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Boston Superintendent Names New Director of ELLs

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Superintendent Carol R. Johnson of Boston Public Schools announced today that she's chosen a new director of programs for English-language learners. The new director is Eileen de los Reyes, who served as a program director for the school system from 2002-05. She then led a team responsible for program and professional development for ELLs. She's also been a faculty member for the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Goddard College. (A source tells me the ELL director position had been open for months.)

The press release says that Johnson has selected de los Reyes "to reform education of English-language learners for Boston Public Schools." About 11,000 of Boston's 56,000 public school students are ELLs.

Reform is needed, according to a report released this week on how ELLs are faring academically in the school system, which I wrote about here. The dropout rate for high school ELLs in special programs to learn English nearly doubled from 2003 to 2006. It tripled for ELLs in general education classes over the same time period. The achievement gap between ELLs and native speakers of English widened during that time.

The press release lists several steps Johnson has taken recently to improve programs for ELLs. Among them are opening an academy for immigrant students who are teenagers and arrive during the school year and allocating some federal stimulus funds for new materials, assessments, and teacher training to support ELLs.

Actually, this is the first example I've heard of plans by a school district to use federal stimulus funds for ELLs. If you know of more examples, send them my way.

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This isn't strictly related, but I want some advice. I am currently teaching English in a bilingual school in Kuwait. Currently we are using Writers' Workshop and Readers' Workshop in middle school. We assess using RW & WW rubrics. The problems that occur are lack of interesting books for 6th graders with 3rd grade reading ability due to censorship and babyish books. Also, students are aware they are in a poor reading group. Arabic writing does not use capitals and verb tenses are not used. The culture is not a reading culture. Any suggestions to spark interest and help these bright students learn to love English?

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