Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Call to Action from Forbes Magazine

We wanted to share this really important article that was recently published in Forbes Magazine entitled 

America's Foreign Language Deficit

Written by Forbes' contributors David Skorton and Glenn Altschuler

When elementary and secondary schools and colleges around the country open for the fall semester, millions of students will not be studying a foreign language.  Not necessarily for lack of interest.  They won’t be able to.
In a shrinking world this reality constitutes a threat to our national security.  “To prosper economically and to improve relations with other countries,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared in 2010, “Americans need to read, speak and understand other languages.”  Unfortunately, Duncan pointed out, only 18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English, while 53% of Europeans (and increasing numbers in other parts of the world) can converse in a second language.
More and more students and their parents understand the need to communicate with friends and foes in other countries, and not just on our terms.  Demand for and enrollment in foreign language courses is at its highest level since 1968.  At public K-12 schools, course enrollment in 2007-2008 reached 8.9 million individuals, about 18.5 percent of all students; between 1995 and 2009, it increased 47.8 percent at colleges and universities.
At the same time, however, schools at every level are balancing their budgets and offsetting reductions in government allocations by cutting their offerings and/or eliminating foreign language requirements.
Consider this:
- The percentage of public and private elementary schools offering foreign language instruction decreased from 31 to 25 percent from 1997 to 2008.  Instruction in public elementary schools dropped from 24 percent to 15 percent, with rural districts hit the hardest.
- The percentage of all middle schools offering foreign language instruction decreased from 75 to 58 percent.
- The percentage of high schools offering some foreign language courses remained about the same, at 91 percent.
- About 25 percent of elementary schools and 30 percent of middle schools report a shortage of qualified foreign language teachers.
- In 2009-2010, only 50.7 percent of higher education institutions required foreign language study for a baccalaureate, down from 67.5 percent in 1994-1995.  And many colleges and universities, including Cornell, have reduced or eliminated instructional offerings in “less popular” languages.
We should care – a lot – about our foreign language deficit.  We need diplomats, intelligence and foreign policy experts, politicians, military leaders, business leaders, scientists, physicians, entrepreneurs, managers, technicians, historians, artists, and writers who are proficient in languages other than English.  And we need them to read and speak less commonly taught languages (for which funding has recently been cut by the federal government) that are essential to our strategic and economic interests, such as Farsi, Bengali, Vietnamese, Burmese and Indonesian.

There have been some positive recent developments:
- Over the past decade, the Chicago Public Schools have expanded instruction in Chinese to include 43 schools and serve 12,000 students.  Many of these students are Hispanic and will be trilingual.
- The Arlington, Virginia, public schools offer after-school instruction in Chinese and Arabic to middle and high school students.
- Columbia, Yale and Cornell are developing video-conferencing courses to share – and spread – instruction in less-taught languages.
But we need to do more.  Much more.  We ask parents to urge their children to attain proficiency in a foreign language, whether or not schools require them to do so; PTAs to lobby school boards; faculty members and deans in colleges and universities to re-visit foreign language requirements; readers of Forbes to write to their elected representatives.
The message is simple: in 1957, after the Russians launched Sputnik, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed the National Defense Education Act, which provided federal support for foreign language instruction as well as science education.  We may not be quite as frightened as we were during the height of the Cold War, but we must be just as resolute in designing a comprehensive approach to foreign language acquisition that will prepare the next generation of Americans for success in a highly competitive, tightly interconnected world.

Can Bilingualism Counteract Effects of Poverty? - Learning the Language - Education Week

Can Bilingualism Counteract Effects of Poverty? - Learning the Language - Education Week
The bilingual brain is sharper than the monolingual one, more and more research is showing. People with fluency in at least two languages have better attention spans, enhanced memory, among other cognitive advantages.
But do those same cognitive strengths show up in bilingual children who are low-income? In other words, can bilingualism help children in low-income communities overcome the enormous cognitive challenges that poverty presents?
A soon-to-be published study from Pascale Engel de Abreu of the University of Luxembourg and colleagues takes a look at that very question. Their answer in a nutshell: yes. (You can read the unedited manuscript of the study which will be published soon in Pyschological Science.)
Researchers tested 80 2nd graders from low-income families living in Portugal and Luxembourg. Half of them were first- or second-generation Portuguese immigrants to Luxembourg, who spoke both Luxembourgish and Portuguese. The other half lived in Northern Portugal and spoke only Portuguese. The study first tested vocabulary by asking the children to name items presented to them in pictures, with both groups answering in Portuguese and the immigrant children also answering in Luxembourgish.
Then the researchers tested how the students represented knowledge in memory by asking them to find a missing piece that would complete a specific geometric shape. They also measured their memory through various tasks and examined how they could direct and focus their attention when distractions were present. In one visual task, the children were shown a row of yellow fish on a computer screen and were asked to press a button to indicate which direction the fish in the center of the screen faced.
The bilingual kids knew fewer vocabulary words than their monolingual peers, the researchers found, but demonstrated more ability to keep their attention focused on the tasks at hand, in spite of distractions.
"This is the first study to show that, although they may face linguistic challenges, minority bilingual children from low-income families demonstrate important strengths in other cognitive domains," said Engel de Abreu in a news release.
The upshot, the researchers said, is that even more scholars ought to delve into studying the promise of using second language teaching as an academic intervention for poor kids who are struggling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tips for volunteering in your child's class...

We know that the majority of Lincoln DLP parents want to be deeply involved with their child's education.  I would guess that is one of the reasons we all chose the DLP in the first place.  We want to be involved, be proactive and provide our children with as many opportunities for educational success. Right?  Well, volunteering in the classroom can help you learn what's happening at school, show your child that you care about education and keep you connected with your child's teacher and other parents.

It doesn't take much, even one hour a month will yield positive results. If one person from every family volunteered once a month, our teachers would always have an assistant.  Even if you are a busy, working parent there are still simple and easy things you can do to help from home.   With the class size increase in SCESD, parent volunteers are needed more than ever.  We took the following excerpts from an article about volunteering featured on  We hope you find these tidbits helpful.

Tips for Volunteering:
1. Communicate with the teacher and/or the classroom parent. Let your teacher know what types of things you'd like to help with and get a sense of what she's comfortable with you doing. At the start of the school year, simply organizing classroom supplies and/or  making copies is a huge help.  In the younger classes (i.e. Preschool and Kinder) assisting children find their way to the bathroom, helping reinforce the classroom rules (keep your hands to yourself, no talking while the teacher is speaking, etc) is a huge help.  Helping decorate your classroom bulletin board can also be a big help for your teacher.  Don't be afraid to ask other parents at drop off or pick-up if they can help you in a project for the class.  You can also tell your teacher about any special skills or talents you have that might be helpful to the class. While you should be clear about your expectations, it is also important to remember that teachers have different styles. One teacher might want you to design a project and lead the class in doing it. Another might need to learn to trust you before he will want you to work independently with a group of students.
2. Be flexible. You will be most helpful to the teacher if you are willing to do whatever needs doing. But if you aren't getting to do the things you'd like to do, discuss that with the teacher after school hours. There may be a better time for you to come or she may just not need help in that area.
3. Don't take it personally if the teacher doesn't have time to chat. Class time must be focused on the students. If you need to talk to the teacher, make an appointment to talk outside of school hours.  This is especially critical for our program, as we want to help our teachers maintain the Spanish model.  If you are bilingual, then you can speak with the teacher before or after class.  You may even offer to translate for English speaking parents. 
4. Remember that it is not your job to discipline the kids. It is OK to ask students to stop unsafe or unkind behavior, but the next step is to let a teacher or other school employee know about the problem. If you are having trouble with a student or group you are supervising, let the teacher know immediately, and ask her how she'd like you to handle similar situations in the future. It is also important to understand the class rules so there are consistent behavior expectations for the students.
5. Be reliable and on time. The teacher will quickly come to rely on you and may be caught short-handed if you do not show up. Being reliable is important even for a one-time volunteer job like chaperoning a field trip. Teachers count on parents who have said they'll be there. If you absolutely can't make it, let the teacher know as far in advance as possible.
6. Don't gossip! While volunteering, you may occasionally overhear private information about other students' academic progress, family life or behavior. If you learn any sensitive info, be respectful and don't tell others.
7. If you work outside the home you can still help. If you want to help during the school day, you may be able to take time off from your job to do it. According to the California State Family Leave Act, "Employees who work for an employer with more than 24 employees can take up to 40 hours per year, no more than 8 hours a month, to participate in a child’s school activities. Eligible employees are required to use existing vacation, personal leave, or compensatory time for such leave. State employees who contribute to the State Disability Insurance Program are eligible for the same family and medical leave benefits as workers in the private sector. State employees may use a direct leave donation program. In California law, domestic partners have the same rights and responsibilities as spouses."  If you can't take time off from work or you have other daytime commitments, ask your child's teacher if he needs any assistance behind the scenes. He might ask you to help during non-school hours by calling other parents, preparing supplies for an art project or science experiment, setting up a computer data base, or editing student writing.
8. Prepare your child. Talk with your child before your volunteer day, and let her know that although you'll be in the classroom, you may not work directly with her. You might also remind her that she needs to listen to her teacher and follow directions, even when you are in the classroom. It is probably easiest to let the teacher handle disciplining your child during your volunteer time, although you can remind her to follow the rules just as you would another child. You'll be amazed how much you learn about your child's life at school, even while working with other students.
9. Have fun! Learn the names of the students you work with, and try to praise something they did well during your time together. Maybe they figured out a tough math problem, cooperated as a group, or listened to directions. The students will remember your compliment and be excited to see you next time.

Regardless of whether or not you are able to volunteer a little or a lot, every little bit matters and it matters most to our children!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Californian article- Two Languages Better Than One for Kids' Brains

If you missed the article in the Californian this past Monday, we've reposted it here.  It's definitely worth the read.

Two Languages Better Than One for Kids' Brains: Study

Bilingual children excel at problem-solving, creative thinking, research suggests

THURSDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Children who speak more than one language seem to have a learning advantage: Being bilingual can improve children's problem-solving skills and creative thinking, a new study suggests.
The mental sharpness needed to switch between two languages may develop skills that boost other types of thinking, explained researchers from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
"Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them," study leader Fraser Lauchlan, a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences & Health, said in a university news release. "Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem-solving and enabling children to think creatively."
The study involved 121 children roughly 9 years old in Scotland and Sardinia who spoke English or Italian. Of these children, 62 were bilingual and also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian. The children were given set tasks in English or Italian. Specifically, they were asked to reproduce patterns of colored blocks, orally repeat a series of numbers, define words and solve mental math problems.
The bilingual children performed much better on the tasks than those who spoke only one language, the investigators found.
"We also assessed the children's vocabulary, not so much for their knowledge of words as their understanding of them. Again, there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils," said Lauchlan, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia.
"We also found they had an aptitude for selective attention -- the ability to identify and focus on information which is important, while filtering out what is not -- which could come from the 'code-switching' of thinking in two different languages," Lauchlan added.
The study authors pointed out that the bilingual children who spoke Gaelic performed better than those who spoke Sardinian. They suggested the Gaelic-speaking children may have benefitted from the formal teaching of the language and its extensive literature. In contrast, Sardinian has a largely oral tradition with no standardized form of the language.
The study was released online in advance of print publication in the International Journal of Bilingualism.
More information
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on bilingual effects in the brain.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SOURCE: University of Strathclyde, news release, Aug. 3, 2012
Last Updated: Aug. 09, 2012
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Another DLP Class Added!!!!

As of last week, Lincoln hired another DLP teacher! We will now have two full kinders, one full 1st grade, one combo 1st/s2nd grade class, and one 2nd grade class.  The new teacher's name is Pablo Toledo.  Mr. Toledo comes to us from San Juan Baptista where he taught dual immersion for the past five years.  Mr. Toledo will teach the straight 2nd grade class and Maestra Williamns (formerly Boni) will teach the 1/2 combo.  I know the DLPA speaks for many Lincoln dlp families when we say "HUGE THANK YOU" to SCESD!!!!

Correction from previous post:

Kinder meet and greet is schedule for Friday, August 10th 3pm-4pm.  Also, we apologize for posting the incorrect time for the Back to School Night (6pm instead of 6:30pm); we hope it didn't inconvenience anyone.