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English language learners
May 28, 2010
Brill-ing Down: Adding to Steven Brill’s NYT Magazine Report
Steven Brill's latest article chronicling the politics of the Race to the Top competition has caused a torrent of commentary. One contentious aspect of the piece is Brill's comparison of two schools that share the same building: Harlem Success Academy and P.S. 149. After Valerie Strauss picked up the statistics posted on the New York Public School Parents Blog, there has been much speculation about what types of kids are attending each school. Just how different are the populations anyway? To figure out the answer, I looked at NY State Accountability Report Cards, the Special Education Service Delivery Report for P.S. 149, as well as special education invoices provided to the UFT by the New York State Education Department. I chose these data sets because they seemed to be the most reliable and the most comparable. By "comparable" I mean that both Harlem Success and P.S. 149 have to submit to the state as part of their Accountability Report Cards data on students who receive free or reduced price lunch (an indicator of economic need), whereas, for instance, only P.S. 149 lists something known as the poverty rate (which is slightly different.) According to this data, Harlem Success Academy does appear to serve fewer needy students, both in terms of economic status, limited English proficiency, and special education needs. On the other hand, Harlem Success dramatically outperforms P.S. 149 on 3rd grade test results.
December 21, 2009
State policy an obstacle to charter school serving English learners
A charter school that hoped to focus on students who don't speak English is changing tactics after being told by the state that it cannot give admissions preference to the students it wants to attract. Though New York City's charter schools admit relatively few English Language Learners in comparison to district schools, Inwood Academy for Leadership intended to be the exception. When Principal Christina Hykes applied for a charter, she envisioned a school where half the students were English Language Learners and half were general education students, making Inwood Academy the first charter school in the city to propose such a model. Hykes planned to achieve this balance by giving admissions preference to ELL students living in Inwood, something Department of Education officials agreed she could do. State law encourages charters to focus on students "at risk of academic failure," and students with little English seemed like prime candidates. They routinely have lower scores on the state tests than their English-speaking peers and are less likely to graduate high school. But officials at the State Education Department disagreed with the city's reading of the law, telling the DOE and Hykes that ELL students don't fall in the "at risk" category. As a result, Inwood Academy's application would have to lose all the language giving ELLs enrollment preference if it wanted to get a charter.
July 2, 2009
A culture shift in special education urged after internal review
Special education advocates are giving early praise to recommendations released today that would transform schools' approach to students with special needs. The recommendations, which Chancellor Joel Klein endorsed, center on integrating students with special needs into the city's ongoing school reforms. Garth Harries, a department official who is starting a new job in New Haven, Conn., on Monday, authored the recommendations following a months-long review of the city's special education offerings. Actually implementing the plans will be left to a new top-level administrator who will be responsible for nearly a quarter of the system's students. Laura Rodriguez, a longtime Bronx educator who currently heads one of the support organizations that principals can choose to join, will become the city's first Chief Achievement Officer for Special Education and English Language Learners. Rodriguez will be one of only seven people reporting directly to the chancellor, making the needs of nearly 250,000 disabled students and ELLs "visible and transparent at the cabinet level" for the first time, Klein said.
July 2, 2009
City to release findings of months-long special ed review today
Joel Klein is wasting no time: A day after being rehired as chancellor, he is announcing the creation of a new position to supervise…
June 16, 2009
Report: High school closures hurt students learning English
The rise of small high schools has decimated programs for students whose native language is not English, making the students more likely to drop out. That's the conclusion of a report released today by two watchdog groups that look out for immigrant students, Advocates for Children of New York and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The groups studied two large, low-performing high schools that the city decided to replace with small, themed schools and found that students who are classified as English language learners enrolled in smaller numbers in the new schools. Students who did enroll often did not receive the services they needed, the groups found. What's more, according to the report, most of the new schools are too small to offer a range of language services: State law mandates that schools create bilingual programs if they enroll more than 20 students in the same grade who speak the same native language. The DOE has interpreted this mandate to mean that parents of 20 students in the same grade who speak the same language must "opt-in" to select a bilingual program - and that merely meeting the numerical enrollment threshold is insufficient.
March 18, 2009
Report: Immigrant parents feel shut out of schools
Hot on the heels of a DOE report saying that immigrant students are doing better than ever before, groups serving immigrant families issued a report of their own today, calling on the city Department of Education to "change the culture in schools" so that immigrant parents feel welcome participating in their children's education. Many immigrant parents would like to be involved in their children's schools but do not feel able because of language barriers and cultural differences, according to the report, which was written by Advocates for Children of New York, where I used to work, in conjunction with a number of community groups that represent immigrants. The report calls for the DOE to develop an aggressive plan to involve immigrant families in their schools, citing research that has documented a link between parent engagement and student performance. The premise behind the report — that parents should be involved in schools — is one that DOE officials say they support. Asked at Friday's mayoral control hearing about parent participation among immigrant families, Maria Santos, who heads the department's Office of ELLs, said there is "not enough." The report suggests a number of reasons why immigrant parents might not feel encouraged to get involved.
March 17, 2009
New warring memos dispute ELLs' performance under Klein
The city Department of Education today heralded performance gains among students who are considered English language learners in a new report about how those students have fared under Chancellor Joel Klein's leadership. The tone of the report and its accompanying press release is very different from the tone of Friday's mayoral control hearing in the Bronx, where numerous speakers complained that the department has paid too little attention to ELL students. The report declares that Klein and Mayor Bloomberg have built a "stronger system-wide infrastructure" to support English language learners, and says that the efforts are "starting to bear fruit." More than 29% of fourth-graders met English standards in 2008, compared to 4% in 2003; 64% met math standards in 2008, up from 36% in 2003. The report cautions that middle school test scores and graduation rates are not as rosy, but points out that former English language learners — students who once received help in learning English but have since tested proficient at English — are out-performing even non-ELL students. The report paints a very different picture from the one presented at the Bronx hearing Friday.
December 18, 2008
Remainders: Here come the teacher data reports
The teacher data reports — those whose battle went all the way to Albany — are out. A new web site calls attention…
November 13, 2008
$3.6 billion to fully fund English Language Learners, study finds
Students who are still learning English need twice as much funding as other students, says a policy brief released yesterday by the New York Immigration Coalition. The brief was based on a new, as-yet-unreleased study the Coalition commissioned from research and advocacy organization Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, Inc. (META). At present, funding for English Language Learners (ELLs) is approximately 1.5 times that of regular education students. While the brief does not say how much additional funding the state should provide per pupil, EdWeek blogger Mary Ann Zehr estimated it at about $6,500 more for each ELL student than what is spent today. Adding that much per student would be expensive. The study calculates that New York State would have to spend a total of $3.64 billion on ELLs, about 17% of total state aid to schools. This sounds like a lot given looming state budget cuts, but the brief's authors say it's reasonable.
October 31, 2008
A new state policy to help English Language Learners on tests
The above policy change, passed by the state Board of Regents in September, is something to watch. It will allow students still learning…
October 23, 2008
Accessibility standards for standardized tests
Tests can be made more accessible for English Language Learners and students with special needs, say researchers at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School of…
October 1, 2008
Authentic science instruction raises test scores in Florida
At the intersection of earlier discussions of elementary school content knowledge, vocabulary development, and instruction of English Language Learners is…
September 25, 2008
State Assembly Ed Committee flunks attendance at English Language Learner roundtable
“I’m trying to encourage more of our rank-and-file committee members to … show up at these hearings. We have 31 people on the committee and 3 members [are here]," State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said Tuesday at the Assembly's Standing Committee on Education's Roundtable on the Educational Needs of English Language Learners (ELLs). Nolan chairs the education committee and moderated the roundtable; she was joined by Assembly Members Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx and Daniel O'Donnell of Manhattan. PHOTO: J. Zubrzycki Source: ##http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oms.nysed.gov%2Fpress%2Fdocuments%2FGradrates06-07FINAL.ppt&ei=bdraSKS3Doya8wTJot2eBQ&usg=AFQjCNF3tbdHe1KAOJWMFAsVIKt71FeeVw&sig2=-ZPB6JI48-JLrFy8UdQUCQ##New York State Graduation Rates 06-07 Presentation## Although overall graduation rates have increased statewide, they have declined among English Language Learners; the city's four year graduation rate for ELLs was 23.5% in 2007. And 76% of New York State's ELLs live in the city. Yet among those education committee members who did not attend the roundtable were Barbara Clark of Queens; Ruben Diaz, Jr., Aurelia Greene, and Michael Benedetto of the Bronx; and James Brennan, Karim Camara, and Alan Maisel of Brooklyn.
September 8, 2008
Six steps to explicit vocabulary development
Discussion of reading instruction — which started with a look at the Core Knowledge Reading Program (CKRP) being piloted in NYC this year — has really taken off, with commenters raising important questions: How does the content in CKRP differ from what's being read now? What about helping children understand syntax? Does vocabulary development in Science differ from other subject areas? While I look into those issues, here's a technique one Queens teacher uses to help her students learn new words. Katie Kurjakovic, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at P.S. 11 in Queens, illustrates the problem with an anecdote: A second-grade teacher was preparing to read a story about George Washington's wife, Martha, to her class. She anticipated all the unfamiliar vocabulary she thought they would encounter. She told them what colonies and colonists were. She spoke of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Then, shortly after she began reading, a girl raised her hand with a puzzled look on her face. "What's a wife?" she asked. Kurjakovic uses a six-step process to explicitly teach vocabulary to her English Language Learners. Before reading a text, she identifies and introduces ("previews") new vocabulary for her students, then she reads the text, uses the words in the context of the text and then in a new context, and finally gives her students an opportunity to use the words.
July 31, 2008
Concerns, criticisms dominate at Contracts for Excellence public hearing
Photo by p_a_h Elected officials, teachers, and parents offered up a litany of concerns about the DOE's proposed Contracts for Excellence — regarding both their content and the process by which they were developed — last night at the final public hearing in Manhattan. The hearing, chaired by Terence Tolbert, executive director of the DOE's Department of Intergovernmental Affairs (and soon to direct Obama's Nevada campaign), was well-attended by representatives from numerous organizations, including ACORN, Class Size Matters, the Coalition for Educational Justice, the Alliance for Quality Education, the City Council, school level PTAs, the UFT, and others. Legally, Contracts for Excellence funding must "supplement, not supplant" existing spending; several speakers expressed concerns that the money will be spent to close holes in the budget rather than create or expand programs. Others worried that the new funding would be used to make up losses due to budget cuts in low-performing schools, rather than expanding services for high-needs children in those schools. Complicating these issues, several speakers noted, the plan includes little oversight of whether principals spend the Contracts for Excellence money as intended.
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