Saturday, December 22, 2012

Are the Feds serious about ELLs?

I once had the opportunity to meet Rosalinda B. Barrerra, the Director of Title III programs at the federal level.  She had amazing energy and passion for the work of improving educational outcomes for ELLs.  I asked her, "Why did you decide to work for the Department of Education?  Isn't the bureaucracy stifling?"  She said, "Well, I was a bilingual leader in my district and I thought I could make a bigger difference at the state level so I became a state-level director, then I thought I could make a bigger difference in Washington so I came here."  She was determined to make a difference and that's why it's sad that she left suddenly and without an explanation from the Feds.  Perhaps it was related to the fact that Title III funding has been lumped in with Title I since 2008, which effectively made Title III more beholden to Title I and less able to advocate effectively for resources for ELLs.  Or - perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the National Clearinghouse for English Language Education (NCELA), a source of research-based information for many professionals, has been outsourced to a company that has only existed for one year.  The long-term contract for operating NCELA had been held by George Washington University but the Feds opened the contract for bidding and awarded it to a fledging company with little language experience.  Thankfully, due to complaints they are reviewing the decision and may open up bidding again.  However, all of this makes me wonder if there is a true commitment to improving educational outcomes for ELLs or if the Feds are looking for short-cuts and opportunities to use the "business model" to address ELL language needs quickly and cheaply.  Click here to read the Edweek article with more information.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Inspiring meeting!

It's not often that you get to put the words inspiring and  meeting together, but today is that day.  I met with 11 highly dedicated and motivated ESL teachers this morning for the first Team Leader meeting of our MinneTESOL Elementary Interest Group.  We are ready to roll our sleeves up and focus on advocacy for our profession and our students, professional development to ensure knowledge of best practices, and new technology resources to reach out to members and make information easily accessible.  This group is SO important - as are other grass-roots groups like it.  After 10 years of NCLB what do we have to show for it?  Anxious teachers and students, millions of dollars spent on testing annually, an abusive evaluation system designed to "catch" teachers being unsuccessful rather than help them improve AND most importantly - not much academic progress to show for it - ESPECIALLY for ELLs.  So - if you have ideas on how to advocate for the ESL profession and students - please share!