After a breakfast of bagels, fruit and coffee, participants split into groups for the opening plenary. (Does anyone know exactly what a plenary is, by the way?) I joined about 70 or so people in the session called “Lessons from California Classrooms:English Language Learners” and learned this: About one-third of students nationwide are English Language Learers. While the issue of how best to educate those students has long drawn attention here in California, ballooning numbers, particularly in my native land of the South, has now made it a national issue.
This morning, EWA members had first dibs on a new EdSource study that examined how elementary schools are doing at helping ELL students achieve. They came up with a few things that are key, like the strength of the principal and whether the school had set specific goals and created concrete plans for reaching those goals.
Trish Williams of EdSource, Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University, Margarita Calderon of Johns Hopkins University and Maribel Childress, principal of a Springdale, Ark., elementary school where 76 percent of the students are English Language Learners, hashed out the results.
At Childress’ school, Parson Hills Elementary, there’s at least one other important factor in success not mentioned in the study, she said. The staff makes it a priority to develop relationships with all students. If she were in Arkansas, for example, she would probably be wearing a costume to mark Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, a day that many of her students celebrate, she said.
“Learning is personal,” Childress said.
Calderon added that she would like to see the study replicated in Chicago, New York City or elsewhere.
We’ll post the results from the study on the EWA Web site soon.
And don't forget, Gov. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak in about 90 minutes.