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Learning a new language shouldn’t be foreign to Americans

The Las Vegas Review Journal – PAUL HARASIM

“Research shows that only 18 percent of Americans report speaking a language other than English, compared with nearly 60 of percent of Europeans. According to former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in 2008 just one quarter of U.S. elementary schools — the level when students best learn languages, research shows — offered foreign language instruction. Usyk can’t understand why foreign language instruction isn’t mandatory in American elementary schools. Just 10 states require foreign language study for high school graduation. Nevada’s not one of them. Of the Clark County School District’s more than 200 elementary schools, about a dozen schools offer a foreign language. Usyk said she’s teaching her 22-month-old son, Matthew, both English and Russian, and he’s picking up both. She’d like him to learn an additional language in school. “Children are sponges when they’re young. That’s when they learn languages overseas, ” Usyk said. “I’m sure he’ll be more marketable the more languages he knows.” Though Matthew then said “da,” I couldn’t tell whether he was using the Russian word for yes or noting in baby talk that he was picking up his bat.”(more)

Latinos need access to STEM education

The Las Vegas Review Journal – ROBERT T. MALDONADO

“It’s a ritual that’s becoming more rampant across the nation. The alarm on your smartphone goes off, and before jumping in the shower or brushing your teeth, you first check your email, Facebook or both. While some of us may lament this new intrusion on our morning routine, it’s a simple fact of life that smartphones and other forms of new technology are becoming an integral part of our daily lives. In fact, technology is now the key to success in this increasingly digital economy, especially for younger generations. Latinos, whose median age (27 years old) is a full decade lower than that of the U.S. overall, stand to gain the most from this changing economy, but only if we acquire the skills, knowledge and resources necessary to take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.”(more)

If teacher shortage persists, ‘we’re all going to sink’

The Las Vegas Sun – Michelle Rindels

“Nevada’s two largest school districts this week said they’d hired hundreds of first-time teachers over the summer with the help of recruiters, billboards and even a Clark County superintendent zip-lining through downtown Las Vegas in a superhero cape. But when it was Nevada Board of Education President Elaine Wynn’s chance to speak about the nearly 1,000 teacher positions statewide that still remain vacant and are being filled with stopgap measures such as long-term subs, she didn’t mince words. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this alarmed in my job as I have been today,” Wynn said at a board meeting Thursday, calling the situation a human resource crisis. “We’re going to all sink. This is horrific.” Nevada is suffering an acute teacher shortage as its student population rises and its primary supplier of educators — California — deals with a shortage of its own. Colleges there are producing fewer teaching graduates, and Nevada colleges are far from being able to churn out enough homegrown education graduates to meet the state’s needs.”(more)

Nevada’s Voucher Program: The Next Legal Battle in the War for Parental Choice

The 74 Million – Carolyn Phenicie

“There is widespread public support for Nevada’s landmark statewide Education Savings Accounts, a public opinion poll finds, as the controversial proposal prepares for its journey through the state court system. According to a survey of about 600 residents, 61 percent of Nevadans support the ESA, which was described as a program that “uses state funds to create a personal account to fund education expenses, including tutoring, testing fees and books.” There was majority support among respondents of all political affiliations and among union households. The Nevada survey was conducted just prior to the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filing suit two weeks ago to block the program on the grounds that it violates provisions in the state constitution banning state support of religious activities and requiring a “uniform system of common schools.” The American Federation for Children, which recently sponsored The Seventy Four’s New Hampshire Education Summit, commissioned the poll. It was conducted by The Tarrance Group, a Republican-aligned polling firm.”(more)

Good News for New Orleans

Education Next – Staff Writer

“What happened to the New Orleans public schools following the tragic levee breeches after Hurricane Katrina is truly unprecedented. Within the span of one year, all public-school employees were fired, the teacher contract expired and was not replaced, and most attendance zones were eliminated. The state took control of almost all public schools and began holding them to relatively strict standards of academic achievement. Over time, the state turned all the schools under its authority over to charter management organizations (CMOs) that, in turn, dramatically reshaped the teacher workforce.”(more)

School gardens cultivate young minds

The Las Vegas Sun – Katie Visconti

“Traditional classrooms are filled with desks and whiteboards. Bracken has buried tradition in favor of growing something new: classroom gardens. It is among dozens of Clark County schools that, thanks to local nonprofit Green Our Planet, have a on-campus gardens. Since it began in January 2013, Green Our Planet has helped build gardens in 64 Clark County schools. The goal is to teach local children about environmental issues, health and conservation, and expose them to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics. Students learn about plant growth and decomposition, participate in weekly farmers markets selling produce they grow, and receive instruction from local chefs and farmers about food and nutrition. Fifth-graders even are tasked with protecting the gardens after school from younger, strawberry-stealing students.”(more)