Learning English as a Second Language in California Elementary Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics states that as of 2011-2012 the estimated number of students who were members of the English language learners program in the United States was 4.4 million. Statistics have also show that since 2002, over 300,000 English Language Learners’ have been added to programs across America.

hardest thing ever

According to the Glossary of English Reform, English Language Learners’, commonly abbreviated as ELL, “are students who are unable to communicate fluently or learn effectively in English, often coming from non-English-speaking homes and backgrounds, and who typically require specialized or modified instruction in both the English language and in their academic courses.”

For these students to meet their full academic potential, many English Second Language (ESL) programs have been put into place across the country. After English Language Learning students complete an assessment that includes: the testing of their reading, writing, and speaking skills; they are placed into either an English second language program or a bilingual education courses. However, if a student adequately portrays that they can learn in a primarily English-speaking environment, they will be placed in a fully English-taught classroom.

IMG_0555Alicia Lau, a long-term substitute teacher at Riverside Christian School, commented on the ESL programs offered at RCS.

“Riverside Christian Schools not only offer ESL classes but also ELL classes depending on where students are in the English proficiency,” said Lau.

Lau commented on the large community of International Students that come to Riverside Christian from various countries. The school offers many opportunities for students to work up towards being in classrooms that are being taught fully in English.

Dual language courses, according to edglossary.org, reached popularity in 1970 and are taught in two different languages.

These dual language courses insure that ELL students who are not yet skilled in English, receive an equal opportunity at receiving an education.

Curriculum for bilingual education is divided up into three different categories. These groupings are offered throughout California. The categories include:

– Transitional programming

– Maintenance programming

-Two-way enrichment programming

Transitional programming allows students one to two years of instruction in their primary language and eventually transitions them into fully English-teaching classrooms.

Maintenance programming provides students with teachings in their first language until they exit elementary school.

Two-way enrichment programming teaches students in two languages in an attempt to help them become fluent in both. Many times students who are only English speaking will become part of a two-way enrichment program to become fluent in another language.


Apart from these programs, there are multiple strategies that Elementary School teachers use to assist their students who are struggling to learn in English.

In an interview with Margaret Ponce, 3rd Grade teacher of 8 years at Buena Vista Arts-Integrated School, she spoke up about some of the techniques she uses in her classrooms to help students struggling to learn English.

“I use lots of visuals, vocabulary development, and peer models. I provide them with a lot of opportunities for structured talk too.  This helps them to practice correct grammar and sentence structure,” said Ponce.

Ponce currently has multiple students who are first generation Americans and even more of whom’s parents do not speak any English.

Ponce noted that great responsibility lies on the kindergarten through 2nd-grade teachers, as many of the students learn a vast majority of their basic English skills during those years. When they reach her 3rd-grade class, it is basic vocabulary that she pays the most attention to.

Ponce noted that the student teachers coming into her classroom to help teach were very well learned when it comes to teaching ELL and ESL students who have integrated into fully English-speaking classrooms.

Jennifer Brown, Credentialed student teacher and graduate student at The University of La Verne, explained that she feels well prepared in teaching English Language learning students.

Teacher Jennifer Brown and 3rd grade students

Teacher Jennifer Brown and 3rd-grade students

“The University of La Verne requires that we incorporate modifications for ELL students in every lesson that we teach and in all lesson plans,” said Brown.

Brown explained that all student in the graduate credential program at UNLV were required to incorporate adjustments for English Language Learners’.

“I’ve learned many strategies that I use daily in my teachings to help English learners, the most important one is to make sure you are creating a multicultural classroom environment, in which all students feel comfortable to learn,” said Brown.

Brown explained that many teachers attempt to have their students become fully adapted to American culture that she believe is important. However, she pushed that it is equally as important to incorporate other cultures into her classroom environment.

Brown elaborated on the lack of resources the school offers to ELL students. She recently tested her students through what is called the Smarter Balanced testing.

Smarter Balanced is a new form of state testing that all student are required to take in elementary school.

According to SmarterBalanced.org, the tests allow educators to have feedback on their teaching skills and environment. Students are tested on the common core education standards that are decided by the state. Brown is currently teaching at a school that offers no modifications for this standardized testing regarding ELL students.

“The elementary school that I am currently working at does not offer many resources for the teachers to use regarding ELL’s,” said Brown.

Brown expanded by explaining that students were struggling to take the tests. However, she was not allowed to help them in any way. She also confirmed that the school she is working at does not offer any text books that are modified to help ELL students.

Margaret Ponce also commented on the Smarter Balanced testing stating that to her knowledge there were no modifications for this testing and no money in her school’s current budget to further the process of receiving funds to do so.

However, there are committees that have been put in place that can advocate for ELL students and begin working towards modifying state testing to be fair for all students.

According to the California Department of Education, “Each California public school, grades kindergarten through 12, with 21 or more English learners must form an English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC).”

The English Learner Advisory Committees are responsible for assisting the school in their needs for English learners; these needs include:

– The schools yearly language census

– The education of school parents on the importance of attendance

– The development of the school needs assessments

The Government has put strict regulations in place regarding the ELAC committees. The same percentage of English learners in the school should match a percentage of English learners’ parents on the committee. For instance, if 40 % of a school consists of English Language Learners’. 40 % of the committee should be parents of those particular students. Parents of the ELL students hold the opportunity to elect fellow members. The government has also put into place training for all members; this includes consultations and legality training.

These committee work towards educating the student body and parents, as well as fighting for the rights of their students. However, these committees are not the only thing the Government has mandated to meet the needs of ELL students.

Lori Lopez, a 4th grade teacher at Buena Vista Arts, commented on the lack of these Committees and resources at her work place.

“Our school has no mandated curriculum for ELL students at this time, and we do not offer committees or programs,” said Lopez

Lopez has 61 students and out of those 23 of them have non-English speaking parents. She is bilingual, and this is a huge help in communicating with parents to meet the needs of their children. She also uses SDAIE strategies, which include speaking slowly and repeating vocabulary.

Lopez explained that the school is attempting to budget money for standardizing testing to be adapted, but the government has yet to mandate that money.

However, as of 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act can help school receive funding for such things.

According to the Federal Education Budget Project, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965 revised), allows the federal government to spend money on various educational programs within grades K-12.

President Obama announced that waivers given out regarding the no child left behind act could be redeemed to help further ELL education.IMG_0558

According to the Center for American Progress, the country has begun “Using no child left behind waivers to improve English language learner education.”

In a press release from the white house in 2011, President Obama said, “Now, it is an undeniable fact that countries who out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow. But today, our students are sliding against their peers around the globe. Today, our kids trail too many other countries in math, in science, in reading.”


Hacktivist group, ‘Anonymous,’ threatens NJ Police Department

This past monday a famous hacktivist group that refers to themselves as “Anonymous” released a video threatening Cumberland county persecutors office and the Vineland police department.

Source- Huffingtonpost.com

Source- Huffingtonpost.com

Last week the NJ police department was involved in the one scene death of a 32 year-old male. The police received a call in the early morning regarding a man engaging in disorderly conduct, shortly after the officers called in for an ambulance stating he was no longer breathing.

The group stated that the police department must release all personal information regarding the police officers who encountered phillip as well as the K9 carrying officer. They also demanded that the two officers be placed on administrative leave. They gave the department 24-hours to do so before they release the information as well as virtually attack their files and websites, releasing more private information revealing other officers who are members of the Vineland Police Department.

The police department to not comply with the orders demanded by anonymous and tuesday the names of the officers involved were posted on a website that claims to be affiliated with Anonymous.


US Supreme Court debates Texas confederate Flag License Plate

There are hundreds of specialty license plate options in the state of Texas, many of which express values held by the vehicle operators. From light hearted college alumni plates to those sporting phrases such as “God Bless Texas” , “Fight Terrorism” and “Choose life”.

In 2011, the Sons of Confederate Veterans proposed a license plate featuring the confederate flag, which the Texas department of motor vehicles board rejected the proposal. Consequently, the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the state of texas for infringing upon their first amendment rights.

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Illustration by Texas Department of Motor Vehicles by Reuters

According to The Guardian, this past Monday the US supreme court appeared to be conflicted when hearing the arguments as to whether such an act truly is interfering with citizens’ first amendment rights.

The big debate in the Supreme Court was over whether the plate is displaying “private speech”, or “Government speech” , being that the license plate displays the name Texas and is state issued.

Our favorite, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, listed off potential outcomes of the state allowing this license plate to exist; including people asking for a swastika, or a ‘Jihad’ on their plate.

According to The Guardian similar plates with a confederate flag on them already appear in the following states: Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama.

This had the Justices pose the question of whether not the state has sound legal precedence under the first amendment, to rule some license plates and not others

An official ruling in the Walker V. Texas division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. case is expected in the coming months.

Supreme Selfie

This Wednesday, a reception was held in the Capitol in honor of Women’s History Month. At the reception, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi honored Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Pelosi couldn’t resist but snap a selfie with the first four women to ever serve on the Supreme Court.

However, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also known by the internet famous nickname “Notorious R.B.G”  didn’t seem too amused by Pelosi’s selfie stick. Many of herbg.jpgr internet fans have come to her defense stating that she was just repin’ her usual “mean mug.”

So, how did sweet Ginsburg gain her internet fame as Notorious R.B.G?

New York University Law student Shana Knizhnik launched the “Notorious R.B.G.” meme likening Ginsburg to famous rapper Notorious B.I.G., on Tumblr in 2013 after Ginsburg voiced her opinions on the Shelby County V. Holder case.

While this Supreme selfie has nothing on Ellen DeGeneres’ famous Oscar selfie of 2014, Ginsburg’s stoic expression has her Notorious R.B.G. fans running Tumblr/Twitter rampant once again.

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Silent Understandings on Suburban Transit

In 2013, public transportation escorted Americans on 10.7 billion trips. According to the American Public Transportation Association, one of the main reasons that we are seeing this increase is because of the economic recuperation happening in America. A large percentage of public transportation users are commuting to work because of the increase in available jobs.

Photo credit: Mandy Mayfield

Photo credit: Mandy Mayfield

Los Angeles ranked number three in the category of largest transit agencies with over 464,875.2 passenger trips taken in the year of 2012.

Everyday, hundreds of thousands of people in the greater Los Angeles area make their way to work by extremely different means. People who take public transportation are exposed to an entirely different world than the private commuter.

Foothill transit comes roughly every 20 minutes during the day. I began my journey on the 187 off Route 66 and Calera ave .

As I awaited the bus, I noticed the man standing next to me had his bicycle. He was clearly on his way to work, as he was wearing a work uniform similar to the one a Staples employee would sport. As the bus arrived, he attempted to get on, however the bike rack was fully occupied. He pleaded with the bus driver to allow him to bring his bicycle on the bus because he had to be at work, however, the bus driver denied his request. He had to wait for the next bus, and consequently was late to work.

This brought me to the first inconvenience i noted about public transportation: time. Obviously, the bus runs on its own schedule, you’re either there at the right time or miss it. Missing the bus means being late to your destination by about 20 minutes, that’s an inconvenience work commuters cannot afford.

As I sat on the bus for another 40 minutes, I observed a very evident unsocial atmosphere. Being in a more suburban area, I somewhat expected to see interactions between those who routinely rode the bus and as a result had gotten to know one another. However, it was the exact opposite. Many individuals used the seat next to them to store their bags. I noticed that people were more willing to stand than to ask someone to move their bags.

As clearly charismatic individuals walked onto the bus, I found myself intrigued, while i found those around me to be extremely disinterested.

Photo credit: Amy Davidson (fellow bus rider)

Photo credit: Amy Davidson (fellow bus rider)

I couldn’t help but notice that the unsocial environment did not deter my bus driver Michael from becoming a part of the riders’ lives. Michael was extremely friendly and not only acknowledged every person that would enter his vehicle, but attempted to have meaningful conversations with bus riders.

Many teenagers who appeared to be on their way to school would get on the bus and high five Michael, talk to him for a bit, and fist bump him as they exited the bus. These exchanges would make anyone who truly observed them smile. A man working a job that many “American Dreamers” would deem undesirable was clearly happy in his career. Michael worked to make relationships with children who didn’t have a ride to school and was a refreshing sight in the individualistic atmosphere the bus offered.

As a man entered the bus loudly yelling into his cell phone, I noticed the unpleasant reaction of others around him. I’m sure any person would find that obnoxious. However, it brought me to my 2nd discovery, the silent understanding that held amongst the bus riders.

Some of the unwritten rules I observed included: minding one anothers’ space, not being overly noisy, and quickly entering or exiting the vehicle.

The bus eventually became crowded and someone braved the waters and took a seat next to me.

In an attempt to speak with the man, I quickly realized he did not speak English. After about 10 minutes of semi-awkward silence the man handed me his cell phone on which was a message he had entered into a translator app.

“I’m Jose, I do not really speak English and cant understand you, you text in this and I can help you,” said Jose.

I asked general questions about his life and his commute to work.

Jose takes foothill transit every weekday to his job at Mrs. D’s Diner in La Verne to his home in Montclair.

“The bus is good because its not much money,” said Jose.

Jose stated that he was thankful for the bus because he could not get a license and it gets him to work everyday.

My greatest takeaway was how important these bus systems are. In all honesty, when I had previously heard of the large budget cities contribute to public transportation I’d viewed it as a waste of money. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dozens of people got on the bus that didn’t have any alternative mode of transportation.

Public transportation allows many Americans to have affordable housing while working in highly populated areas.