Presented at

The Public Hearing on NYC Board of Education's Draft Resolution on the

Education of ELLs
110 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
January 24, 2001

1. We support the Chancellor's recommendation of the need for a significant investment of new funds to improve the quality of education provided to English Language Learners. Without the allocation of at least
$75 million in new or reallocated resources, there can be no truly comprehensive reforms.

While clearly there is a need to improve ESL instruction for all ELLs, we are concerned that the vast majority of the new funds are targeted to ESL instruction or the pilot program of accelerated ESL instruction, with little or no new resources targeted to improving existing bilingual/dual language program.

2. We support the policy recommendations of ending the practice of alternating between programs from year to year, investigating second language development for students with disabilities, revising entry and exit criteria, and improving the quality of teachers.  Each of these policies impact on the ASPIRA Consent Decree, and, therefore, should be negotiated with ASPIRA and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund prior to adoption and/or implementation.

3. We oppose the policy recommendation to provide an opt-in policy for parents to choose among four programmatic options for Ells for the following reasons:

  • It is in direct conflict with the ASPIRA Consent Decree. In fact, the Consent Decree provides for parental choice through the opt-out mechanism.  

  • In effect, this proposed policy downgrades a legal right to bilingual instruction to the status of one option among several.  In essence, the BOE is abdicating its obligation to make placement decisions similar to those it makes in all other pedagogical areas.

  • The policy is fundamentally flawed and unfair since it provides extra services and resources (extended day, extended week, summer school and computer technology) only to students whose parents choose the "Accelerated ESL" program option.

  • Students, some of whom arrive at different times during the school year, must be assigned to classes immediately upon registration. We believe it is unreasonable to expect parents, many of whom have just immigrated into the United States, to make an informed decision concerning different program models, when they and their children have little or no concept of how our school system works.  

  • We are very concerned that parents will not receive an objective presentation of their options, and will be discouraged from enrolling in bilingual program, thus making it more difficult to bilingual classes and to hire bilingual teachers.

  • As there will only be 10 pilot programs of the new Enhanced English program, and only 20 new Dual Language programs, there will not truly be a choice for parents. Each program model must be an entitlement for there to be true informed parental choice.

  • Lastly, there is no evidence of a systemic problem with the current policy of permitting parents to have their children opt out of bilingual education. Rather than radically change policy, the BOE should instruct the
  • Chancellor to enforce monitoring requirements, and to ensure that any parent who wishes their child to opt out of bilingual education is able to do so quickly and easily.

4.  We have serious concerns with the recommendation to set a three-year goal for exiting ELL status and permitting parents to disenroll their children from ELL programs after three years if they have not met exit criteria.

The new exit criteria must be related to the high standards the student will be held accountable for in general education.  

Research shows that it takes from four to seven years for ELL students to reach academy proficiency in English.  Consequently, a three-year goal is unrealistic for many ELLs.  

Lowering the exit criteria to make it easier for ELL students to move it to general education is the easy response to political pressure - but the wrong response if our goal is to ensure that ELL students meet the new standards.  

Unless there are special programs to help close the gap with mainstream students, ELL students who have not met the ELL exit criteria, but whose parents choose to remove them from ELL or bilingual programs, will fall
further behind. There is no pedagogical reason to encourage ELL students to exit ELL status before they are ready for mainstream classes.

5.  In concept, we support the development of pilot projects for an Accelerated Academic English Language Programs an alternative for parent who opt out of bilingual instruction.  In theory, it appears to be a variant on the current ESL program and is a pedagogically preferred ESL option (compared to what is currently provided in most schools) with the provision that criteria be established to determine appropriateness of placement.

6.  We strongly support the proposal of ensuring that all ELL students have access to after-school, weekend and summer programs, regardless of program placement.  While we agree that ELL students at greatest risk, should have priority access to these programs.  For example, more than 50% of ELL students in high school are one or more years behind and many ELLs need five to seven years to graduate from high school.   These students could greatly benefit from an extended school day and weekend and summer classes.  By reducing the number of years it takes to graduate from high school, extended day and school years would be cost-beneficial.

7. We also support the expansion of Dual Language Program. Both present and future program require additional resources to ensure their viability and effectiveness.

You are encouraged to email comments to Dr. FLORENCE PU-FOLKES (), President of NYSABE.



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