On March 12th and 13th, nearly 300 Kansas educators will meet in Hays to develop new approaches for working more effectively with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Fort Hays State University is hosting the 22nd Annual Conference of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (KATESOL), with the theme, "Advocating for Language Learners in the Era of No Child Left Behind."
"I'm starting to get concerned about whether there will be enough hotel and motel spaces for those who are traveling to Hays for KATESOL 2004," said Robb Scott, conference chair. "This is shaping up to be the biggest event of its kind in the history of language education in Kansas."
In the context of national and statewide frustrations with new requirements under "No Child Left Behind," this year's KATESOL meeting has deep significance for the future of English language learners in Kansas schools. "With the prescriptive and limited view of intelligence put forth in No Child Left Behind, Kansas school districts need every tool they can use to ensure that their schools are not destroyed by this law," said Chris Renner, KATESOL president, who will preside over the conference in Hays.
A recent decision by a Shawnee County District Court judge has found that many Kansas schools are not receiving sufficient state funds under the current funding formula to allow them to give culturally and linguistically diverse students the suitable education guaranteed all children in the Kansas Constitution. That challenge has resonated throughout every school district in the state, and forced increased funding for education to become the centerpiece of the 2004 budget proposed by Governor Kathleen Sebelius and now being debated in the Kansas legislature.
"A rapidly increasing number of English language learners are appearing in our public schools," explained Robb Scott. "And the entire state is engaged in a massive effort to retool our instructional approaches to effectively serve this growing segment of the Kansas population."
The agenda at the KATESOL Conference in Hays reflects the same stress points commanding the attention today of school, community and political leaders everywhere in the state. Kansas Commissioner of Education Andy Tompkins will speak at Friday evening's opening ceremony, free and open to the public, March 12th, in the well-known Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center, on the Fort Hays campus. Dr. Tompkins plans to report on the academic progress being made by English language learners in the state's schools, and suggest ways conference participants can work with KSDE to enhance school experiences for newcomers who must be tested both on their English language proficiency and on their skills in reading and math, on yearly assessments.
"One of the most exciting changes to happen to KATESOL this year was our decision to affiliate with the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)," announced Chris Renner in a recent KATESOL newsletter. "Our annual conference reflects the dynamic changes KATESOL/BE has experienced."
Bilingual education advocates will be buoyed by an appearance at the KATESOL opening ceremony by Dr. Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California and author of many famous textbooks for ESOL and foreign language teachers. Largely
through the efforts of Dr. Krashen, a recent English-only initiative was defeated in Colorado.
Read Dr. Krashen's Achievement Profile Interview on ESL MiniConference Online!
Saturday's academic sessions, for registered conference participants only, will include a full-morning workshop on assessment of English language learners, presented by Dr. Rebecca Kopriva, Director of the Center for the Study of Assessment Validity and Evaluation,
University of Maryland.
"We believe it is our obligation to inform and support the Kansas Department of Education in assuring that the assessment of English language learners is not only valid and reliable," said KATESOL President Chris Renner, "but also guarantees equity for our ESOL population."
Also, there will be morning and afternoon sessions with Ana Garcia and Lorena Dickerson, English Program Specialists from the U.S. Department of Education, who are traveling to Hays from Washington, D.C., in order to explain and answer questions about rules and obligations under No Child Left Behind.
Many more academic sessions will be offered at the KATESOL Spring Conference, including presenters from every major Kansas institution of higher education and a number of practicing teachers from Kansas elementary and secondary schools. There are also participants and session leaders from Omaha Public Schools, Metro College of Denver, and Harvard University.
Publishers from well-known companies such as Cambridge University Press, Pearson Learning Group, Harcourt, Scholastic and McGraw-Hill will be exhibiting and demonstrating their ESOL and language teaching materials at the KATESOL Spring Conference in Hays, also.
The event is sponsored by Fort Hays State University's Department of Special Education/ESOL and co-hosted by the Hays Language Institute.
Complete conference information, including registration forms, is also available online at: http://www.fhsu.edu/katesol/spring2004 .
Press release from KATESOL
Kansas Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
2004 ESL MiniConference Online