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News Archive - 2008
Because the direct links to these articles change as news organizations move articles to archives on their Web sites, we have provided links to the home page of the appropriate news outlet for those with inactive links. Many of these Web sites retain archives that can be accessed by visitors, some free and some for a small fee. If you are interested in any of the articles posted in our archive, please visit the appropriate news Web site for more details.
"The norm is still either no foreign language or two years in high school," says Marty Abbott, director of Education at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The Council's most recent estimates show enrollment in foreign language programs in the United States at about 30 percent for grades 7–12, and just 5 percent for elementary students.
But the English-only-is-OK attitude may be on the way out. A series of wake-up calls relating to national security, diplomacy, and economics—for example, the scramble to find Arabic translators after 9/11 and the struggle federal agencies faced aiding the Gulf Coast's sizable Vietnamese community post-Katrina—elicited voices of concern from the business community, the Department of Defense, educators, and families, all dismayed by our collective ignorance of world languages and cultures.
That's because it's all Greek at the West Kendall charter school, one of a half-dozen charter schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that have opened in recent years with a focus on foreign language.
At Archimedean, the kids take an hour of mathematics in Greek as well as an hour of the language itself every day.
''It's interesting,'' said Constance Thurmond, 12, a seventh-grader in the math class. "When you hear it in Greek, you sort of in your mind take it to English.''
Constance has been going to Archimedean for five years and speaks in practiced Greek. She said she doesn't have trouble understanding her teachers when they teach in the language.
The handful of other foreign language charter schools in South Florida offer instruction in Spanish, French, Italian or Hebrew. A Mandarin Chinese school is planning to open in Miami-Dade in 2009.
Visit The Miami Herald Web site.
Leaders talk about the vital importance of education - John McCain has called education the civil rights issue of the 21st century and Barack Obama stated the neglect and failure to act to improve public education has put our nation in jeopardy. Still, disparities remain. Nationwide, the high school graduation rate for African-American students is 57 percent, for Latino students 60 percent, while graduation rates for white students are 78 percent. Additionally, according to some estimates, white students in twelfth grade are on average four years ahead of black students in reading and math skills. This briefing will look at education issues in the District, including whether extending school choice options can help improve the quality of education for the children of D.C.
Visit the Market Watch Web site.
Actually, a Greeky word like "xenophobia" might get you kicked out of class under the board's proposal to ban all languages but English from the schoolhouse.
At Tuesday's meeting, the resolution before supervisors mandated "the use of the English language as the sole language for use in Stafford County schools."
The supervisors delayed action so that the resolution could be retooled. Board Chairman George H. Schwartz said the original wording was too broad "in that it includes, to the casual observer or anyone reading it, foreign languages that are taught."
No kidding! The wording doesn't leave a lot to interpretation.
The Stafford School Board has not taken a position on the resolution, which was one of several proposals submitted to the supervisors in May by a task force on illegal immigration. But Vice Chairwoman Nanette Kidby is concerned.
"We want to be able to meet the needs of every student that walks into Stafford Public Schools," Kidby said. "If we're limited to one language, it makes it very difficult to meet their needs."
Visit the Richmond Times-Dispatch Web site.
Des Moines Register
Iowa's percentage may still top the nation's. Recent national statistics are hard to come by. One federal report showed 43.6 percent for 2000.
Visit the Des Moines Register Web site.
Northwest Arkansas News
This fall, foreign-language teacher October Vanegas, who teaches both Spanish and French, has six native Spanish speakers in her new class. Some of them are fluent in reading Spanish, and others are not yet literate in Spanish or English.
On one recent day, members of the group paired off, with the more fluent students working with less fluent students, and practiced reading aloud. The focus was on clear pronunciations, Vanegas said.
Some of the students learned to read in Mexico, while others had little opportunity to attend school until they came to the United States, Vanegas said. She hopes students will learn the connection between letters and sounds, and as they discover how to read in Spanish, their English reading skills will improve as well.
About 21 percent of Decatur High School students speak another language at home.
Visit the Northwest Arkansas News Web site.
The report to the Governor's Consortium on Hispanic Affairs, released Thursday, pinpoints education -- including making English classes more accessible to immigrants and higher education more affordable -- as the key area Hispanics feel needs most improvement.
Of the state's 56,152 Latino residents, an estimated 41 percent are living here illegally, compounding the education, income, transportation and health care barriers noted in the report.
Yet even those living here legally can struggle to find services.
Visit the Delaware Online Web site.
The Herald News (Joliet, IL)
The catch was they had to say the name of the instrument in Spanish.
For half the class, it was pretty easy because they were bilingual. But for DeAndre Heckhard, 8, it was a challenge, but fun.
"Tambor, tambor," the students said about the drum before singing in Spanish. "Uno, dos, tres ... chocolate, chocolate, chocolate."
DeAndre was one of 326 students instructed in the dual language enrichment program, with an emphasis on cultural studies, at Parks Cultural Studies Academy, 500 Parks Ave., which is part of Joliet Grade School District. The concept of dual language is new to the district.
This school year, DeAndre and half of his second-grade class switched places with half of the bilingual classroom for music. Meanwhile, teacher Jean Hubble would teach art and social studies while her students learned Spanish.
Visit the Herald News Web site.
The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
The Eugene School Board on Wednesday is expected to endorse planning for Lane County’s first two-way Spanish/English language immersion program, to be housed at River Road.
The program would offer instruction in both languages to all students, with core subjects — reading, math, social studies and science — taught half the day in English, half in Spanish. It would probably begin as kindergarten-only, expanding as students ascend to the next grade level.
A key goal with two-way programs, which have taken root throughout the West over the past 20 years, is to attract equal numbers of native English and native Spanish speakers, who learn each others’ languages and culture together. At least 332 such programs exist in 27 states, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics.
Visit the Register-Guard Web site.
Prague Daily Monitor (Czech Republic)
Visit the Prague Daily Monitor Web site.
Anchorage Daily News
"It's made a huge difference," said Sachiko Kono, a second-grade teacher at the school since 1990.
Kono, who partners with Murofushi, has seen the course's popularity slowly grow -- now she always has classes maxed out at 25 to 30 students.
Immersion programs have spread rapidly in the United States, from just a couple dozen in the mid-1980s to hundreds now, according to the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics.
Anchorage's growth mirrors the national trend. What started with the Japanese school 20 years ago with 50 students now is 1,780 students in 11 programs in four languages -- Japanese, Spanish, German and Russian.
Visit the Anchorage Daily News Web site.
York Daily Record (York, PA)
Experts attribute the class sizes to curiosity about the Arab world and Islam, as well as geopolitical interest in the Middle East and jobs available to Arabic speakers in industries such as oil, national security and journalism.
"Arabic's become very trendy since 9/11," said Alexandra Jerome, a lecturer who last year began teaching the first Arabic-language classes at York College.
"The kids take Arabic because not only are they curious about the language and what the language represents, but also because it's got job opportunities attached to it."
Visit the York Daily Record Web site.
The Daily Telegram (Superior, WI)
Although the board has not yet approved starting an immersion school in the district, if one is offered it would almost certainly be at Lake Superior, said Superintendent Jay Mitchell. Spanish is the most likely language choice because of the availability of resources and native-speaking teachers, he said.
Visit The Daily Telegram Web site.
Los Angeles Daily News
"Until you tackle language, you will not have academic achievement," LAUSD Superintendent David BrewerIII said.
"I don't care about the politics behind this. I want to make sure children learn standard English."
Rough estimates indicate at least 100,000 of LAUSD's 695,000 students are "standard English learners," comprising the lowest-performing group in a district already struggling with achievement-test scores that lag far behind the state and nation.
Visit the Los Angeles Daily News Web site.
The MidWeek (DeKalb County, IL)
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Becky McCabe recently told the school board, “DeKalb is on the right track with bilingual education and it's because of Sue's leadership. English Language Learners (ELL) are a difficult group of kids to peg. People learning to be proficient in a second language have to be proficient in academic content areas also. You must first be literate in your own language.
“They can converse, but writing in English is something else again,” McCabe said. “Any kid will learn English survival skills. But that isn't learning academic subjects.”
Unlike one-way bilingual and English-as-a-second-language programs, which are aimed primarily at teaching English to non-native speakers and are found at many area public schools, dual-language programs serve English and non-English speakers by alternating the language used during the school day. The goal is have students become fluent in both.
"It creates an atmosphere where everyone is learning a language," said Martha Garcia, the district's executive director of bilingual education. "It becomes a situation where, if I'm a Spanish speaker, I can help my English speaking classmates as much as they can help me. There's more of an equality, and kids feel more empowered."
Visit the Austin American-Statesman Web site.