Memo Subject: New York City’s “Crisis” in Educating ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — August 18, 2008 1 min read
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I’ve been keeping track of state or city school systems that have been criticized publicly this summer for giving English-language learners short shrift. On the list are Texas, Massachusetts, and Seattle. Today I add New York City.

Luis O. Reyes, a former school board member in New York City, forwarded a memo to me that was sent to New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills by the Coalition for Educational Excellence for English Language Learners, a group of organizations and educators who keep an eye on services for ELLs in New York City. People who signed the memo include Maria Neira, the vice president of New York State United Teachers, and Chung Wha Hong, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. (Update: click here for the memo.)

The gist of the memo is that state officials should address what is characterized as the “systematic crisis” of the education of ELLs in New York City. The memo lists 13 statistics selected to show how the city’s schools are failing ELLs. Twenty-three percent of ELLs graduate from high school in four years, for example. The memo claims that nearly one-third of high school ELLs in the city don’t receive any ELL instruction. ELLs also don’t have good access to small schools or charter schools, the memo says.

The memo makes seven recommendations for how to improve services for ELLs in New York City and statewide.

Among them: ensure that policies and programs are based on the latest research on ELL instruction (the memo implies that English-only methods are less effective than bilingual ones), improve monitoring of programs and enforcement of court mandates, and appoint a high-level person in the state education department to assess the conditions of services for ELLs and recommend appropriate statewide actions to remedy problems.

Update: GothamSchools makes mention today of a New York Post article that summarizes the coalition’s arguments as well.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.