English-Language Learners

Harlem School Wins Honor for ELL Gains

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 06, 2006 1 min read
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Schools with high numbers of English-language learners often struggle to meet achievement goals, but one that has succeeded is being recognized as one of 16 schools of distinction in a national awards program.

The Don Pedro Albizu Campos School, located in New York City’s Harlem section, stands out because it has always met goals for adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. More than half the K-6 school’s population is made up of ELL students, and 98 percent of its 1,000 students are eligible to receive a free or reduced-priced lunch.

“When you look at certain populations—English-learners or special education—sometimes we find the challenge to be how do we provide rigorous curriculum to these populations that have deficits,” Barbara D. Brown, the principal of the public school, said in an interview. “You can’t keep watering down your expectations.”

In her eight years as principal, Ms. Brown has changed how bilingual education is provided in the school, which mainly serves children from Manhattan’s Puerto Rican and Dominican communities.

Because many teachers who taught bilingual classes were strong in Spanish but not in English, she requires new teachers to show competence in both languages. Now teacher-candidates must submit a writing sample in English, for instance.

The school is phasing out traditional bilingual classes, in which Spanish-speaking students are separated from English-dominant students, and replacing them with dual-language classes in which both groups of students attend the same classes and learn both languages together.

With the award, which is sponsored by the Intel Corp. and Scholastic Inc., the school will receive $10,000. The school plans to use the money for school technology.

Intel and Scholastic named the schools of distinction on Aug. 22, and will announce on Oct. 5 which of the 16 schools has been chosen as “best of the best.” That school will receive an additional $15,000. The award program is in its third year.

A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 2006 edition of Education Week

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