[EDLING:343] Programs for Students New to English

Francis M. Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Wed Oct 6 18:39:36 UTC 2004

By way of the Language Policy List...

>>From the NYTimes,  October 6, 2004

Panel Focuses on Programs for Students New to English By ELISSA GOOTMAN

More than a year after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg promised to strengthen
programs for students who do not speak English, advocates for those
students testified yesterday that their achievement levels are still
extremely low, that parents are often misinformed about their children's
options, and that often those options are limited. Speaking at a hearing
of the City Council's Education Committee, Carmen Faria, the city's deputy
chancellor for teaching and learning, testified that the Department of
Education had started to make headway. She cited improvements in the
training of educators who work with non-native English speakers and said
she was starting to hold principals accountable for such students.
Previously, she said, those students were often considered the
responsibility of supervisors in district offices.

Ms. Faria testified that in the spring, only 7.5 percent of the system's
134,670 English language learners, as the students are called, passed
tests allowing them to leave the special programs. But she suggested there
could be problems with the test, which recently replaced a far less
rigorous one. "Many more kids pass other tests at higher levels," she told
reporters. Ms. Faria lauded the appointment of 107 English language
learner instructional specialists and 20 supervisors. Together with Maria
Santos, a senior manager in her office who also testified yesterday, Ms.
Faria said she intended to improve math instruction in other languages and
promote the use of technology to help students improve their English and
other academic skills.

Shortly after being appointed to her post seven months ago, Ms. Faria
cited services for English language learners as one of her priorities. It
is also a personal issue: growing up with parents who had recently
immigrated from Spain, Ms. Faria started school speaking no English.
Councilwoman Eva S. Moskowitz, chairwoman of the committee, said she
believed that under Mr. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein,
the department had lagged in its efforts to improve services for
non-native English speakers.

"In my mind this is an area that requires very fundamental reform, and I'm
not sure the administration has offered fundamental reform," Ms. Moskowitz
said yesterday, saying student achievement among non-native English
speakers represented an "abysmal state of affairs." "I'm a little
surprised," she said. "They've been aggressive about a lot of other

Many of the problems cited by advocates and council members predated the
mayor's control over the schools. One new complaint, however, is that some
programs have been cut as large city high schools with English learner
programs have been replaced by small specialized high schools, most of
which lack the capacity to cater to such students. Ms. Faria testified
that parents can choose among three types of programs:  dual-language
programs, where half of the students in a class speak only English, the
other half speak another language and the goal is for everyone to become
bilingual; English as a Second Language, in which students are generally
immersed in English and may take courses in their native language after
school or at other times; and transitional bilingual education, in which
the proportion of classes taught in a student's native language diminishes
over time. But she acknowledged that there are not enough dual-language
programs, saying more were in the works.

Advocates, however, said that most parents do not fully understand the
differences among the three choices and are often simply directed to
whatever program has room.

"These people use these words like 'parental choice' really because it
sounds good politically," said Angelo Falcn, senior policy executive for
the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Wayne Ho, executive director of the Coalition for Asian American Children
and Families, applauded Chancellor Klein's recent decision to set up a
special unit for translating school documents. But he said the office was
poorly staffed. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the
office had only two employees, but more would be hired.


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