Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.

A Journalist Highlights Long-Term English-Language Learners

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 12, 2007 2 min read

Washington Post writer and syndicated columnist Marcela Sanchez’s March 2 column about the high number of English-language learners who are U.S.-born is a sign to me that some journalists at mainstream newspapers are taking a closer look at the nuances of issues concerning this population.

I still don’t see a lot of articles on how to meet the needs of long-term English-language learners, but those such as the one by Ms. Sanchez are steps toward letting the public know more about this group of students. One blog reader pointed out to me that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer also published the column.

Ms. Sanchez cites figures from a 2005 Urban Institute report, which I mentioned in an earlier post, about how 56 percent of English-language learners in U.S. middle schools and high schools were born in the United States. “In an age when learning English is a priority for children around the world, it is appalling that children born in this country can get all the way into high school without being fluent in the dominant language,” she writes in her column.

A couple of California researchers who specialize in studying English-learners have been copying me on their e-mail banter with each other about the column. One says that Ms. Sanchez doesn’t seem to understand that a large percentage of long-term English-learners speak English quite well, but can’t pass written tests of English-language arts, which would get them out of the English-learner category in many states. The researcher suspects they aren’t learning enough academic English--the language of school--used at their grade level.

Ms. Sanchez isn’t the first journalist to pay attention to these kinds of figures. For example, the fact that less than 40 percent of English-language learners in California become fluent after 10 years in California public schools has received some news coverage in California newspapers. That statistic was a finding of a study of California’s Proposition 227, a ballot measure against bilingual education approved by California voters in 1998.

Interestingly, Herman Badillo, the Hispanic advocate and former U.S. representative, also cited that California statistic in his recent book, One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups, which I described in a February post.

I’d like to hear from readers about what some schools are doing--or should be doing--to reach long-term English-language learners .

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.


Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read