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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.

NEA Today
October 2008
Finding Our Way with Words

What does it say about America that we are the only industrialized nation that routinely graduates high school students who speak only one language? Frankly, it says that if you want to talk to us—to do business with us, negotiate peace with us, learn from or teach us, or even just pal around with us—you'd better speak English. The fact that we're woefully behind in world language skills has long registered somewhere between, "Hmmm," and "Yeah, so?" on the national priority gauge. (Compare that to our panicky responses to indicators that we're not on top in math and science.)

"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.

Visit the NEA TODAY Web site.


Miami Herald
October 20, 2008
South Florida charter schools offering new language options
Students in the math class at Archimedean Middle Conservatory stare at the board figuring out functions. But instead of saying ''equal'' they say ''iso.'' Instead of ''a'' they say "alpha.''

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.
October 14, 2008
Federal Panel to Hold Briefing With DC Public School Chancellor and Former DC Mayor on Civil Rights Issues and School Choice
The District of Columbia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a briefing to gather information from elected officials, government officials, education specialists, and community advocates on the issue of civil rights, school choice, and education in the District of Columbia.

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.


Richmond Times-Dispatch
September 22, 2008
In plain English, proposal for Stafford schools fails the test
The Stafford County Board of Supervisors apparently believes that readin', writin' and xenophobia form the foundation of a good education.

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
September 15, 2008
Encourage learning foreign languages
Despite growing awareness that students need a globally competitive education, only a little more than half of Iowa youngsters in high school, 51.67 percent, took a foreign language during the 2007-08 school year.

Wide variation among school districts suggests students in some places get much better preparation than others to thrive in a world where jobs and commerce flow readily across borders. While English is the language of business, learning a second language develops the ability to more fully communicate with and understand people from another culture.

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.

Iowa districts' percentages range from low double digits to more than 80 percent, according to Department of Education data.

Visit the Des Moines Register Web site.


Northwest Arkansas News
September 2, 2008
Jumping the Language Barrier
Beginning this semester, Decatur High School is offering one of the few “ Spanish for Spanish speakers” classes in the area.

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.


Delaware Online
August 22, 2008
Education Key for Del. Latinos
More than half of Delaware's Latino residents speak little or no English, according to a new needs assessment of the state's Hispanic population.

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)
June 8, 2008
Dual-ing languages Joliet school using languages to boost students' scores
Hiding an instrument behind a box, bilingual teacher Kaberi Chakrabarty played it so her students could identify it by sound.

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)
June 4, 2008
Immersion Conversion
A long-nurtured dream among the staff at Eugene’s 310-student River Road/El Camino del Rio Elementary School seems likely to come true by fall 2009.

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)
May 4, 2008
Bilingual speech therapy
Despite warnings that each parent should only speak his maternal tongue to the child to avoid confusion, my husband and I often flop-flop between languages as quickly (although not as easily) as [our daughter] Anna does. While Radek's English is much stronger than my Czech, we do live in the Czech Republic, and I often find myself in a situation where speaking English to Anna Lee just doesn't seem natural. Mostly, during our regular visits with Radek's family, where Czech is spoken exclusively, or in a situation where I've already been speaking Czech with another mother and her child, my brain has often already formed the Czech response before the English. In these situations, Anna permits me the occasional instruction in Czech, and it seems to suit her to keep the flow of conversation smooth.
I found support for our seemingly unsystematic approach to bilingualism in an article entitled Raising Bilingual Children: Common Parental Concerns and Current Research published by the Center for Applied Linguistics by two scientists at Georgetown University, Washington D.C.) In contrast to parental fears and modern parenting literature which suggest that switching back and forth between languages leads to the child's confusion, current research indicates that "code-switching" (switching between languages in a socially appropriate way) is actually a sign of "mastery" of both linguistic systems and that bilingual children as young as 2 are capable of it. Furthermore, the article sites current research on bilingual families that indicates that using the one-parent one-language approach can actually result in "passive bilingualism" where the child understands both languages but uses only the "majority language" or the language of their larger community.

Visit the Prague Daily Monitor Web site.


Anchorage Daily News
April 29, 2008
Interns from Japan broaden immersion program
[Junko] Murofushi is one of eight intern teachers Sand Lake Elementary contracted to teach in the Japanese immersion program this year. As demand for the district's oldest immersion course has grown, the school has brought in unpaid teachers to supplement its paid staff. It's a relationship of convenience for both that highlights the demands of an intensive language immersion program and also the growth of such programs across the city.

"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)
April 25, 2008
Arabic classes grow in popularity
Arabic-language students on college campuses numbered 5,500 before 9/11 and nearly 24,000 in fall 2006. The number of colleges offering Arabic instruction has nearly doubled since 2002.

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)
March 25, 2008
School district preps parents for immersion
In its first meeting on immersion schools at Lake Superior Elementary on Wednesday night, Superior school district administrators are preparing to tell parents how the school would be transformed into a Spanish immersion school.

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.
March 10, 2008
Language immersion works
Ken Laughlin's letter in the Feb. 23 Argus Leader, "Spanish program ill-advised," is based on a lack of understanding of what a language-immersion program is all about.

It is not for non-native speakers of English, and it does not deprive students of any of the experiences that regular students enjoy. In fact, research has shown that students who have an language-immersion experience do better on standardized tests than their peers. And those standardized tests measure all subject areas, including English.

There is a useful paper on foreign language immersion on the Center for Applied Linguistics Web site. The paper answers many questions for parents and others who are interested in the goals and design of the immersion experience.

Visit the Argus Leader Web site.


Los Angeles Daily News
February 17, 2008
LAUSD facing challenge of English at home, class
[This is] the heart of a growing urgency at Los Angeles Unified School District that after more than 15 years of quiet awareness, more now needs to be done to meet the challenges faced by students whose native language is English but who speak vernacular dialects at home.

"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)
January 9, 2008
School district continues facing bilingual education challenge
DeKalb School District 428's bilingual student population is now 450-up 6 percent over last year. It is an ongoing challenge, yet, largely due to leadership by director Sue Orem (recently retired) and dedicated faculty, the bilingual program has been highly successful.

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.”

Visit The MidWeek Web site.


Austin American-Statesman
January 2, 2008
AISD looks to restart 'dual-language' program
In the Austin school district, [a dual-language] program hasn't been tried since a Spanish dual-language program at Harris Elementary School was shut in 2003.

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.

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