Althea Valle teaches a class of ELL's. She says of the new federal requirement, "I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the schools to get these kids where we think they should be."
A 10th grader born in Haiti struggles to read in his class at Godby High School in Tallahassee. The student is more comfortable with Haitian Creole than English. Teacher Althea Valle has students of various nationalities trying to master the language.
“It’s a challenge,” Valle says. “There’s a lot of gesturing, and you know sometimes I feel like I’m onstage and sometimes I have to be onstage to make myself understood.”
Valle is the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) coordinator for Leon County schools. Her developmental language class is offered as an elective for students who want the extra help, like Anas Al-Humiari from Yemen. His native language is Arabic, and he’s been studying English for 5 years.
“First of all, the words are the main things that get me down and the time, me trying to understand the sentence and what is the article or text actually means,” Al-Humiari says, trying to find the right words.
The ACLU is worried single-gender classes might reinforce stereotypes of the 1950s.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed federal complaints against school districts in Broward, Hernando, Hillsborough and Volusia counties over the use of all-girls or all-boys classes. The ACLU wants the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate the programs.
StateImpact Florida’s Gina Jordan spoke with Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, about the complaints.
Q: Galen, what do the complaints say?
A: Schools shouldn’t be in the business of making crude judgments of children’s educational needs based solely on whether they’re a boy or a girl – that’s the definition of sex discrimination.
They’re using different teaching methods, environments and even curricula.
Reinaldo Camacho finished his two-year degree from Miami Dade College while he was still in high school. He's the first member of his family to pursue post-secondary education.
Sixty students from the Hialeah area will graduate from high school this month like thousands of others in Florida, but these students have done something especially remarkable.
They’ll receive their high school diplomas almost a month after graduating from Miami Dade College.
The students took advantage of the dual-enrollment programs offered at Mater Academy and Mater Lakes Academy. These are publicly funded charter schools that operate independently of the district.
Both campuses have large immigrant populations.
“They’re located in Hispanic, working-class, low-income neighborhoods in Miami,” says Lynn Norman-Teck with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools. “So the administrators really started pushing dual enrollment more as a cost saving program for these kids because they could get a lot of college credits out of the way.”
Senate President Don Gaetz sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about some of the biggest education issues for lawmakers this spring, including what kind of test will replace the FCAT.
Q: Florida is in the process of implementing Common Core standards. The state still hasn’t determined how students will be assessed on what they’ve learned. Plus, you still have critics who say this a national take over of education. You’ve said you would not support legislation to repeal common core. But are there any plans to change it this year?
A: When you look at materials used to teach students, that’s where some of the criticism has come in. So there’s legislation that would make clear that the selection of instructional materials is up to the local school board.
“With the idea that children all learn differently, this is a way that we can provide those parents – that don’t have the resources to send their students to a private school or a parochial school that has a gender specific setting – a local public school where they have access to it,” Diaz said.
A handful of public schools around the state already have single sex classrooms.
“They’re great standards. They’re higher level standards. They’re common sense,” Ford said. “They allow teachers and students to dive deep into the subject matter as opposed to covering a variety of issues very, very thinly.”
But he’d like more time for students and teachers to make the transition.
“Teachers are going to have to have time to retool absolutely everything they’ve been doing because these standards are so much better,” Ford said, “but they’re higher level and they require different ways of teaching.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council – better known as ALEC – describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan organization that focuses on policy relating to “free markets, limited government and constitutional division of powers between the federal and state governments.”
It’s a new way of teaching that focuses heavily on fewer subjects, sets benchmarks for students at each grade level, and forces students to explain their answers.
“Gone are the days when a teacher can go to the filing cabinet and pull out a lesson plan from five years ago, blow the dust off and use the same lesson plan,” said Holt. “Now we have to look at the needs of the students…instead of just teaching what’s there and (saying) ‘If they get it, fine – if they don’t get it, too bad.’”
It’s a change that Holt thinks could lead to an exodus from the classroom.