Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Teaching Language Minority Students in Los Angeles and Oslo -A Metropolitan Perspective Nr 1

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Teaching Language Minority Students in Los Angeles and Oslo -A Metropolitan Perspective Nr 1

Article excerpt


Although different in many respects, both Los Angeles and Oslo are ports of immigration in their respective countries. The public school systems in each city are charged with educating large numbers of immigrant children whose home language differs from the national language of the country. In both cities, the academic achievement of the largest immigrant group lags in national and local measures. In both cities, the education of immigrants and the strategies to be used have become politically controversial, and policies for learning the national language have been buffeted by ideological winds. In both cities, the economic and social future depends on the successful education of immigrant children. Thus, an exploration of immigrants and their progress as learners of the national language may be profitable to educators in both countries, and such an exploration may serve as a basis for future research. In this first paper we are focusing on the situation in Los Angeles. In the second paper, which will be appear in this journal, we'll be focusing on Oslo.

Immigration in the U.S.

Immigrant children are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Nearly 25 percent of youth under age 17 live with an immigrant parent, and among younger children immigrants account for nearly all the recent population growth (Tienda and Ron, 2011, p.3).

At the same time, the U.S. population is aging. Although the number of children is at an all-time high, their share of the total population is decreasing, reflecting decreasing fertility rates and the aging of the post-World War II baby boom (Passel, 2011, p.22).

These children are part of a wave of immigration that began in earnest in 1965 after passage of legislation that allowed immigration to expand. In the 1980s more than 10,000,000 persons immigrated to the United States, the greatest absolute rise in the nation's history. In some ways it repeats the "Ellis Island" wave of immigration in the early 20th century, although the port of immigration differs. According to Jeffrey Passel's calculations, "By 2009 almost 40 million residents, or 12.8 percent of a U.S. population of more than 300 million, were foreign-born. This share was only slightly below the twentieth-century peak of 14.8 percent attained in 1910, when 13.5 million residents, of a total population of 92 million, were foreign-born." (Passel, 2011, p.25).

However, this new wave of immigrants differs substantially from the older, largely European migration that first settled largely on the East Coast and in the Midwest, the upper Midwest in the case of Norwegians who immigrated heavily in the late 19th Century. The 1965 legislation placed immigrants from Asia and Latin America on an equal footing with those from Europe, and this has changed the composition of the U.S. population. "By the late 1990s annual inflows of unauthorized immigrants began to exceed inflows of legal immigrants and continued to do so for about a decade." (Passel, 2011, p.25). Since 1980 more immigrants, both legal and unauthorized, have come from Mexico than from any other country. By 2007 more than 12.5 million Mexican immigrants were living in the United States; about 55 percent of them were unauthorized. Other leading sources of immigrants: India, the Philippines, China, El Salvador, Cuba, Vietnam, and Korea (Passel, 2011, p.25).

One of the consequence of a flood of immigration from rural Mexico, where families were fleeing from that country's economic collapse, was to substantially lower the education level of immigrant adults coming to the U.S. For example, the average immigrant arriving from Mexico between 1960 and 1964 had more than eight years of schooling. Immigrants in the late 1980s and early 1990s averaged lass than six years of schooling (Luschei, 1995, p.13).

Immigration and the Public Schools

As Gándara and Rumberger write, "The ideal of the public school in the United States has historically been one of a great equalizer, the place where a common culture was inculcated in students, regardless of the culture they brought to school. …

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