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Large Manhattan School Will Become Three Small Schools

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I wonder how English-language learners will be served at Manhattan's Louis D. Brandeis High School, now that that the New York City Department of Education has decided to break it up into three small schools, reported this week by the New York Times.

The 2,251-student school enrolls a large number of special education students and English-language learners, according to the article. Two-thirds of its students are Hispanic and 28 percent are black.

I visited this school in 2003 when I wrote for Ed Week about Spanish for Native Speakers classes taught there. I distinctly remember having a conversation with a student from one of those classes who didn't have a clue about what his options were after graduation. The fact that he peppered me with questions made me think that either the guidance counselors were spread thin in the school or he hadn't reached out to them. I also remember that the school had metal detectors and a heavy police presence.

According to data I've received from the city's department of education, 724, or 32 percent, of Brandeis' students are English-language learners. Sixteen percent of the ELLs are classified as students with interrupted formal education, or SIFE, and a quarter of the ELLs are classified as long-term English-language learners, which the district defines as students who have spent more than six years in the city's special programs to learn English.

The office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education received a complaint that New York City's small schools discriminate against students with disabilities and ELLs, but dismissed it because the office didn't find evidence of discrimination.

Still, it will be interesting to see of the ELLs at Brandeis will be better off after a break up of the school.

1 Comment

It's hard to know for sure, but I think the smaller schools may be better able to serve the students than the larger ones. The experience you report having with the Brandeis student is probably indicative of a problem; sometimes that problem can be related to size.

Years ago, my daughter went to another large public high school in New York - one with a very good reputation. She also had to go through metal detectors daily, but this was a minor issue. More of a concern to me was hearing a machine on my answering tape telling me that "your son or daughter has been late for school this week." This would also be how they reach the non-English-speaking immigrant parents of the students, I supposed. And how about the teenagers who answer the phone and get the recorded message? How likely will this reach the parents?

I don't know what the outcome will be, but the problem is massive.

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