Monday, March 16, 2009

Where Education and Assimilation Collide

My linguistics professor told us about a feature the New York Times is running entitled Where Education and Assimilation Collide. It's a really interesting look into different schools that are being affected by the shifting trends in immigration. The first school featured is a high school that was once predominately white and upper class whose demographics have shifted quickly with a housing boom and the construction jobs that it brought.

Now the community and local schools are trying to figure out how to respond. There has definitely been racist backlash to the new immigrants, with some leading the charge to pass anti-immigrant legislation. The way the schools are dealing with it is interesting. Immigrants are essentially tracked in separate classes where they are prepped for the state tests. On one hand it's helping the students pass the grade and get their diploma, but it has also set up a highly segregated school environment. It also raises questions of how well the schools are preparing immigrant students to the actual world when so much emphasis is placed on teaching to the test.

Educators are stuck in many ways when it comes to teaching English Language Learners. In Colorado, for example, every student regardless of language status must take the CSAP (state standardized test) in English. So I have one student who just moved from Mexico in October and she had to take CSAP in English. She's really bright and has made amazing strides in just a few months, but she will still almost certainly receive an Unsatisfactory score because her English has not progressed to grade level (of course!). Still, when it comes to our school making their mandated goals, that will still come up as Unsatisfactory. There is nothing to distinguish that this is from a student who just came to the US or the fact that she has made amazing gains in the course of a few months. Schools are basically penalized for having high ELL populations. Then funding is stripped, when the opposite should be happening. And on and on....

1 comment:

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