Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Education Nation and English Language Learners

I am writing this blog after reading an article by Ellen Galinsky in the Huffington Post about Education Nation and how it was demonstrated that children were not being put first. When speakers were asked why the U.S. fell behind many thought it was because we were complacent about the U.S. supremacy in the world. We didn’t, says Galinsky, put children first.

I am not at all surprised that children were not put first. Just look at the way we are overwhelming them with standardized tests and telling them they are only as good as their test scores.

Throughout Education Nation, there was a focus on student achievement as seen by scores on a standardized test. The importance of student engagement was totally ignored according to Galinsky. I agree with this observation. Children whose eyes are bright with excitement and are engaged in learning may become extinct. We are now seeing children who are anxious, nervous and even physically ill each time standardized tests are given. This is even more evident with our English language learners who are double tested each year. They are required to take standardized tests designed for English speakers and then a test designed to measure growth in English language acquisition.

Another facet of education that Galinsky feels was ignored during Education Nation is preschool education. How can a national forum for education reform ignore our preschool population? Galinsky doesn't mention that economists reviewing the Perry Preschool Study and other longitudinal studies have found time and again that children with a great start stay in school longer, have greater earning potential, less placement in special education, lower likelihood of incarceration or dependence on welfare. How can we narrow the achievement gap if our youngest students aren’t part of this discussion? According the Karen Nemeth, author of Many Languages, One Classroom: Teaching Dual and English Language Learners, "The great thing is that investing in high quality preschool education not only benefits ELLs, but elevates the chances for success for all children who participate. It is a win win situation if there ever was one."

Education Nation also told us that public schools are failing and that poor teaching and unions are the cause of this failure. No one mentioned poor school leadership. I think new teachers need mentoring during their first three years of teaching. This mentoring is usually done by administrators. If we have poor teachers in our schools it is because an administrator did not take the time to work with those teachers. Most mentorship programs are weak and only last for a year. Were the new soon-to-be poor teachers given honest evaluations? Or were they sugarcoated? Did principals follow up with unannounced visits to the classroom to see if the new teacher was actually making progress. Did he look to see if the students in this teacher's class were engaged and enthusiastic about learning? A teacher who is not engaging students during the first three years should not be given tenure. If a poor teacher is given tenure, than there is a principal some place that has not done his/her job. Who suffers when this happens?.
The children!


Deborah Sams said...

I enjoyed reading this blog article because a teacher is describing classroom and school realities. Thanks Judie!

Karen Nemeth said...

Thank you for elevating the discussion about the critical role of preschool education in the Education Nation conversation!