latino college enrollment jumped by 24 percent — or nearly 350,000 students — from 2009 to 2010, outpacing black and Asian enrollment. For the first time, the study showed, Latino students on campus outnumbered black students.
The number of Latinos graduating from high school is also continuing to increase, as did the share of Latino high school graduates who are attending college. According to the report, the Latino high school completion rate hit its highest level on record — 73 percent — in October 2010.
Population growth -- through high birth rates and immigration -- accounts for only a part of the growth, which means that progress is being made in closing the college attainment gap.
It also means that there are stories to be told about the Latino students who are striving for and getting to college, students who are often overlooked in our efforts to cover the all-too-pressing educational struggles facing the Latino community.
As a high school teacher, I found that my honors classes were filled with college-bound Latino students. They were in the National Honor Society, on student council, involved in athletics, theater, and community service organizations. One of my students, in the country only a few years, was one of the few in the school to score a 5 (the highest score) on the A.P. English exam. Another had her road map to college carefully planned out. Their parents expect and encourage them to go on to higher education.
My classrooms were not aberrations. According to the College Board, the number of Latino students enrolling in Advanced Placement courses nationwide has steadily been rising. And, as the Pew study shows, more Latino students see college as a goal.
Who are these students? What is the story behind their success? What role do their parents play in their achievement? What is it like for them to see repeated stories about the failure rate of Latino students? Do those images affect their interaction with teachers and counselors?
Not only do the answers to those questions make compelling personal narratives (many of my students were children of immigrants, and often the first in their families who would be going to college), they also provide a different angle for examining what works in Latino education.
The race is on among states competing for a slice of the $500 million federal dollars set aside to improve early childhood education systems. In August, the U.S. Department of Education released the application for its Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, a competition to reward states that align the many players involved in early childhood to improve data and program quality assessments and expand access to more high-risk children.
What might this mean for Latino preschoolers? One way to look at this question is to see which states experts say are leading contenders to win a share of the money and note their Latino population. New America’s Early Ed Watch recently predicted some of the leading contenders based on their existing track records in early learning. Their projected likely winners are: Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Vermont.
Of these, Colorado and New Mexico are among the top ten states with the largest Latino populations. Pennsylvania is among the 16 states with Latino populations over 500,000. Oklahoma and the two small states of Iowa and Vermont are among those where Latinos are the largest minority. So nearly half of the likely contenders would appear to have especially strong interests in developing early childhood systems that support Latino preschoolers.
One challenge all the competitors will face is enticing family daycare centers to participate in state programs like Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, a star-rating system that usually comes with incentives for daycare providers to improve quality by training staff and making other improvements. While larger, center-based programs often participate in these systems, convincing mom-and-pop operators to get on board is much harder, and research tells us Latino children are more likely to be in family-based care than in center care.
And what about states with the largest Latino populations, like California, Texas and Florida? Unfortunately, at this time none of these looks likely to win, though Florida may be getting in the game. Last spring California eliminated its state Early Learning Advisory Council as a cost-cutting measure. Though the state may still apply for the challenge, without such a council in place they are less likely to be viewed as a serious contender. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has forsworn Race to the Top for ideological reasons. And though Florida won an earlier round of the competition, until recently the state has refused to participate in a required federal home visiting program that Florida lawmakers considered part of President Obama’s healthcare reform package. Until that situation changes Florida is not eligible to compete. But last week, Gov. Rick Scott signaled he wants the state to apply, so things might be changing.
In these times of recession and job loss, factors such as hunger, poverty and homelessness can play as much of a role in school performance as teacher quality, education policy and curriculum standards.
This week, the Bread for The World Institute is releasing a new analysis showing that almost one-third of Latino immigrant children are at risk of going hungry, and one-third of Latino immigrant families depend on food banks to survive. The analysis uses Census and other government data to examine the hunger crisis among these families.
For undocumented immigrant families, the problem is heightened because they may not be eligible for federal assistance or free school meals.
A teleconference on the report, “Hunger and Poverty among Latino Immigrant Children,” will be held Wednesday, September 7, 2011 from 1 to 2 p.m. EDT. The conference call number is: 888-208-1812. Confirmation Code is 4083180.
The American Psychological Association has also compiled an extensive list of the effects of hunger and homelessness on children and resources for more information.
In one San Diego neighborhood, white families are choosing to send their children to private school rather than to the neighborhood elementary school. Latino families from other neighborhoods, in contrast, are going out of their way to choose that school for their children.
The result? Self segregation.
In a piece posted this week, the voiceofsandiego.org offers a fascinating look at the dynamics that have reshaped the school–and go against the theory that school choice will lead to more diversity within schools.
As reporter Emily Alpert notes: “If every public schooler in the neighborhood went to Jefferson, the school would almost mirror San Diego Unified as a whole — roughly half Latino, about a fourth white, a sixth African-American, the rest a mix of other races.” Instead, the school is mostly Latino and African-American, with most students qualifying for free lunch.
This piece is a follow-up to a story Alpert did earlier this year that examined how school choice has actually worsened segregation in San Diego.
Alpert’s reporting is a good example of staying on top of an issue by starting with an overview of a problem, then zooming in on individual facets. By looking at how one neighborhood–and the families there–are affected, Alpert is able to delve deeper into the questions she uncovered in her earlier reporting, humanize the issue and till ground for more stories.