Thursday April 26, 2018

California Prepares to Resume Bilingual Education in two-decade mandate for English-only classes in Public Schools

California gets ready to welcome multilingual education again after the two-decade long mandate for English-only education system

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FILE - Teacher Regina Yang leads a bilingual Korean-English language immersion classes at Porter Ranch Community School in Los Angeles, Sept. 30, 2016. VOA
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California, Jan 14, 2017: Hilda Maldonado is an evangelist for bilingual education. As head of multilingual programming for the Los Angeles Unified School District, she welcomed California’s vote last fall to repeal an almost two-decade mandate for English-only classes in public schools.

Her district’s 640,000-plus students collectively speak 93 languages. Maldonado said, “Forty-nine percent of the students in this district come with a second language. We should see that as a wealth of our state and not as something we must eliminate.”

California voters last November overwhelmingly approved Proposition 58. Now, Maldonado and other Californians are scrambling to prepare for the initiative, which takes effect in July.

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More control for schools

As The Los Angeles Times explains, the measure gives communities and their schools more control over whether to offer bilingual education and, if they do, which language to choose besides English. Prop 58 still requires that all students develop proficiency in English.

While the California Board of Education develops guidelines and accountability measures, Maldonado said school districts are doing research, working on credentialing bilingual teachers and informing parents about how to proceed. Launching a bilingual program starts with a show of interest by parents of at least 20 students in one grade level or 30 students schoolwide, the California Association for Bilingual Education says on its website.

FILE – A display at a bilingual Korean-English language immersion class at Porter Ranch Community School in Los Angeles, Sept. 30, 2016. VOA

These efforts most likely will be scrutinized. California serves as a laboratory on U.S. immigration, with more foreign-born residents — almost 10.5 million, or over one in four — than any other state.

In 1998, California became the first U.S. state to prohibit bilingual education amid concern that newcomer students weren’t adequately learning English. (At the time, some had been shepherded into Spanish-only classes.) That worry persists among opponents of Proposition 58. But proponents say it cuts “the bureaucratic red tape around multilingual education [that] is harmful to students in a global economy, where the most sought after employees speak more than one language,” according to the Times.

In the last academic year, among California’s 6.2 million kindergarten-through-12th-grade students, nearly a quarter were classified as English-language learners. Most speak only Spanish.

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More in L.A. district

The concentration of English-language learners is even higher in the Los Angeles district, at almost half. Again, Spanish is most common. Other predominant languages include Korean, Armenian, Tagalog, Cantonese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Russian.

But, because of the earlier restrictions, few California public schools — not even 5 percent — currently offer multilingual programs, the Times reported. Those schools had to get waivers.

One of the rare ones is Cahuenga Elementary School, in central Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood. There, Wonnie Pak teaches third-graders in both English and Korean, trying to incorporate fun into their lessons. They’ve learned songs in Korean, for instance.

Wonnie Pak teaches third-graders in English and Korean at Cahuenga Elementary School in Los Angeles, Calif. She says bilingual education creates opportunities. (A. Martinez/VOA)

The teacher calls the human brain “an incredible tool” and encourages language instruction for students of all ages.

“If you give them the opportunity, then they will learn it, no matter how young or how old,” she said. “Like in Europe. They speak so many languages. Why can’t we? Why do we have to just only speak English?”

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, an immigrant rights group, suggests bilingual education aids students and also preserves vulnerable languages.

“Latino children are losing their Spanish and speaking only in English,” he said. “I mean, the English language is not under threat. What is actually threatening is not having enough knowledge about all the languages spoken in the United States.”

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Other state bans

Two other states — Arizona and Massachusetts — prohibit bilingual education, according to the National Association of State Legislatures (NCSL).

In 2000, Arizonans voted to require English-only classes except for foreign language training, giving pupils classified as English learners up to a year for structured immersion. In 2002, Massachusetts approved a similar law. Though both states offer waivers, the process may be “difficult for parents to navigate, especially for those parents with limited English skills themselves,” NCSL education policy specialist Matthew Weyer said in an email.

Obstacles to bilingual education can include school financing, cultural resistance and, Weyer noted, finding qualified and experienced bilingual teachers.

California is one of at least 20 states in which local school districts can award a Seal of Biliteracy to high school graduates proficient in at least two languages.

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)