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Boston Schools Shortchanging English-Language Learners, Federal Review Finds

The Boston school district has failed to adequately educate thousands of English-language learners, according to a federal review obtained by the Boston Globe.

The news comes nearly five years after the U.S. departments of Education and Justice reached a settlement agreement with the Boston schools on how district schools would overhaul its programs in response to numerous violations of the civil rights of English-language learners. The school district cooperated with a joint investigation by the two federal departments into those violations.

The Globe reports that the "violations are so widespread—prompting repeated visits by federal investigators over the last few months—that the school system is increasingly concerned that the federal agencies might head to court to force compliance."

Nearly a third of the system's 57,000 students are classified as English-language learners.

In the past month, the district has replaced the assistant superintendent overseeing the English-language programs with an in-house attorney who specializes in compliance, the Globe reports.

Interim Superintendent John McDonough defended the school system's efforts, saying it has been working aggressively to overhaul its programs, according to the Globe.

In fall 2010, the federal government found the school system was denying the civil rights of thousands of the students. Among the problems were educators inappropriately categorizing many language-learners as having "opted out" of language support services.

The district entered into the settlement agreement with the federal agencies to avoid legal action. But the departments of Education and Justice reserve the right to sue if the school system fails to fully implement the agreed upon plan.

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