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Articles: Language Arts

According to an American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) survey, in 2007-2008:
18% of U.S. public school students were enrolled in foreign language courses
40% of those enrolled in a foreign language were in California, Texas, New York, Florida, or Pennsylvania
17 states, half of them in the northeast, reported a decrease in the number of students enrolled in a foreign language

While education research has long suggested that studying second languages in K12 schools boosts student achievement in other content areas, the current testing emphases on mathematics and reading has placed foreign language instruction relatively low on district priority lists. However, a growing body of research indicates that second-language learning should be bumped up significantly, as demonstrated particularly in the following areas.

Mary Beckman, a now-retired special education teacher in the Elk River (Minn.) School District, says that new discoveries in neuroscience, and the face-to-face and online approaches they have helped create, aren’t the only way to influence the developing brains of young students.

Beckman argues that there’s a longstanding approach that does its part to develop the brain—handwriting. Eight years ago, that belief led Beckman to co-develop the ez Write Handwriting Program and start her own consulting company.

With a vast number of new software and Web-based reading programs on the market, students of all ages and abilities can target specific reading skills, such as comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness and vocabulary. In addition, access has changed greatly over the last couple of years. Students no longer need to be in a computer lab to use Web-based programs; they can use laptops or tablets as part of a one-to-one computing program or their own devices if their school has a bring-your-own-device policy.

According to new research from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), U.S. schools will need broadband speeds of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students by the 2014-2015 school year to meet increasing demand for Web-based lessons and the growing number of mobile devices used in the classroom. –Source: SETDA (2012)


Springfield (Pa.) Literacy Center, sustainable schools

Imagine a school with classrooms on only one side of the building, windows that look out onto picturesque landscape, a path outside that features the ABCs, and a forest area with a tree house where a classroom of kids can read. The Springfield Literacy Center is that place, and 600 kindergartners and first-graders in the Springfield (Pa.) School District gather for school there every day.

“Ninety-one percent of teachers reported having access to computers in their classrooms, but only 22 percent said they have the right level of technology.” – Source: PBS Learning Media (2012)


For the people of Hillsborough County in Florida, an effort to make digital books available to all children was a true community partnership focused on improving literacy rates across the county.

When Connie Dopierala was hired as the media services administrator for the Charleston County (S.C.) School District, one of her tasks was to update the district’s library books. “I was shocked by how dated some of the books were,” she says. “One school had a biography on Nelson Mandela that was written while he was still in prison.”

The Arizona Department of Education gave the Tucson Unified School District an ultimatum: Eliminate all ethnic studies courses or face massive financial sanctions.

Maria G. Ott on May 15, 2011, the opening day of Rowland's Blandford Elementary School.

Known for its cultural diversity, Rowland Unified School District (RUSD) in Rowland Heights, Calif., takes the “unified” in its name very seriously, says Superintendent Maria G. Ott—so seriously that the district’s mission statement calls Rowland’s “progressive international community” one that is “united in learning.”

Singapore girls

If the results of the most recent international achievement tests were graded on a curve, U.S. students probably would rank somewhere in the B range.

Sep. 24 to Oct. 1 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read and create awareness to protect access to books, says Barbara Jones, Director of American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, the group behind Banned Books Week. Local communities across the country celebrate Banned Books Week to emphasize the importance of our First Amendment rights and give kids the opportunity to read barred stories.

The Deerfield Township School in New Jersey has been working on improving literacy across all grade levels of this PreK-8 school. To encourage curiosity in reading among students, Superintendent Edythe Austermuhl personally mingles with students in their classrooms and libraries to hold informal book talks and find new readings. The school librarians have noted that if they label a book as a "Recommendation by Dr. Austermuhl," the book often has a waiting list.

Mobile learning is on the rise, and consequently, so is the need for mobile connectivity. According to a 2010 survey of E-rate consumers, including public schools and libraries, conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 50 percent of respondents said they plan to implement or expand the use of digital textbooks and other wireless devices.