Volume IX- September 1, 2004

 

Welcome to the E-Comp!, a complimentary monthly newsletter for language educators brought to you by Prolinguistica.com.

******************************************************

Welcome to a new school year and another issue of E-Comp!

NEW DIGS!
Prolinguistica has moved to a new office! Our new address is:

Prolinguistica
1621 Freeway Drive #208
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

We're located in the Tridex Building. Tiny office, but big future, right? (Clap louder, I can't hear you yet!)
Same phone (360-848-9792) and email address (laura@prolinguistica.com, e-comp@prolinguistica.com.

New Services, Too!
Tooting my own horn a bit, my license for dyslexia correction has been issued! Hearty pats on back gratefully received... A new section for the website - on dyslexia correction - is under construction and should be up soon.

I will be publishing a monthly newsletter, Singular Minds, on matters relating to dyslexia and the constellation of related learning difficulties, including trouble with math and time (dyscalculia), handwriting (dysgraphia), balance and movement issues (dyspraxia), and ADD-ADHD. If any of you are interested in receiving Singular Minds, just send an email to me at  dyslexia@prolinguistica.com and I'll put you on the mailing list. The first issue is already out. And of course, if you know anyone who needs help with any of the areas mentioned above, I hope you'll give them my contact information.

E-Comp! Archives
I encountered a stubborn glitch in the archives for E-Comp! at the website last spring, but this problem has been corrected. You should now be able to access all of last year's issues. Just remember, while many links remain active for years, many also expire within a few weeks. Back issues of E-Comp! are not revised to remove expired links.

******************************************************
For your reading pleasure…

Seven Myths About Diverse Schools
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2004; 9:42 AM

This is just an excerpt. Mr. Mathews is recommending a book, "Debunking the Middle-Class Myth: Why Diverse Schools Are Good For All Kids," by Eileen Gale Kugler, published in 2003 by The Scarecrow Education Press.  I'm only quoting the myths here, but you can read the entire article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36327-2004Aug3.html
Mr. Mathews writes:

In her book, Kugler identifies seven myths that keep otherwise smart parents away from such schools. I have only enough space to hint at the detailed way she dismantles each misimpression:

Myth 1: "The best school for my child is the one with the highest standardized test scores."
A recent Washington Post survey of Montgomery County, virtually a twin of Fairfax County in size and demographics, found that children from middle-class backgrounds consistently scored very high on reading and math tests, even if they went to schools with a high concentration of low-income students. Annandale High's average SAT score is lower than that of schools in homogeneous middle-class communities, but that is just an average. Large numbers of Annandale students score very high and are accepted at Yale, Columbia, Duke, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, William & Mary, the University of Virginia and many other schools on the U.S. News & World Report list.

Myth 2: "One style of school leadership will work in every school."
Kugler praises the atmosphere created by Susan Akroyd, principal of Parklawn Elementary School in Fairfax County, who has a bus pick up parents at their apartment complexes for important meetings and even rents an apartment to be used as a Parklawn Family Center where mothers and fathers can take parenting and English classes. During Ramadan when Muslims fast, Annandale High offers Muslim students a classroom where they can study during lunch and don't have to enter the cafeteria. She quotes one student telling a mother who complained about a basketball teammate's subpar performance, "Come on, Mom. Don't you know it's Ramadan and she's been fasting all day?"

Myth 3: "The best teachers prefer homogeneous middle-class schools."
Tom Pratuch, a national board certified chemistry teacher, sought out a job at Annandale High precisely because of the range of backgrounds of its students. He thinks many top-flight teachers share his taste in schools. "Most teachers are trained to reach a uniform population and that's what they are comfortable with. So, many good teachers seek out homogeneous schools," he said. But the best teachers, skilled at teaching different students in different ways, yearn for variety. "Just look at who is winning the national awards and major grants," he said. "They are predominantly from diverse schools."

Myth 4: "Diverse schools can't provide rigorous classes."
This is an especially irksome canard to me, and easy to discredit. Every year in the Washington area I measure the degree of participation in college-level courses of high schools in the Washington area, and do the same thing in Newsweek every three years or so, looking at high schools nationally. Annandale has an International Baccalaureate program that provides the most demanding academic experience available in America at that grade level. Its college level course participation rate ranks in the top 3 percent of all U.S. public schools, and there are other schools just as diverse that are doing just as well.

Myth 5: "Diverse schools are not safe."
Kugler argues that in many ways they are safer, because educators in such schools are very sensitive to the problems of adolescents from different cultures and much better at dealing with them. There are studies showing that drug- and alcohol-abuse is much higher among non-Hispanic white than minority students, and white males are more likely to bring weapons to school than black males. I received an e-mail recently from a reader outraged at the murder of a white student who attended another diverse Washington area public high school, T.C. Williams in Alexandria. The reader said this showed how awful such schools were at teaching character and values, and why so many parents put their children in private schools. The reader apparentlydidn't know that the victim had tried to avoid a fight, but was assaulted anyway by youths at night in front of city hall. All of his attackers were whites who attended private schools.

Myth 6: "Family beliefs and values will be threatened if we expose our youth to people with different perspectives."
Jaime Bacigalupi sent three children to Annandale High after they attended Catholic schools through the eighth grade. She told Kugler she had wanted a more intense religious education when they were younger, but appreciated the quality of the public schools, particularly Annandale, and did not feel their values were ever threatened by Annandale's diversity. "If you only live within the boundaries of your values," she said, "then you have no idea of the strength of those values. If they are never challenged, never questioned, never tested, you don't grow."

Myth 7: "Minority parents don't care about the education of their children."
Anyone who has spent any time at all with minority parents knows that this is nonsense, but sadly the notion is still widely held. Kugler cites a survey by Public Agenda showing that minority parents actually place a great priority on higher education than non-Hispanic white parents.
Kugler, an adviser to school districts, has many suggestions for persuading parents to take a closer look at those neighborhood schools that seem to be full of slow learners, but are actually taking American public education to new levels of achievement. Read the book and then, instead of asking your neighbor what she thinks, go to talk to someone like Kugler who has actually had a child in one of those schools.

Germans bridle at language law
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1278659,00.html
Luke Harding in Berlin
The Observer
Sunday August 8, 2004
It is the language of Goethe, the Brothers Grimm and Bertolt Brecht. But an official attempt to reform German has provoked an unprecedented denunciation of the changes by writers, publishers and literary critics as 'stupid and confusing'.

A committee of bureaucrats introduced the reforms - known as neue Rechtschreibung, or new spelling - six years ago to make the complex language easier to learn. Since then opposition to the changes has grown. It culminated in Germany's two leading publishing houses, Axel Springer and Der Spiegel, announcing on Friday that their publications would revert to the old spelling.

The reforms had failed, the publishers said, providing neither 'enlightenment nor simplicity'. They urged other newspapers to follow the example of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which had gone back to old spelling.

Leading literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki dismissed the changes last week as a 'national catastrophe'. In an essay, he declared: 'Chaos has broken out ... In no other major European country is the gap so deep between the language of the people and the language of literature.'
Günter Grass and other members of Germany's literary establishment have refused to allow their books to be printed using the new forms. Even page three girls have joined the rebellion. A model called Theresa, wearing only orange knickers, told Axel Springer's tabloid Bild she had her doubts about the wisdom of abandoning classical German orthography.

Under the new rules, the old-fashioned double S or S-Zett in German - which looks like a fat B - has been replaced in some cases with a double 'ss'. Other words have been capitalised for the first time, while compound verbs like radfahren - to ride a bike - have been split up, into Rad fahren.

Although the changes only affect 5 per cent of the vocabulary, they have provoked widespread confusion. They also appear to have been rejected by most Germans. But Professor Rudolf Hoberg, a member of the committee that introduced the changes, was unapologetic. 'The changes are sensible. They make German simpler. I believe the language is substantially better off as a result.'

Others are unconvinced. 'The reforms are simply stupid. These sorts of things happen when the state meddles in areas which shouldn't concern it,' Dr Friedrich Dietman, a writer and the vice-president of Saxony's Academy of Arts, said.

Germany's leaders have already gone over to the new spelling, which from next August will become compulsory for every German official. But there are signs of a growing political revolt, with the heads of three of the federal states - all of them run by the right-wing opposition CDU party - announcing that they want to go back to the old rules. The federal culture ministers will discuss the subject in October.

What would Goethe, and other dead German authors, have made of the row? 'We only agreed on a unified German spelling a century ago,' Roberg said. 'Goethe spelled his name several different ways. I don't think he would have cared.'
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

And you've been worried about your teeth...!
New Essay Finds Learning A New Language Helps Reduce Brain Decay
"Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence From the Simon Task"
By Ellen Bialystok, Fergus I. M. Craik, Raymond Klein, and Mythili Viswanathan
Psychology and Aging Vol 19, Number 2, June 2004
Abstract: Previous work has shown that bilingualism is associated with more effective controlled processing in children; the assumption is that the constant management of 2 competing languages enhances executive functions (E. Bialystok, 2001). The present research attempted to determine whether this bilingual advantage persists for adults and whether bilingualism attenuates the negative effects of aging on cognitive control in older adults. Three studies are reported that compared the performance of monolingual and bilingual middle-aged and older adults on the Simon task. Bilingualism was associated with smaller Simon effect costs for both age groups; bilingual participants also responded more rapidly to conditions that placed greater demands on working memory. In all cases the bilingual advantage was greater for older participants. It appears, therefore, that controlled processing is carried out more effectively by bilinguals and that bilingualism helps to offset age-related losses in certain executive processes.
Read the essay at: http://www.apa.org/journals/pag/press_releases/june_2004/pag192290.pdf
Read the press release at: http://www.apa.org/releases/bilingual_aging.html

The Language of Dreams
By C. CLAIBORNE RAY
NYTimes, Q & A
August 10, 2004
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/10/science/10qna.html?ei=5006&en=a7be62ddb5d89344&ex=1093320000&partner=ALTAVISTA1&pagewanted=print&position=
Q. In what language do bilingual people dream?

A. It depends on a number of factors, said Dr. Jyotsna Vaid, professor of psychology at Texas A&M University. These factors include how fluent a person is in a second language, the length of residence in the country of the second language and the language of the person's elementary education.
In a study Dr. Vaid did in 2002, however, differences in the age at which the second language was acquired (either before or after the age of 8) did not make a difference in the preferred language for dreaming.

In the study, of which she was co-author, 552 Texas college students fluent in both Spanish and English were asked about their language preferences for thinking, dreaming and doing mental arithmetic. The researchers found that 78 percent of those who reported doing mental arithmetic in English said they dreamed in English only, and that 54 percent of those who did mental computations in Spanish said they dreamed in Spanish only.

The study also found that there were variable factors that significantly predicted the language of dreams. These were a higher self-reported proficiency in one language; a stay of more or less than six years in the United States; and whether Spanish or English was used in the person's early education.
The study was published in the journal Spanish Applied Linguistics.

Tic, talk: English no breeze
Mitchell Brown, Staff Writer, yorkregion.com
07/15/04

She remembers a conversation she had with a classmate in another school, not too long after she arrived in Canada
.
"I told her I came to Canada and I was so distressed and my family was the last straw for me," the young Russian woman says in a quiet voice.
"I meant they helped me so much and they were my last chance. But she said, 'You don't like your family?'"

As it happens, both the English and Russian languages use "the last straw" as an expression, but the meanings are almost opposite.
Calling something "the last straw" in English means it's the last in a series of things testing your patience or endurance, the fabled straw that broke the camel's back; in Russian, "the last straw" is more likely to mean "the last chance" or "the last hope". "We have the same (idiom) in Russia, but we call it the last drop," says Irena, who declined to give her last name for personal reasons. "It means you can't take any more."

Read the rest of this story at:
http://www.yorkregion.com/yr/newscentre/erabanner/story/2072749p-2399435c.html

Tribe without names for numbers cannot count
Helen Pearson
Amazon study fuels debate on whether the concept of numbers is innate. Can a knowledge of numbers determine the way we think?
© Alamy
A study of an Amazonian tribe is stoking fierce debate about whether people can count without numbers. Psychologists, anthropologists and linguists have long wondered whether animals, young children or certain cultures can conceptualize numbers without the language to describe them.  To tackle the issue, behavioural researcher Peter Gordon of Columbia University in New York journeyed into the Amazon. He carried out studies with the Pirahã tribe, a hunter-gatherer group of about 200 people, whose counting system consists of words which mean, approximately, 'one', 'two' and 'many'.
To read the rest of the article go to:  http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040816/full/040816-10.html

Hungary: The Gift of the Gab
Hungary's ministry of education worries that it is a nation of monoglots. According to a recent survey by the ministry, only 19% of the population can communicate in another language. According to a Euro-barometer survey from March 2002, Hungary trails behind all the other new member states in the area of foreign language, and is also behind Romania.
To read the rest of the article go to:  http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId=%7BDBF854DC53604648923DCAF23E11DE14%7D&From=

Iowa
Local AEA official studies in Mexico to improve education in SL region

Twenty three Iowa school administrators spent time this summer in Michoacan, Mexico, an area many of Iowa's immigrants call home. The group, part of a federally funded project in language immersion for school administrators, spent ten days in Mexico as part of a project designed to improve teaching methods with English. language learners. Read more about it at:
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=12656652&BRD=1304&PAG=461&dept_id=180485&rfi=6

Language shy Welsh are Losing Jobs
In Wales, experts warn that a generation of Welsh people will lose out on top jobs in Europe because too few children are learning foreign languages.  Over the last 7 years, the number of students learning at least one foreign language has dropped by 25%.  Ceri James, director of the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (Cilt Cymru), warned that the Welsh economy will suffer if students continue to turn their backs on Europe's best paid jobs by not learning another language. Read more about this at:
http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/tm_objectid=14517961&method=full&siteid=50082&headline=language-shy-welsh-pupils-are-losing-jobs-name_page.html

At Language Camp, Kids Translate English into Fun
The Seattle Times
August 14, 2004
Jessica Delos Reyes reports on the Northshore YMCA's English Language Learners' (ELL) Camp in Seattle, Washington, where kids, ages 6 to 13, spend three weeks working on their English skills.
To read the entire article, go to:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002005173_ellcamp14e.html

A $1 million boost for Indian education in Minneapolis
The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
August 13, 2004
ASCD Brief, August 13, 2004
Mid-August, and school is in session at Minneapolis' Native Academy. Operating out of a Lake Street storefront across the street from McDonald's, the place is a hive of teenage activity, with dozens of students -- mostly American Indians -- toiling away on the computers. Native Academy is at the forefront of efforts to raise American Indian student performance, so often weighted down by poverty and transience. It has a simple, overarching mission: To make American Indian kids better students with better prospects for life after high school. That work just got easier: The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that the school's parent organization -- Migizi Communications Inc. -- will get a million-dollar grant over three years.
To read the entire article, go to:  http://www.startribune.com/stories/1592/4925401.html

Local snoozing makes for better learning
7 June 2004
Tanguy Chouard
A good night's rest is hard work for parts of your brain, say US neuroscientists. Regions related to learning show increased activity in sleepers who spent their evening mastering a new skill, they say.  The discovery shows that sleep is valuable for consolidating new information and is not a simple 'standby' mode. Local brain processing during the night led to new skills being more firmly cemented, the research indicates.
To read the article go to:  http://www.nature.com/nsu/040531/040531-9.html (Suddenly, Nature.com has started asking for pre-registration to get into the site to read certain articles, apparently not all, or maybe their system is just inconsistent. Anyway, it's free - for now.)

Grads fluent in Spanish, English
LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. - What is two-way language immersion?
By SARAH TULLY
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
At Saddleback Valley Unified, some kindergartners start with 90 percent of their lessons in Spanish and shift to half Spanish and English by sixth grade. Intermediate school students take language arts and science in Spanish, while students at several high schools study geography, world history and Spanish literature….  The students are learning Spanish and English as part of the Two-Way Language Immersion Program in Saddleback Valley Unified School District - one of a handful of such programs nationwide. In June, the program marked a milestone, graduating its first senior class fluent in both languages.
"We established a precedent that it can be done," said coordinator Gloria Roelen. The district's program was recognized in another way recently: The program is one of fewer than 10 nationwide to become an International Spanish Academy - meaning students and teachers will benefit from scholarships, training, exchange programs and academic recognition from the Spanish government.
Read the entire article at: http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/living/9086553.htm

Just for fun...
Hooked On Hebonics
http://www.stevenscs.com/fun/humor/Hebonics.html

Old dog learns new tricks
Mutt's memory feats aid studies of language development. 1
1 June 2004
Helen R. Pilcher
Rico has a 200-word vocabulary and a knack for learning new words. A German border collie has surprised scientists with his 200-word vocabulary and uncanny knack for learning new words, shedding light on the evolution of language. Nine-year-old Rico knows the names of each toy in his hundred-strong collection and can retrieve items called out to him with over 90% accuracy. He can also learn and remember the names of unfamiliar toys after just one encounter, putting him on a par with a three-year-old child. The dog's magnificent memory shows that canines share some aspects of the language skill that evolved in humans, says Julia Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany
Read the rest of this story at: http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040607/full/040607-8.html (Pre-registration triggered for me - sigh...)

Dnestr militia evict orphans in language row

27 Jul 2004 14:45:09 GMT
Chisinau, Moldova, July 27 (Reuters) - Militia in the breakaway Dnestr region of Moldova evicted about 60 orphans from a home in a mounting conflict over what language is used in schools, the security and human rights watchdog OSCE said on Tuesday.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said militia seized the orphanage in Bendery on Monday and forced the children, aged seven to 15, to spend the night on the street.
"Leaving children out in the street is totally unacceptable," said William Hill, head of the OSCE mission to Moldova. He demanded the immediate reopening of the orphanage. Dnestr's rebel authorities say Romanian is only an official language when it is written in Cyrillic script, as it was under the Soviet Union and not in the Latin script as in Romania. This one's not even a fight over the language - just Latin vs. Cyrillic script! I think I need a nap...
Read the rest of this sad story at: http://www.moldova.org/mc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=36220 (Free pre-registration required - but they swear they don't sell our information.)

******************************************************

Resources you might be interested in….

ACTFL Celebrates 2005 as "The Year of Languages"
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), is set to lead us all in celebrating The Year of Languages in 2005. Celebrations will take place in elementary and secondary schools, postsecondary institutions, as well as at events at the local, state and national levels across the country.  For more information and resources (ooh! Participant Kits!!) go to:
http://www.yearoflanguages.org/yol.cfm

Handbook on Language Preservation and Documentation
Aimée Lahaussois, a linguistic expert in Nepalese languages, along with several leading international experts in language revitalization, have been developing a Language Preservation Handbook. This project is one of the activities carried out by UNESCO’s Initiative B@bel which seeks to promote multilingualism in cyberspace and preserve endangered languages. To read the entire press release go to:
http://www.noticias.info/Asp/aspComunicados.asp?nid=30621&src=0

Uh, yeah, prolly
.... Diversity Probably Leads to More Complex Thinking
"Effects of Racial Diversity on Complex Thinking in College Students," by Anthony Lising Antonio, Mitchell J. Chang, Kenji Hakuta, David A. Kenny, Shana Levin, and Jeffrey F. Milem reports on an experimental study of 357 Black and White students at three universities. Students were randomly assigned to discussion groups on one of two topics: child-labor practices or the death penalty. Each student wrote an essay on their assigned topic prior to the discussion, and essays on both topics after the discussion. Reviewers who were not aware of the purpose of the study rated the extent to which essays reflected diverse perspectives. Results indicated that racially diverse groups led to more complex thought on these social issues. Their article appears in the August 2004 issue of Psychological Science, Volume 15, 8. It is published by Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Psychological Society.
Go to:  http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/   for information about how to obtain a copy of the article (in case you know someone who needs "proof"...).

SpanishFirst.com Offers Free Online Spanish Lessons and Resources
SpanishFirst.com is now offering free online spanish lessons and resources.
You can find these materials at:  http://www.spanishfirst.com
I haven't had a chance to look at them. Anybody want to cast an eye over this stuff and submit a review???

New NCLRC Language Resource Newsletter
The National Capital Language Resource Center's (NCLRC) monthly online newsletter posts current research findings, effective teaching methods, and professional development opportunities for foreign language educators. NCLRC is funded by the US Department of Education through Title VI of the Higher Education Act. "NCLRC Language Resource" is a joint project of Georgetown University, The George Washington University, and the Center for Applied Linguistics.
For more info about NCLRC, go to:  http://www.nclrc.org
To read recent issues, go to:  http://www.nclrc.org/caidlr85.htm
To subscribe, contact:
Ephy Amoah-Ntim
Editor, Language Resource
NCLRC 2011 Eye St, NW Suite 200
Washington DC 20006
Tel: 202-973-1086
Email: nclrc@gwu.edu

Cervantes Center: Materials
Free materials for teachers of Spanish at:   http://cvc.cervantes.es/aula/mimundo/
Again, would anyone like to review these???

From the NCELA - National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition
(Formerly NCBE -National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education)

Italian Language Web Sites
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/themes/italian.shtml
http://italian.about.com/


New Learning Resource on Native Americans
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/community/cc_nativeamerican.php

Monthly Newsletter for ELL Teachers
A new monthly newsletter and ready-to-use handout is available through The English Connection, a company located in Clintonville, Wisconsin. The English Connection Teacher Tips Newsletter and ready-to-use handout is published monthly (August through May) for individuals, school buildings, or entire school districts. Each issue contains information about best practice, parental involvement, newcomer information, a ready-to-use handout, and more! The purpose of The English Connection Teacher Tips Newsletter is to provide teachers with ready-to-use information pertaining to educating English language learners attending elementary or secondary schools in the United States of America. For ordering information, a sample newsletter, and a ready-to-use handout, contact:
Tere Masiarchin
Tel: (715) 851-2934
Email: TMasiarchin@clintonville.k12.wi.us

New Book: Teaching English Language Learners Through the Arts: A SUAVE Experience
Publisher's description says: This text describes ways in which English language learners have excelled in an arts-based methods program. Based on the workings of an award winning, and well-researched program called SUAVE (Socios Unidos para Artes Via Educacion - United Community for Arts in Education), this text delves into all aspects of classroom practice, as well as the professional development practices that support students' learning through arts-based methods which can be used as a supplement for ESL courses. All the examples in this text are from real classrooms through the voices of teachers, researchers, artists, administrators, and students. More information is available from the publisher at:
http://vig.pearsoned.com/store/product/1,1207,store-9653_isbn-020534383X,00.html

And Let's not Forget to Visit a few Other GREAT websites!!
All together now,

http://www.tpr-world.com       Dr. James J. Asher!
http://www.tprsource.com      Berty Segal Cook!
http://www.sdkrashen.com     Dr. Stephen D. Krashen!

And of course....
http://www.prolinguistica.com   (!)

Another one for review:  KidStuff - ESL
The ESL KidStuff Website offers materials that may interest ESL teachers. Some of the materials are for sale, but a Games and Activities section allows teachers to contribute ideas that are then classified into three main sections: classroom games, flashcard games and song games. This section is open and includes ideas for everyone to use and adapt. To learn more about this, go to: http://www.eslkidstuff.com/gamesmenu.htm How about one of you visits and submits a review???!

"A Second Language Classroom That Works"
By Joan Christopherson
Published by Prolinguistica
If you're looking for ideas to jump start your foreign language program this year, don't forget Joan Christopherson's great guide to implementing TPR! Always available from Prolinguistica! Also, for projects, The Talking T-Shirt and Other Writing Projects for FL and ESL Students, and What Can I Leave For My Sub? -comprehension-based lesson plans for when you just can't make it to class!

******************************************************

Thinking about it…
Teachers, Welcome Back to School
http://susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=272
Publication Date: 2004-08-18
By George Sheridan, California Teacher

I love summer vacation. It's a time to build our reserves of energy, both physical and mental, and it's a time for a different sort of learning.
This year my family visited a place called Glass Beach in Fort Bragg [California]. The seashore is carpeted with rounded bits of glass amber, green and white, with rare bits of cobalt blue or ruby. Here and there fragments of pottery polished by the sea, still bearing traces of their original patterns. We spent hours sorting through the pebbles. Have any of you ever been there?

The next day I bought a book The History of Glass Beach. It was a small book, paperbound, and only cost seven dollars. It was very informative.  But perhaps the most remarkable thing about it was that it was written as a school project by a fourth grader.

My family traveled on to Eureka, where we visited the Blue Ox Millworks. This is a place where 19th century technology sawmill, woodshop, printing  press and more has been preserved and is demonstrated for visitors. It's also the place where governments and foundations that own historic buildings go when they need to restore or recreate a balustrade, a cornice, a corbel, or a piece of Victorian gingerbread. People building  multi-million dollar homes occasionally ask Blue Ox to create something they can't buy anywhere else. Remarkably, most of the work is done by high school students. Blue Ox is their school.

I didn't have to journey so far to see outstanding student work. When we visit the State Fair, my wife and I linger for hours in the Industrial Arts exhibits, where more than once we've seen the work of Golden Sierra High School students. Students from our schools have done real science in the Watershed Education Project and have built houses for Habitat for Humanity. You all could list many more projects at all grade levels. They illustrate the true meaning of accountability, as distinguished from the  narrow and distorted version of accountability now embodied in state and federal laws.

Three Questions:

For what should schools be accountable? First of all, for the physical and emotional well-being of students. For student learning. For equity and access, providing fair opportunities for all to learn challenging material. For improvement. And for teacher learning. A skilled teacher is the most significant factor in student learning, so schools must be accountable for fostering professional growth and enabling teachers to improve their own performance.

To whom should schools be accountable? A recent article in the Phi Delta Kappan suggests that current accountability systems have the emphasis all wrong, making state and federal governments the locus of power and decision making. Schools should be accountable first of all to their students, parents and local communities. I would add that each of us as teachers is accountable to our colleagues, because each of us depends on all the rest.

What would a balanced accountbility model look like? Our schools would be measured by the work of our student artists, authors, craftsmen and scientists. Instead of treating them as interesting but somewhat beside the point of API scores and AYP, these accomplishments would be recognized as exactly the point.

A balanced accountability model utilizes multiple measures in a variety of formats including writing, open responses and performance-based tasks. We need assessments that are integrated with instruction. We need assessments that are accessible to students with diverse learning styles, exceptionalities, and cultural backgrounds.

In the short term, the state and local governments will continue to emphasize one-size-fits-all standardized testing. We can work through our unions, our professional associations and the political process to change that. But we should never, not for a moment, allow their errors to change our recognition of what's truly important.

My vacation was great, but I expect this school year to be just as great. It is an inspiration to work with all of you. In conclusion, I nearly said "Who needs vacation when you have colleagues?"

******************************************************

Got a great teaching idea you’d like to share? Send it in to Laura's attention at e-comp@prolinguistica.com and we’ll publish it in the newsletter, giving you credit for your brilliance! YOU can make this a really outstanding newsletter!!

******************************************************
Whew! Long one today! It's the compilation of a whole summer of language-y news. Take it in small bites!  Hope your summer was "recuperative." And I trust your fall will be exciting in the most positive sense. Until next month!
Laura

Return to Main Page

 

 © 2002 Prolinguistica Corp.   All rights reserved.  Website Designed and Hosted by TicoSites.Com