Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Seems to be a small win for NCLB

The Vista Unified School District has all but given up on its dual-language strategy of educating Spanish-speaking students and has been moving to a "structured immersion" program to help them learn English more quickly, officials said last week. The change comes roughly seven years after voters approved a ballot measure that outlawed bilingual education, but that allowed districts such as Vista Unified to continue the programs if parents signed waivers requesting them.

For years, the Vista district encouraged the waivers, until consistently low scores on standardized tests ---- which state and federal laws say must be administered in English ---- convinced them that change was needed, officials said. "Evidence came to the district's and board's attention that (bilingual) programs were not providing results as quickly as possible in terms of standardized testing," said Superintendent Dave Cowles. "The scores were not reflecting the progress we wanted to see." Test results released last month showed that 18 campuses in Vista Unified were failing to meet proficiency standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, largely because of the scores of non-English speaking students, officials said. Roughly 7,100 non-English speakers are enrolled in the Vista Unified district, according to data provided by the district.

In the last several years, when students first entered school, parents were given a choice: either put the child in a predominantly English-speaking classroom or in a bilingual program known as "dual immersion" that included instruction in Spanish. When Proposition 227 passed in 1998, strictly limiting bilingual education in California, Vista Unified continued to emphasize its dual-language classes, allowing students to be taught in their native language and in English. Through the 2004-05 school year, more than 50 percent of the district's Spanish speakers were enrolled in the dual immersion bilingual program, according to Monica Nava, the district's English language development coordinator.

That number dropped to 22 percent this year, after Vista Unified trustees decided in 2004 that it was time to accelerate students' transition to English. By the start of the current school year, 16 of the district's elementary schools had begun structured English immersion programs, in which all materials, assignments and testing are in English. "This is the first year we've really gone for a full court press on the immersion program," said Cowles. "Our goal is to shift English language learners into (it), so they can learn English faster." Vista's program represents a sort of middle ground between bilingual and English-only programs, officials said. The new approach begins with 70 percent of instruction in English, but increases to 80 percent in the second and third years. Students who meet academic standards would then advance to an English-only program, while those who do not would remain in the classes....

Of the 18 campuses that failed to meeting state testing standards, eight were sanctioned this year by the federal government for failing to meet testing standards at least two years in a row. To pass the English and math portions of the test, 24.4 percent and 26.5 percent of students, respectively, must score at or above their grade levels, an increase from last year, when 9 percent to 16 percent of students needed to pass. Under the federal law, all categories of students ---- including non-English speakers ---- must meet those thresholds for the school to measure up. For most of the federal standards, nearly all Vista schools missed their target on the English test because one of the school's subgroups ---- English-language learners or a combination of English learners, Latino students or socioeconomically disadvantaged students ---- failed the test.

But officials are hopeful that next year will be better. "There is no question that the only thing we can do to benefit English learners the most is to move into English instruction as quickly as possible," Trustee Steve Lilly said last week. "I'm really optimistic and truly expect that we will see an increase in state language arts scores come this spring because so many more of the kids are spending their day exposed to English."

More here

Outsourcing Education is Nothing New

A recent trend in tutoring children is outsourcing. The students work at their computers in America, and their online tutors work with them from their computers in . . . India. Shocking? No. If you believe that the prime responsibility for educating children should rest on the parents, then ALL teaching outside the home is outsourcing.

In America, of course, most people are used to outsourcing the job to the public schools. But our governments' schools haven't been doing so well. So there is growing competition...Now even from India. A September 7 C/NET article informs us that "Companies like Growing Stars and Career Launcher India in New Delhi charge American students $20 an hour for personal tutoring, compared with $50 or more charged by their American counterparts."

How good are they? The report quoted enthusiastic parents, but it probably takes actual usage to tell. Of course, American Federation of Teachers' spokespeople warn us that the industry is unregulated. But then, our public schools ARE regulated, so take that for what it's worth.

Experts that I know suggest that judging even American services can be tricky. "The bigger the ad budget," says one, "probably means poorer word-of-mouth -- and it's word-of-mouth that keeps good, independent tutors busy."

But more sources for education sounds better than fewer. Whether down the street, on the other side of town, or the other side of the globe, the more options we have, the more likely we will find better sources for teaching.



Excerpt from a review of "America’s Glorious Cause" by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, 386 pages

David McCullough has written another book that will be bought and read by hundreds of thousands of Americans, perhaps millions. Professional historians, their degrees framed on the walls of their offices and their salaries funded by hard-working taxpayers, will eat their hearts out once again. Their books will not sell or be read except as a requirement for their own graduate seminars. The reason is obvious. Professors in academe today generally discount good, old-fashioned narrative history for Marxist theory, psychoanalytical biography, social history, quantifying studies, or postmodern deconstructionism. They write only for themselves, and their prose is politically correct, agenda-driven, dull, vapid, or impenetrable. Once upon a time college professors commanded a wide audience and helped make the American people historically literate. Now that job is left to David McCullough and others like him who have not forgotten that a historian’s principal job is to tell a good story and to tell it with passion, insight, suspense, poignancy, and power. McCullough does so brilliantly.

History is about people—living, breathing, flesh-and-bone people—and McCullough never forgets this. His latest effort, 1776, is all about the people who fought for the Glorious Cause in the year of the Declaration of Independence. He clearly loves the cause and those who followed General Washington in a year that was full of victories and defeats, drama and boredom, courage and cowardice, sacrifice and selfishness, and optimism and despair for the American rebels. McCullough takes the reader into the ranks of the American troops, into their disease-plagued camps, their battlefronts, their homes, their love lives, their thoughts and beliefs. His extensive use of primary documents, including letters, diaries, and memoirs, generates an intimacy and an immediacy that makes for a page-by-page adventure. The reader can’t help but become a participant in the Glorious Cause

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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