In case you missed it, excellent front page story–

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/us/15immig.html?pagewanted=5&ref=education

Another thought about this. We now have about 1 in 10 students in US schools classified as English language learners! A huge increase of 60% between 1995-2005. Yet, schools are confused about how to teach these students and prepare them for life…. Policies are all over the place–no consensus nationally about how to tackle this challenge. And, in terms of long-range results, the story is not clear.

I still believe in immersion. See my last blog.

As well, the article mentions the use of accommodations for students on state tests–teachers reading test questions orally and recording student answers (so they don’t have to write them). I wonder: do these accommodations help students? or just lead to good scores on standardized tests. You decide.

The front page piece is at:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/us/15immig.html?pagewanted=5&ref=education

My thoughts? Immersion in regular schools works. As a foreigner in a strange land four times (twice for me and twice for my children) having to learn a new language fast, I can tell you that immersion works best. Consider, in fifth grade in New Jersey in the 1950’s, I have been forever grateful that my teachers did not speak any Dutch. I learned English fast. As an immigrant to Holland two years earlier, I had learned Dutch fast–immersion in a regular school. As an adult, when my own children had a chance to learn French, my oldest went to a regular high school and learned French fast. The younger child was put into a separate elementary school class for French learners and learned far less French or anything else!

I have learned that children want to learn, make friends and fit in. Let them go. They will learn. Immersion works.

Your thoughts?

If—

There’s so much to write on this question–millenia of experiences–so I will resist the urge and just add a couple of ideas.

Yesterday, I visited a California charter school. It was lovely. It had great programs, students, teachers. Everything there seemedto be working on all cylinders.

During the tour, the elementary school principal then told us, “If I could get moms to put them to bed early.”

If…

If…

If… moms and dads would talk to their kids, what a huge difference that would make for children in school.

There is lots of research on this. If parents talk to children–about anything and everything–that experience makes a huge difference for children in school, especially for reading, vocabulary, readiness for learning.

See several examples:
http://www.enotalone.com/article/11082.html

And from the Nataional Institute for Literacy
http://www.nifl.gov/partnershipforreading/publications/reading_first2.html

And across the pond, see this BBC report on the importance of talking with children. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6336221.stm

If…moms and dads would feed kids good stuff, and not just donut holes, sugars, and more carbs!

If…to quote our President, moms and dads would turn off the televisions and computers and help kids to do their homework.

If…

If…

If…what would you add?

Panel IV: Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners — Play Audio Podcast
(mp3 44.4 mb), Running Time: 49 minutes
Daniel Domenech: Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators
Miriam Freedman: Attorney and Author
Sharif Shakrani: Professor, Michigan State University
Martha Thurlow: Director, National Center on Educational Outcomes
(moderator) Mary Blanton: Attorney

Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and RESILIENCY!

That word, resiliency, has popped up in many conversations recently. In following my ears, I’m wondering how we foster resiliency in our students.

What are we doing to help students be resilient–to overcome difficulty; to see the sun on the other side; to become active learners; to move from “victim to victor” per Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D., book, “Come on People.” See earlier blog on that one!

I Googled “resiliency in children.” Check it out. Lots of good stuff.

http://www.google.com./search?hl=en&q=resiliency+in+children&aq=0&oq=resiliency+in

You may also wish to visit the following website, dealing with resiliency in adults.

http://www.kwtcommunications.com/

Yes, let’s move resiliency to the top of the class and make it the ‘4th R!’

Got ideas? Please share!

Dear friends of education,

I just got back from Washington DC, where I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) 20th Anniversary Conference. Check it out at www.nagb.org. The conference dealt with the nation’s test, often called The Nation’s Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Once on the site, www.nagb.org, go to “The Governing Board Commemorates 20 Years.” There, you can click on “Conference Papers” and, if you’d like to hear the panel, go to the podcasts. The panel I spoke at was about testing students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners(ELL). It was Panel IV.

Issues about how to include all students and keep the NAEP ‘real’ and valid and reliable were the subject of that session. They focused on the use of accommodations on, and the exclusions of SD and ELL, from the NAEP.

My loyal blogging colleagues know that I recommend that we keep our eye on the prize at all times. To get testing results that tell us how students are doing–good and bad. To get honest scores; not necessarily rising and good scores. Just the facts!

How to do that? NAGB is chartered by law to develop one test for the nation that is valid, reliable, based on widely held technical standards and representative of all of our nation’s children. It is a voluntary national representative sample test. Scores don’t count for or against students or schools. NAEP allows our country to compare scores from state to state and for large city to city.

How do we get NAEP ‘real’? Once NAGB decides WHAT skills and knowledge NAEP is to designed to measure, other issues fall in place. We then know what accommodations to allow–only those that maintain NAEP’s purpose, validity and reliability. We don’t, for example, read the reading test to a student, if the purpose of the test is to test a student’s skills in phonics, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. We don’t provide a test in Spanish if the purpose of the test is to test reading in English. We don’t provide a calculator if the purpose of the test is to measure math computation and related skills. I was happy to note that Dr. Shariff Shakrani, a fellow panelist, echoed these realities in discussing SD.

In terms of exclusions, based on reading the NAGB law, there should be NO exclusions by schools or states of students. Parents can opt out of the test, and, in some situations, schools can. But schools cannot cherry pick students. In terms of SD, there should be NO exclusions (beyond the 1% of students who take alternate assessments). Current exclusion policies are based on flawed readings of the laws, including the special education law, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

The fact that we now have troubling variations from state to state in terms of how many SD are excluded makes the NAEP far less valuable. Indeed, it tarnishes this ‘gold standards’ as it does not produce comparable scores. Again, I was happy to note that Dr. Shakrani echoed this recommendation to end exclusions (beyond that 1% exclusion).

If we want NAEP to be the Nation’s Report Card, to be a ‘the gold standard’ and to be the basis of decision making for improving our schools, then we must bring accommodation and exclusion policy in line.

How? NAGB should set the NAEP test, tell us WHAT it measures, provide the rules, allow accommodations that are consistent with NAEP’s purpose, end the practice of exclusions, and implement its requirements consistently.

Check out the conference and panel (as well as others) on line: www.nagb.org at “The Governing Board commemorates 20 years of NAEP.”

I just read Stephen Lipscomb’s new report (January 2009), “Students with Disabilities and California’s Special Education Program,” found it very useful, and wanted to share it with you. Research support was provided by Karina Jaquet.

The report discusses both programming and funding for special education in California. One thing I really like about it is that the report clearly separates out the (a) costs for special education from the (b) costs of educating students with disabilities–as the second of these includes the regular education services that most students with IEPs receive. This report clarified my confusion on the matter.

You can download it at the Public Policy Institute of California website:
http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=875.

Happy reading!