Monday, April 12, 2010

English Language Learners Get Their Tongues Tied By BloomKlein


At the heart of this news article on New York City Public Schools' failure to provide legally mandated instructional services to thousands of English language learners is the State's constitutional obligations to protect the civil rights of a protected class of students (LEP/ELL student) as per federal, state and court mandates.

Based on information available from the New York State Education Department:

New York City District Data  for 2008-2009 
in Aggregate for all districts

(minus all the high schools except alternate high schools)

The question is not whether ELL graduation rates are improving. The question is whether ELL students are being properly identified, properly placed in either ESL or TBE programs (i.e., provided appropriate instructional programing) by ceritified, qualified teachers.

The District summaries re LEP/ELLs show significant deficiencies in a number of districts; and indicate systemic issues of lack of reporting (Language Allocation Policy documents) in 675 schools in New York City as of December 19, 2009 and an alarming number of  LEP/ELLs (10,077) not accounted for by Districts in their submitted documents.

The large number of ELLs not served (8,000+) and the large number of ELl enrolled in ESL only classes who should be in Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) classes, as well as the 15% of ELLs who are long-term ELLs (more than 6 years identified as ELLs and still eligible) are cause for great concern and for deliberate action by NYC schools, districts and the central NYC Department of Education administration. Planning is not enough. Action plans with benchmarks and timelines for implementation and compliance and consequences are essential.

 Beyond NYC's obligations are the obligations of the Education Commissioner and the NY State Education Department of Education to ensure equal educational opportunity to LEP/ELL students. The State must  also ensure the provision of a sound basic education in keeping with the State Constitution, the Court of Appeals decision in Campaign for Fiscal Equity, and the NY State Budget Laws enacted in 2007-2008, including the Contract for Excellence funding requirements. Finally, The Commissioner must enforce his own regulations and take appropriate action when they are not followed.

Luis O. Reyes, Ph.D.

New York Post
Tongue tied at school
April 12, 2010

More than 8,000 city public school students struggling to learn English didn't get any language help last year, even though they were entitled to it by law, state statistics show.

Another 43,000 kids -- or nearly one in three of the 138,000 students identified by the city as "English language learners" -- didn't get the full range of services they should have received during the 2008-09 school year.

Among the districts with the largest gaps in English language support were Manhattan's District 3, where 11.7 percent of the roughly 2,000 foreign-language speakers identified got no services last year, and Brooklyn's District 14, where nearly 11 percent received no services, according to the data.

"There's a neglect here and an unwillingness for people to say we need to hold [somebody] accountable for the results of these students," said Luis Reyes, a longtime bilingual educator and former member of the city's Board of Education. "It's not clear that anybody is paying attention."

Non-native English language speakers are supposed to be offered programs in English as a Second Language, bilingual programs, or both.
ESL classes give students some support in their native language, while bilingual programs help them to develop more fully in both their native language and in English.

Students in these programs are among those with the lowest four-year high school graduation rates in the city.

School officials said the state's numbers were misleading because schools have been offering students bilingual programs as an opt-in service since 2001, rather than making the classes mandatory.

They added that schools have until the end of April to dispute the figures, which could then change significantly.

But Deycy Avitia, a director of organizing at the New York Immigration Coalition, said her group had documented wide gaps in service to English learners since at least 2005, when principals began getting more autonomy over school budgets.

"You're talking about some very complex educational issues, and not everybody has that level of expertise to be able to make the best decisions," Avitia said.

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