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Have Boston Educators Been Asleep at the Wheel?

An editorial in the Boston Globe and a response from a longtime activist in the national debate over how to best teach English to children from immigrant families suggest that Boston educators have ignored their responsibility to make sure ELLs get special help to learn the language.

The editors of the Globe note in an Aug. 31 editorial that Boston schools have been "woefully remiss" in addressing the needs of ELLs. They mention a recent review that showed 42 percent of the 11,000 ELLs in Boston schools weren't getting special help to learn English. (For more on ELLs in Boston, see my blog post about a study published this spring.) The editorial says the U.S. Justice Department is investigating this problem and suggests that such involvement by the federal government may be what it takes to spur the school system to act.

Rosalie Pedalino Porter, who has advocated the English-immersion method for decades in public forums held across the country, including in Massachusetts, responds to the editorial by saying it's "shocking" that the Boston public schools aren't giving ELLs the help they need.

Many educators in other school systems have long ago figured out how to register ELLs and give them the special instruction they need, she contends. "Think of all we've learned," she writes, "all the advances in language teaching—have Boston educators slept through it all?"

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