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Audit: ELLs Aren't Central to Buffalo District's Plans

English-language learners don't have adequate access to the core instructional program in the public schools of Buffalo, N.Y., concludes the Council of the Great City Schools in an audit of the district's ELL programs.

"For the most part, ELLs were often separately served or were served in a way that did not build academic vocabulary, comprehension skills, or English-language-acquisition skills," write the authors of the report. See an article published today by the Buffalo News about the report (hat tip to GothamSchools).

The report says that the school district has made strong academic progress across the board, but adds that "this report is how an otherwise well-articulated academic program that is showing strong overall gains can miss students who are learning English as a second language."

The authors of the report say they were very impressed with the district's director of multilingual education, who was hired in 2006. At the same time, they say that many staff members across the district don't take responsibility for the education of ELLs and have low expectations for such students.

The report characterizes academic-proficiency rates for ELLs in the district as "very low," saying the achievement appears to be about the same as for students with disabilities.

It credits the district's superintendent, James Williams, and the Buffalo school board for requesting the audit and says both the superintendent and board are starting to ask important questions about the education of English-learners.

The council has previously found other urban school districts to have inadequate services for ELLs in similar audits. In 2008, it said Seattle's programs needed to be overhauled. Update: In my original post, I was wrong in saying the council conducted an audit of ELL programs in Portland, Ore. State reviewers examined Portland's ELL programs and said they needed to be improved.

The council has also published a report about four school districts it deems as doing a good job with ELLs at the elementary school level. They are Dallas, San Francisco, New York City, and St. Paul, Minn.

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