June 2002 — Volume 6, Number 1
Managing ESL Programs in Rural and Small Urban Schools
Barney Berube (2000)
Alexandria, VA: Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.
Pp. xiv + 270
US $29.95 (TESOL Members, $21.95)
The world is getting to be a much smaller place and nowhere is this more evident than in today’s United States K-12 schools. Language minority students are appearing in classrooms all across the country, and not just in urban areas. In fact, as Barney Berube pointed out at TESOL 2002 in April, 44 percent of America’s LEP students currently live in rural communities and 33 percent of America’s towns are enrolling LEP students. That, Berube says in Managing ESL Programs in Rural and Small Urban Schools, is a trend that is likely to continue over the long haul (p. 2).
Berube’s book is aimed at K-12 practitioners and administrators who serve small school districts and, he notes, have often not been prepared to address the needs of LEP (Limited English Proficient) students (pp. 5-7). It is set up as a manual, with nine chapters addressing the issues of demographics, federal law, LEP students in a standards-driven curriculum, ESL staffing in school districts, parent and community involvement, assessment, ESL program evaluation and professional resources. Each chapter is filled with easy-to-understand charts, figures and graphs; practical advice and information; and suggestions on where to find resources. The book is invaluable for K-12 educators implementing or maintaining small ESL programs and for educational researchers who need information on facts, figures and current practices related to language minority populations in the United States.
In his first chapter, Berube establishes that the time has come for even small districts to begin thinking about ways to address the needs of non-English-speaking students. Through figures and citations of studies, Berube demonstrates that language minority students either have, or will soon become part of, school communities in most districts in the United States. He also demonstrates that small districts are the least likely districts to receive federal funding and to be able to attract qualified personnel to serve their LEP students.
In Chapters Two and Three, Berube offers a primer on federal law and court cases relevant to LEP students and a practical guide for implementing the Lau Mandate. Readers are offered options on types of possible programs for English instruction and a step-by-step guide for making decisions on how to provide services. [-1-]
The fourth chapter discusses the current push for accountability in K-12 education as related to LEP students. Berube suggests program models that begin preparing students for successful standardized testing from the time they enter the district. He describes developmentally appropriate, leveled approaches to teaching content area material as well as strategies for helping students demonstrate what they have learned through alternative assessment methods. Berube also shares ideas for creating classroom environments that are conducive to learning both English and content area.
The fifth chapter discusses staffing the ESL program. It includes excellent demographics on the teacher population for small districts along with a good rationale for hiring ESL-trained teachers. For administrators, the chapter offers practical plans for recruiting ESL teachers and for making a plan for staffing an ESL program.
The sixth chapter addresses parent and community involvement. Berube includes suggestions on preparing a welcoming environment, what to tell parents about supporting English development at home and how to connect parents with classrooms and community resources. He also gives a short outline of language minority parent rights.
Chapter Seven is a guide for student assessment. It includes information on both formal and informal assessment, from the most commonly used standardized tests to portfolios. It also provides valuable questions for educators to reflect upon as they develop an assessment plan for their LEP students. Equity in testing is also addressed.
In Chapter Eight, Berube provides suggestions for program administrators to evaluate the effectiveness of their ESL programs over time. He includes discussions on the types of data to use, how to collect the data, and how to apply what one finds to assessing the progress of students. He also suggests that program evaluation can be used to provide for the continuous improvement of ESL instruction in school districts.
In Chapter Nine, Berube offers readers a wealth of resources to use as they serve LEP students. He encourages ESL educators to network through participation in professional organizations, collaboration with the community and accessing information from the Internet and various educational resources. His suggestions are cost-effective and easily accessible to rural school districts.
Chapter Ten, titled “A Postscript,” summarizes the content of the previous nine chapters. Extensive glossaries of ESL acronyms and terms follow the chapter. Three appendixes present a sample Lau Plan for a rural school district; a sample CALLA lesson plan; and a guide for using evaluation data to improve instruction.
When he spoke in Salt Lake City at TESOL 2002, Berube said he chose to publish his book through Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. because his main concern was in getting essential information out to school districts facing a considerable challenge with few resources to address it. He said he wanted the book to be cost-effective and easily available to those who needed it most. The final product lives up to his expectations. It provides comprehensive, practical and accessible information for any educator concerned with providing LEP students an equitable education. It belongs on the shelves of all K-12 ESL teachers and administrators.
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