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English language learners
October 12, 2011
Required to help ELLs, city to open 125 new bilingual programs
The city will launch 125 new bilingual programs under the terms of a required plan to improve the treatment of students who are classified as English language learners. Test scores and high school graduation rates for ELLs lag far behind the city average, and last summer the state told then-Chancellor Joel Klein to produce a "corrective action plan" for how to serve the students better. That plan, released today and posted below, sets out an ambitious remediation schedule — and also highlights just how much the city has lagged in providing legally mandated services to ELLs. In the plan, the city promises to reduce the number of ELLs whose teachers are not trained to work with them and to punish schools that fail to provide services to which ELLs are entitled. It also promises to launch 125 new bilingual programs by 2013, including 20 this school year, on top of the 397 that are already open. The new programs will open in districts with many ELLs and where parents say they prefer their children placed in classrooms where instruction takes place in two languages, rather than in English-only classes with extra help for non-native speakers. The city has hired Ernst & Young, an auditing group, to monitor whether parents' choices are honored. Some of the new programs will open in high school campuses where no bilingual instruction currently takes place. When he approved several school closures in July, State Education Commissioner John King expressed concern about whether new high schools would serve the same students who attended the schools that closed. The plan commits to opening new programs when existing ones phase out along with their schools.
July 20, 2011
Special ed teachers need 'tweaked' evaluations, advocates say
Advocates are worried that the city's new evaluation system could penalize teachers of students with special needs. The nonprofit organization Advocates for Children of New York recently released a fact sheet calling on parents to ask how the new system, which will be piloted in more schools next year, will affect those teachers. Sixty percent of the new evaluations is based on subjective measures like principal observations, and the other 40 percent is based on student test scores. AFC's concern is that teachers who work with high-needs students will be at a disadvantage because they likely won't see the gains in test scores that other teachers will. That will make it more difficult to earn a high evaluation score, lowering the incentive for teachers to take on students with disabilities and English Language Learners. "Teachers are basically going to be looking at lower test scores, and lower evaluations because they're so heavily reliant on test scores," said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator for AFC. "We're worried that they will be teaching more to the test in those classes."
February 18, 2011
Charter group launches campaign to draw Spanish-speakers
For the first time, the city's main charter school advocacy organization is making a push for parents of Spanish-speaking students to apply to charter schools. The New York City Charter Center is starting an ad campaign in buses and bus shelters in the South Bronx and East Harlem in hopes of reaching Spanish-speaking families who are unfamiliar with charter schools. The ads, which are in Spanish, say that charter schools — "escuelas charters" — are free, public schools that offer their students individualized attention. They include a number for a Spanish-language hotline parents can call to get applications or ask questions. The ads will run in 300 city buses and on 10 bus shelters. Last May, when New York State's legislature more than doubled the number of charter schools that can open, it also approved a teachers union-backed proposal to could force some charters to enroll more non-English speaking and special education students. The law set a vague requirement that charter schools serve similar percentages of non-English speaking and special education students as the other public schools in their district. Currently, city charter schools enroll smaller percentages of these students than do traditional public schools.
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…
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