"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lucky to be in America

Just when you thought every conceivable damaging consequence of NCLB's ill-conceived draconian policy has been exposed, the mighty Michael Winerip shines a spotlight on the latest casualties in this war on public education. The children left behind are 90 lucky Somalian refugees in Springfield, MA, who along with their famlies, managed to escape the horrors of refugee camps in their native country. Now they sit idle and isolated in American classrooms.

You see, placing them all in one school where they could thrive and prosper with the necessary ELL services, might make another superintendent look bad when the school is labeled failing because the Somalians can't pass "the test." As Congress schemes on how to attack a new group of the most vulnerable in 2006 through immigration reform , lackeys like Tom Horne in Arizona haven't given up on doing their dirty work. Despite a fine of $500,000 a day and a school board clearly ready to heed a judge's order, Horne is not giving up on holding these kids and their teachers accountable -- no excuses.

From Winerip article:

"For two years, local advocates for the Somalis -- including Dr. A.B. Odutola, Doreen Fadus and Jean Caldwell -- have repatedly asked that the children be clustered in a few schools to maximize translation support and reduce travel time for translators.

Springfield officials have given a variety of reasons for not doing so. Last spring, according to Mrs. Caldwell, school officials said that clustering too many Somalis at one school would bring down its scores on state tests and the school could be labeled failing under the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Mrs. Caldwell, a retiree who does volunteer work for several Somalian families, has filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights."

Is anybody home?


  1. No one is a bigger fan of Mike Winerip than I am.

    Still, t's remarkable for a kid to spend two years without acquiring a significant amount of English. Also, while I do not oppose bilingual education, it should not be necessary. Immersion ought to work for anyone. There's something really wrong here.

    It could certainly be the inability of the kids to read that hinders them, but they still ought to pick up verbal English.

    If these kids were in my beginning ESL classes, I would force them to speak English, whether they liked it or not. It's fairly standard practice. What the hell those MA teachers are doing is beyond me.

    Translation is not, primarily, how kids acquire language.

    Participation is.

  2. Participation is the key, but how much time out of a class can a teacher afford to "force" students to speak English and still have all the students in the class meet the requirements of NCLB?

    I've read that it takes around 7 or more years to become fluent, not just socially but also academically, in a new language. Where and how are the Somalians going to participate in a manner conducive to learning both English and the content matter of the school? In reality, they need to learn twice as much, probably more, than the other students, which means unless they're exceptional and receive help, they're simply going to fall further and further behind until they drop out of school.

    For those who believe it's simply a matter of "immersion," I recommend going abroad for a year and see how fluent they become.