The Best of Our Knowledge # 851

Some 5-million children in U.S. public schools are considered English
learners. Nearly one-third of these students live in California. Last year,
marked eight years since voters in California approved a state initiative
that mandated English-only instruction in most of the state's public school classes. Yet, there's still no agreement on whether the law is helping or
hurting the state's 1.6 million English learners in school. Over the next
several months, in our special six-part series called, The Language of
Learning, The California Report explores this issue. We'll go inside
classrooms, parent groups and teacher colleges to show how well
California is doing at teaching English to children who are immigrants,
or the children of immigrants. This first-of-its kind series is produced
by award-winning education reporter, Kathryn Baron. It challenges
common assumptions and shows what it means for the future of
students and the state when English language instruction is uneven.
In part one, called What's At Stake? , we discover that English learners
in California comprise 25% of all public school students. That's more
than the entire individual populations of Rhode Island, New Hampshire
and ten other states. By sheer size alone, that makes California a
national laboratory for educating English learners. Kathryn Baron reports
for TBOOK the limitations and challenges the law poses for students like
6th grader, Adrian Garcia, and his teacher, Nathan Brigham, at the Elk
Grove Prairie Elementary School near Sacramento.
Kathryn Baron reports. (5:45)


* In Education fallout from the recent U.S. elections, leaders of the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress say they'll make college affordability their
top education priority. They also want to reauthorize the No Child Left
Behind Act, a goal they share with President Bush.

* And in the last action by the Republican-led Congress just before the
holidays, legislation passed that included a couple of tax breaks for higher education. One provision is retroactive to 2006, and extends through 2007.
It allows families to deduct up to 4-thousand dollars in tuition and other
college costs.

* In other headlines, according to the Education Guardian news in Great Britain, university staff across England are being asked to spy on Asian-
looking and Muslim students..students they suspect may be involved in supporting terrorist violence. The Guardian reports the Department of
Education has drawn up a series of proposals because the British
Government believes campuses have become ...fertile recruiting
grounds... for extremists.

* Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch paper entitled, Denying the Right
to Education, claims the Iranian government has barred at least 17
students from pursuing graduate studies this school year because of
their political activism and beliefs. The human-rights group also contends
that 54 other students were required to sign statements that they would
observe political and ideological regulations.

* Funding for 121 Canada Research Chairs was recently announced by
the government in Ottawa. My own university, Queen's University in
Ontario, has attracted three new Research Chairs, and now holds 52 of
these 121 prestigious chairs. One of the new ones goes to Dr. Wolfgang
Rau, Canada Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics. He joins the award-winning SNO Lab team we reported on, here on TBOOK just last Fall.
Dr. Rau will collaborate with the Sub Neutrino Observatory research into
WIMPS, weakly interactive massive particles.
Dr. Karen Hitchcock reports. (2:25)

The late astronomer and educator, Dr. Carl Sagan, may be best known
for his award-winning television series, Cosmos. When we look up
into the starry night sky, we can still hear Sagan's voice repeating his
famous phrase, Billions and Billions... referring to the numbers of stars.
Carl Sagan also wrote the novel, Contact. He was co-producer and
co-writer of that acclaimed movie of the same name, starring Jodi Foster. There's an often repeated quote from the movie (referring to the dark
night sky) that If it is just us...seems like an awful waste of space.
Well, being able to see that there are billions and billions of stars means
there are billions of suns, like our own. Astronomers have already found
at least 200 new planets around a few of those stars. And that's just
been in the past ten years. Last week, we learned how scientists at the
Virtual Planetary Lab are modeling synthetic planets, or cyber-planets
that they hope represent real worlds orbiting faraway stars in other
galaxies. This week, how long can life endure on a habitable terrestrial
planet like Earth? If there is life on another planet many light years
away, what does Earth look like to them? And where will this science
be in another 20 years? TBOOK speaks with Dr. Vikki Meadows, Staff
Scientist with the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena.
Glenn Busby reports. (9:19)

The preceding material is supported by the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration.

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