Obama Visits School Where Large Number of Students Are ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 05, 2009 1 min read
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Yesterday, President Obama visited a charter school in Madison, Wis., where 39 percent of students are English-language learners. But I don’t see anything in news coverage about his visit that says he mentioned the educational needs of ELLs. (See update below.) It seems like a missed opportunity.

An editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal says the school, James C. Wright Middle School, takes an inclusive approach to educating ELLs and students with disabilities, which includes co-teaching and support for a universally designed curriculum. I’m intrigued.

Update: I skimmed his speech and see that President Obama did mention English-language learners at one point, saying that a commitment to education means “boosting the numbers of quality teachers who can help our special education and English-language learners meet high standards—as you’ve done here at Wright.” But that still doesn’t tell us much.

The Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee, Wis., reports the president mentioned he was working to ensure that children of undocumented immigrants can go to college. I interpret that statement as the president’s reiteration of this support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or “DREAM Act.” The president’s remark also likely indicates he realized a lot of his audience were Latinos, many of whom support that act.

But it would have been great if the president could have highlighted some ways that Wright Middle School is successful with ELLs, if in fact that is the case, since such students make up such a large proportion of the school population. Educators are looking for models for how to educate these students, particularly at the middle and high school levels.

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