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Posts Tagged ‘California’

School may be out for the summer, but there’s no break for ideas and debate about the best—and worst—ways for funders to help fix America’s education system. Certainly engaging with policymakers is critical. In a later post, I’ll discuss the issue of foundations’ increasing interest in and effort to influence education policy.

But one specific education idea that has gotten less attention than it deserves is the need to help those whose native language isn’t English.

It’s not just children of immigrants who are “English Language Learners,” but also those who live in linguistically homogenous communities. And it’s not just students in those states, including California, Texas and New York, with a history of immigration and multi-language environments. In fact, ELL populations are growing everywhere, and the fastest increase is occurring in states such as South Carolina, Indiana and Delaware, where school systems are less familiar and less equipped to help non-native English speakers. That’s according to 2009 data from the Migration Policy Institute as cited in a recent web seminar sponsored by Grantmakers for Education (GFE) and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR). The two organizations have teamed up for a two-day briefing to be held next week in New York, exploring how funders can address ELL needs at various stages of youth development, from pre-school to elementary and secondary education to out-of-school time.

The recent web seminar—from which presentation slides and an audio recording are available—specifically focused on a “two-generation” approach to literacy: working with parents as well as students. Parents are “their children’s first and life-long teachers,” and engaging them is the key to success. For example, Joanna Brown of Chicago’s Logan Square Neighborhood Association talked about how her association helped to develop lasting relationships between parents and teachers, through after-school workshops and evening meetings. Before such efforts, teachers were skeptical of how much parents could help them in their work. And many parents were suspicious that the teachers had ulterior motives, such as reporting on their immigration status.

Helping non-native English speakers become fluent both enhances their opportunities and enables them to contribute fully to society more broadly. Improved quality of life and enhanced social cohesion are among philanthropy’s most ambitious and important goals.

—Jane Wales

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Acknowledging the diverse feelings Americans have about the United Nations, Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, spoke to a large audience about the many ways the UN and the United States interact. Brimmer used examples relevant to California, such as aviation and shipping, intellectual property rights, and communications, to illustrate the support given to the UN by the US and the protection and oversight of US interests by various UN agencies. Brimmer also discussed President Obama’s call for an “Era of Engagement,” which is already bringing about changes in nuclear nonproliferation policy, climate change negotiations, and food security initiatives. While responding to audience questions, Brimmer devoted time to explaining the Obama administration’s decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council as well as the continued concerns about HRC members’ compliance with the organization’s mission. Brimmer was optimistic throughout the program and ended by expressing her joy at seeing the Islamic world’s positive reception of Obama’s June speech in Cairo.

To listen to the entire program, please visit our audio archive. Learn more about the United States’ involvement with the UNHRC here. Finally, you can watch a clip of the program below.

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