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Memo Subject: New York City's "Crisis" in Educating ELLs

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I've been keeping track of state or city school systems that have been criticized publicly this summer for giving English-language learners short shrift. On the list are Texas, Massachusetts, and Seattle. Today I add New York City.

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Luis O. Reyes, a former school board member in New York City, forwarded a memo to me that was sent to New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills by the Coalition for Educational Excellence for English Language Learners, a group of organizations and educators who keep an eye on services for ELLs in New York City. People who signed the memo include Maria Neira, the vice president of New York State United Teachers, and Chung Wha Hong, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. (Update: click here for the memo.)

The gist of the memo is that state officials should address what is characterized as the "systematic crisis" of the education of ELLs in New York City. The memo lists 13 statistics selected to show how the city's schools are failing ELLs. Twenty-three percent of ELLs graduate from high school in four years, for example. The memo claims that nearly one-third of high school ELLs in the city don't receive any ELL instruction. ELLs also don't have good access to small schools or charter schools, the memo says.

The memo makes seven recommendations for how to improve services for ELLs in New York City and statewide.

Among them: ensure that policies and programs are based on the latest research on ELL instruction (the memo implies that English-only methods are less effective than bilingual ones), improve monitoring of programs and enforcement of court mandates, and appoint a high-level person in the state education department to assess the conditions of services for ELLs and recommend appropriate statewide actions to remedy problems.

Update: GothamSchools makes mention today of a New York Post article that summarizes the coalition's arguments as well.

1 Comment

What's even more critical is the power NYC has over NYS for ESOL rules and regulations. They have almost 80% of all ESOL students and a huge population base so they pull every other school district down with them. We are forced to evaluate with a NYC test called the LAB-R. It is so low level students who have learned some English in their home countries don't qualify and are left without any assistance whatsoever. They would have qualified under previous regulations. The use of the test is long standing in NYC so they might not have insight into better tests. It also keeps their numbers down and many students aren't counted when they should be. They are missing from the ESOL statistics. Also on the flip side, the state test we use on a yearly basis is kept low level (but better than the LAB-R) because NYC doesn't want it to be too demanding. Their kids still don't do well! Other districts in NYS are concerned with helping students learn English to a proficient level (which we wish was the 50%) and have them integrated into the regular curriculum. In NYC, their regular education students don't tend to do well either... but they make the rules for everybody else and all ESOL meetings in Albany are about them! We need appropriate assistance from the state and don't need to be grouped into and ruled by a city district which is failing their kids. We might even be able to advise if we had a voice and we don't.

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