Deanborn Heights (Michigan): School grants to promote learning Arabic

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jun 10 16:08:01 UTC 2007

School grants to promote learning Arabic*By: Mohamed Kadry / The Arab
American News*

*DEARBORN HEIGHTS* — The U.S. Department of Education presented Star
International Academy with a $339,586 check for a federal Foreign Language
Assistance Program grant on Friday to promote Arabic among America's most
populous Middle Eastern population. This program provides grants to
establish, improve, or expand innovative foreign language programs for
elementary and secondary school students in order to increase the number of
students studying critical languages to help ensure America's
competitiveness in the international economic and political spheres.

As part of the federal push to establish and expand foreign language
programs in America's schools, four schools in Dearborn Heights, Dearborn,
and Detroit will be recognized with grants that over three years are
expected to exceed $1 million in value. Nawal Hamadeh, founder,
superintendent and CEO of Star International Academy, heads an educational
powerhouse that ranks her charter schools in the top 50 nationwide. Her
students' MEAP reading proficiency levels from 2003-2005 surpassed Detroit
and Dearborn Public schools, and math proficiency gains were higher than all
local public school districts, despite having a much higher number of
economically disadvantaged students. Star International Academy also
outperformed 87 percent of Michigan charter schools serving economically
disadvantaged students in reading and 77 percent in math. It also ranked
fourth in reading proficiency and seventh in math of all schools in the
entire state serving similar populations.

Nearly 90 percent of the school's students are of Arab or Middle Eastern
descent. Some speak Arabic well but many have little or no exposure to the
language. This grant will allow the school to implement much needed
diversified language programs that will accommodate the entire student body.
Fewer than one percent of American high school students study Arabic,
Chinese, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Russian or Urdu. Fewer than eight percent
of U.S. undergraduates take foreign language courses. U.S. Secretary of
Education Margaret Spellings calls the implementation of high-quality
foreign language programs, "...not just an education issue; it's an economic
issue, a civic issue, a social issue, a national security issue, and it's
everybody's issue."

The grant comes at a time when American government officials are
revitalizing the effort to promote Arabic as a necessary language
particularly in foreign and diplomatic affairs. It is intended to immerse
all students in all grades in both the Arabic and English languages, and
promote the study of both Arabic and American cultures through artifacts,
geography, customs, traditions, folklore, dances, and music. "We promote
peace, not wars," Hamadeh said. "The more we understand each other, and our
cultures, the less conflict there is. We bring people together, sharing in
the process of learning, sharing meals, sharing lives...our students, our
parents, our staff, and the communities around us all share together. It's a
good role model for a global world."

Students performed Arabic folk songs and traditional dances for the
philanthropic guests, highlighted by a musical performance from Ali Bazzi
who sang and played his Arabic drum to a cheering audience.

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