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N.Y.C. Education Leaders Pledge Special Attention to English-Learners

The New York City public schools enroll nearly 160,000 English-language learners—about 14.5 percent of all students in the city schools and a population that dwarfs most school districts in the United States.

The city district has struggled to move its English-learners to higher levels of achievement, even in the three years since it struck an agreement with state education officials to take several concrete actions meant to provide better instructional services for ELLs.

Now, under the leadership of Chancellor Carmen Fariña, the district is pledging anew to vastly improve outcomes for English-learners. Fariña has created a new position to oversee all English-learner programs and tapped a long-time dual-language educator and administrator to run it. Milady Baez, whose title is senior executive director of the department of English-language learners and student support, will be a member of the chancellor's senior management team and report directly to Fariña.

That organizational arrangement, as far as I know, is rare, if not unprecedented for a director of English-language learner programs, and certainly signals Fariña's commitment to boost achievement for ELLs. 

According to Chalkbeat NY, Fariña and Baez are promising to bring more dual-language programs to city schools, expand English-language instruction for parents of ELLs, and beef up support services to schools serving English-learners.

New York state education officials are also pushing ahead with plans to dramatically improve achievement for English-learners across all districts, an effort I wrote about earlier this year. But with 75 percent of the state's 215,000 ELLs in New York City, achievement for this group of students won't budge much unless the city's ELLs improve.

Some of the state's biggest achievement gaps are between students who are not yet proficient in English and other student groups. For example, 34.3 percent of English-learners who entered the 9th grade in 2008 graduated from high school four years later, the lowest rate of any other major student subgroup.

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