Boston’s English High School, which has a lot of immigrant students and ELLs, is set to host a high-ranking U.S. Department of Education official for its commencement speech tomorrow.
Alberto Retana, the Education Department’s director of community outreach, will deliver English High School’s commencement address at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow, June 11, at Boston University, according to a press release. Started in 1821, the school’s students are “predominantly low-income, multicultural, and multilingual,” according to the press release.
I visited English High a decade ago and wrote a story about how a number of English-language learners there found school to be “easy” compared with schooling in their home countries. The story discussed the reasons students might have that perception, including the possibility that it really was easier or that common educational approaches in the United States such as cooperative learning made the work appear to be easier.
I relayed in that story an anecdote that introduced to me the possibility that sometimes schools underestimate the academic knowledge of students when they lack English proficiency. Back then, I was fairly new to writing about English-language learners.
I reported how a 17-year-old Russian, who had attended schools in Israel for four years before moving to Boston, lacked the English skills to explain to his teacher that the teacher had committed an error in solving a math problem on the board. After recognizing that he couldn’t get his point across verbally, he slipped out of his seat, confidently walked up to the board, picked up a piece of chalk, and corrected it.
This was in a class where a number of students were goofing off around him. Test scores overall at the school then were low.
The Boston school system is now implementing an agreement with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education to improve services for its English-language learners so they comply with federal civil rights law.
I wouldn’t mind visiting the school to see if and how it has changed since my visit.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.