Friday, February 27, 2009

Finding Qualified Bilingual Teachers

So your district wants to start a language immersion program or you want to start a charter school with an immersion program. You may find yourself with a big problem. No, I'm not talking about funding, although that can be a big problem too. I'm talking about hiring qualified, credentialed, native-speaking teachers. It may seam easy but it isn't. Yes, there are a lot of Spanish speakers in the US but that doesn't necessarily translate into lots of Spanish-speaking teachers. The same is true for any language.

As I have mentioned before, in order to become a teacher one must receive a BA, complete a course of study to become certified and pass several exams, all conducted in English. Now this makes a lot of sense if the teacher will be conducting class in English but teachers in immersion classes are not conducting class in English. They are using French or Spanish or Mandarin or any other myriad of languages. Most of the teachers of these languages speak English just fine but not at the level necessary to pass exams and write academic papers.

Now, if your child were in an English only classroom, would you be ok with a teacher who had the equivalent of an 8th grade level in English? A teacher who didn't know how to spell properly, couldn't write and made frequent grammar mistakes? Due to the English language requirements for getting a teaching credential, many of the most qualified bilingual teachers are unable to teach in the US. I do want to mention that there are those bilingual teachers who are credentialed and who have an appropriate level in the language of instruction but far too often that is not the case. Some bilingual teachers have never taken a formal class in their native language because they grew up in the US and were not fortunate enough to have been provided with a bilingual education.

As more and more districts begin to expand their number of bilingual schooling options they are facing the need to hire qualified teachers. Such is the case in Maryland where language immersion programs have been poping up. Finding the right people doesn't seem to be the hard part, its getting them certified.
"We don't want to diminish the certification, certification is very important," said Bill Reinhard with the Maryland State Department of Education. "But there are ways of speeding certification along."

Providing flexibility in teaching certification, the task force hopes, could help schools utilize the language talents of first-, second- or third- generation Americans.
Yes, we are going to need to reevaluate how we certify our teachers and create ways for getting around the language barrier facing many of our most qualified immersion teachers. However, with increase of bilingual programs we just might be able to produce our own bilingual teachers right here in the USA. Wouldn't that be great.

See full article here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Looking for a bilingual school?

For all the parents out there looking for a great language immersion program for your child, The Center for Applied Lingustics has a searchable database of many schools that offer bilingual programs, both immersion and two-way. There are several schools missing, especially the newer ones. But it is a great place to start.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Resources for Bilingual Families

Looking for articles, support and forums about raising bilingual or multilingual children? Here are three great ones. Let us know if you have any sites to share with us.

Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network

Bilingual Families Connect

Multilingual Children's association

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mandarin on the Rise in Vancouver

Mandarin is the growing trend in Vancouver as more and more citizens sign themselves and their children up for Mandarin classes.
On February 16, the Vancouver school board voted unanimously, in principle, to start Mandarin learning in at least one elementary school by September 2010, B.C. Parents for Mandarin spokesperson Lara Honrado told the Straight. This follows similar steps taken by North Vancouver and Burnaby, which will both start Mandarin in some kindergartens over the next two years, she said.
So why Mandarin and why now? According to the article
Vancouver sits across the water from economic tigers China and India; the city was built on Coast Salish land; and in several Vancouver neighbourhoods, Chinese is the mother tongue of more residents than English or French.
And aside from demographics and proximity to China there are many other factors that are encouraging parents to push for more Mandarin bilingual programs.
Suzanne Nelson [is] a member of the newly created Burnaby branch of B.C. Parents for Mandarin. Nelson describes herself as Caucasian and speaks English and high-school French. Her three-year-old son, Josiah, is half Chinese and speaks, so far, English. She would like him to grow up speaking Mandarin. First, she said, so he can communicate with his peers. Second, because it’s his heritage language. Third, to open a world of career opportunities to him when he grows up.
As more cities begin to embrace bilingualism and education in more than one language they will need to look at other models. So what cities out there have already figured it all out? Is there such a place? The search begins for the city with the best bilingual school system.

View full article here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Language learning on the rise!

Here is an uplifting article from the Miami Herald titled, "A bilingual future: More parents are sending their kids to language classes". Could it be that attitudes are changing right before our eyes?

''When I started in 1973, teaching language was a home thing. You did it to maintain culture,'' says Lourdes Rovira, former director of bilingual programs of Miami-Dade Public Schools. "Now parents are looking at it as an essential skill in a global economy. It's been taken out of the family tradition and become an economic decision.''

View the full article here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Website of the week

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition

Check out CARLA. A great resource for teachers, administrators, parents and anyone with an interest in language acquisition. They have endless resources including teaching aids, assessment tools as well as conferences and seminars for teachers of ESL and foreign languages.
Language Resource Centers

CARLA is one of 15 Title VI Language Resource Centers funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of the Language Resource Centers is to:

•establish, strengthen and operate national language resource and training centers
•improve the nation's capacity to teach and learn foreign languages effectively
•disseminate information about foreign language teaching and learning

Other Language Resource Centers

Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER)
- The Pennsylvania State University

The Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS)
- University of Oregon

Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language & Literacy (CERCLL)
- University of Arizona

Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR)
- Michigan State University

Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR)
- Indiana University

Language Acquisition Resource Center (LARC)
- San Diego State University

National African Language Resource Center (NALRC)
- University of Wisconsin at Madison

National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC)
- Georgetown University
- Center for Applied Linguistics
- George Washington University

National East Asian Languages Resource Center (NEALRC)
- The Ohio State University

National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC)
- University of Hawai'i at Manoa

National Heritage Language Resource Center (NHLRC)
- University of California, Los Angeles

National K-12 Foreign Language Resource Center (NK-12FLRC)
- Iowa State University

National Middle East Language Resource Center NMELRC)
- Brigham Young University

South Asia Language Resource Center (SALRC)
- University of Chicago

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bilingual Work Force in Demand

Yet another article about the growing demand for a bilingual workforce. For many of us this doesn't come as a surprise. We have long known the advantage bilingual people have in the workforce. It appears that even small town America is now feeling the pinch. In The Mount Airy News article from Surry County, North Carolina, Morgan Wall writes,
In Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, there are more than 700 international business firms. In the Triad, there are more than 200. These companies represent more than 40 countries and employ more than 60,000 people.
Almost every other country in the world has its students begin a second or even third language in grade school, the equivalent of elementary school. U.S. students are being forced to compete against these students from other countries who can offer more to companies.
Back in December 2006, in the Time magazine article, "How to Bring our Schools out of the 20th Century", Claudia Wallis wrote about our outdated educational system that fails to produce workers who can handle the new demands of a global marketplace. Most important to the article were the interviews with CEO's about the types of skills they look for in workers. Among the required skills is knowledge of foreign languages.
Mike Eskew, CEO of UPS, talks about needing workers who are "global trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures, conversant in different languages"--not exactly strong points in the U.S., where fewer than half of high school students are enrolled in a foreign-language class and where the social-studies curriculum tends to fixate on U.S. history.
It is clear that we need to provide foreign language instruction to our children at a much younger age. The only question is how are we going to make that happen?

Mount Airy News article

Times Article

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rise of bilingual schools in Wales

It appears that all around the globe parents are realizing the endless benefits of bilingual education and schools are stepping up to the task of providing more language options.
Around 80% of parents who send their children to Welsh-medium schools don't speak the language themselves.

In Northern Ireland the figure is even higher - 90%.

So why the rise?

For many parents, sending their children to a Welsh-medium school is viewed as a way of reclaiming part of their culture which wasn't available when they were young and the sector was much smaller.
Others are acutely aware of the impressive exam results delivered by many Welsh-medium schools, while for some, the changing face of Wales and the post devolution world could explain their choice..

Of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise that progress doesn't come without a struggle.
In Cardiff, Welsh-medium schools are all heavily oversubscribed and the local authority is currently attempting to institute an ambitious city-wise reorganisation plan which takes into account this swing towards education in Welsh.
But it has been highly controversial - initial attempts to close some English-medium schools with falling rolls has met with huge opposition.

View the full article here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good news for bilingual education in California

While it is sad that $8 billion will be cut from the state's education programs, current bilingual programs will not be touched. The San Jose Mercury News reported that
Under the proposal, about $6 billion worth of programs — including school lunches, class-size reduction and bilingual education — cannot be cut or have their funding shifted.
This is quite surprising given the attitude towards bilingual education in California that resulted in the passage of prop 227 and the dismantling of the majority state's bilingual programs in 1998. I am curious as to how bilingual education was spared the axe on the chopping block of Calfornia's budget. I would like to know who to thank.
View full article here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tamaulipas Becomes First Mexican Bilingual State

Without fanfare but with great hopes, the Texas border state of Tamaulipas has declared itself the first bilingual state in Mexico, deciding that its 320,000 public school students, from elementary to high school, will learn conversational English.
I just have to ask, if Mexico can do this, why can't we?
View article here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Children forced to sign English-only contract

A substitute teacher in a special ed math class decided to have her students sign a contract stating they would not be able to speak any language besides English.
“This is an English speaking school and classroom -- any other [sic] language other than English will not be tolerated,” the document states. It also informs students that they had to sign the paper -- that their signatures would count as a test grade.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Vineland Superintendent, Charles Ottinger, to remind him that English-only policies are illegal. However, Ottinger stated that they were not aware this had happened and don't condone such a policy.

You can view the full article here.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Texas court delays overhaul of ESL and bilingual programs

From a Houston Chronicle article:
McALLEN, Texas — A federal appeals court has delayed an overhaul of bilingual and English-as-a-second-language programs in Texas schools. Last year, U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice had ruled that Texas schools had failed middle and high school students with limited English.

So here's the problem:
Texas students receive bilingual education through sixth grade then switch to ESL classes, but the state lacks clear standards to evaluating the ESL programs.

What's wrong with this picture? Why are students from bilingual education classes switching to ESL classes? Assuming that these students have been in the school system since kindergarten, this is completely unacceptable. There has to be a severe problem with their bilingual education model if students are not actually becoming bilingual. The goal of bilingual programs is to create bilingual and biliterate students who can perform at grade level in both languages. There is no excuse for the failure to teach English at grade level to bilingual students. It is a sorry disgrace when students who have been raised in the United States are placed in ESL classes after six years of schooling.

David Hinojosa, who filed a lawsuit against the state was disappointed by the delay, saying,
"Texas has a monitoring issue that allows thousands and thousands of failing students to fall through the cracks. Unless things change, they'll continue to be lost in a system that fails them."

So why the delay? Texas Education Agency Spokeswoman, Suzanne Marchman stated
This gives the Legislature a chance to take a look at any laws they might want to pass to address the issue before we're forced to make decisions.

With this dire situation in front of them, they better work fast.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

US English Misguided Point #2

According to US English:

Official English is pro-immigrant

A Department of Education study showed that those who do not know English earn only half as much as those who do. Moreover, knowledge of English is essential to the assimilation process.

Well, yes, I have to agree that it is helpful to learn English in order to get a good job and good jobs often pay a bit more than lousy jobs. In fact, no one understands just how important learning English is than the immigrants themselves. But I am a bit confused by how making English the official language of the United States is actually going to help anyone learn English. It will still take years for immigrants to learn English, probably about the same amount of time it took immigrants to learn English over 100 years ago. Not much has changed in our brain's capacity to learn language since then.

The reason this second point is misguided is because it assumes immigrants don't want to learn English and that by only providing government and social services in English, immigrants will be forced to learn English faster. It doesn't exactly work that way. Although most immigrants have a strong desire to learn English, it isn't always easy to find the time to do so. It also requires money for books and classes or finding a free class that isn't already full or compatible with your work schedule. Learning English also requires lots of practice. Sometimes this is the hardest because what English speaker will be kind enough to sit down with you and allow you to try out your new vocabulary. And maybe you don't even know an English speaker well enough to ask them. And lastly, some people simply might not have a talent for languages and find it extremely difficult to learn a new one. I know plenty of English speakers who fall into this category.

So instead of worrying about passing legislation that takes away important services for immigrants in languages they can understand, perhaps they should focus their energy on increasing the numbers of free classes available to English language learners and creating programs that provide language tutoring. Most immigrants want to learn English. It's time to be constructive not destructive.