The State Education Department Spanks Walcott: The Underserving of English Language Learners is Deplorable and Commissioner King Deserves Kudos

In Nichols v Lau (1974) “Finding that the lack of linguistically appropriate
accommodations (e.g. educational services in English) effectively denied the
Chinese students equal educational opportunities on the basis of their
ethnicity, the Supreme Court … ruled in favor of the students, thus expanding
rights of students nationwide with limited English proficiency.”

Lau set off a never-ending debate over the appropriate “linguistically
appropriate accommodation:” should schools serve student through bi-lingual
programs, teaching primarily in the students native language while they gain
fluency in English, or a teaching methodology, English-As-A-Second Language

In New York City in the 70s and 80s Community School Boards located in districts with large Hispanic populations supported creating bi-lingual classes. For some it was a commitment to a particular educational modality, for others retaining the Spanish language was crucial and for some it was a rich source of patronage jobs.

By the 90s bi-lingual programs were under attack nationwide as well as in New York and more and more school opted for English as a Second language programs.

New York State requires that each school system entering family complete a home language survey, if English is not the predominant language that is spoken in the student’s home the student is administered an identifying/placement exam.

Under the current mayoral system students eligible for English Language Learner (ELL) services routinely do not receive timely services.

After years of hassling the State Education Department has forced the Department of  Education into a rather strange agreement.


Since 1974 the law has required “appropriate” services.

Under the agreement, New York City has committed to opening 125 new bilingual programs in the next three years, concentrated in areas with greater need for dual-language and transitional education programs.

Does this mean 125 additional bilingual classes or bilingual classes in 125 schools?
Doesn’t the law require that all eligible students receive services? Is this
“agreement” an admission that the city is currently not providing “appropriate” services and will move toward serving more students?
Why doesn’t the state simply require the city to abide by the law?

The new agreement is the result of more than a year of discussions
between the two departments and addresses the timely administration of the
language proficiency screening exam (LAB-R), increasing the number of certified bilingual and English as a Second language teachers, creating more bilingual programs to increase parental choice options, and holding school principals accountable for implementing this plan in their schools

The state appears to be spanking the city; the city agreeing to do what it should
have been doing for years and putting in place a monitoring system.

Under the plan, the NYC DOE will implement new data and warning
systems to ensure that newly enrolled ELLs are tested for their English
proficiency in a timely manner; maintain the lifting of hiring restrictions on
ESL and bilingual teachers in the 2011-12 hiring season to facilitate opening
more programs; … create new systems to monitor and track parent choice; and
create a new database to collect and analyze ELL programming.

The NYC DOE will provide periodic reports to SED detailing progress towards the multi-year plan, which contains yearly benchmarks and targets. SED will publish a yearly progress report on the NYC DOE activities required in the plan and the degree to which the agreed upon goals have been met.

Serving the needs of ELL students is complex; do you form a class if there are only a few students requiring services on a grade? hire a “push-in” teacher? How do you service middle and high school age students in subject areas classes?

Do you  hire subject areas teachers with bi-lingual license extensions or bilingual
licenses? Or, do you utilize an ESL model?

The complexity of creating models is not an excuse. The failure to address the needs of ELL students is a violation of the law, and, inexcusable.


The city pats itself on the back re increasing ELL high school graduation rates,

The June graduation rate for ELL students in New York City has
jumped from 25.1 percent (2003 cohort) to 41.5 percent (2006 cohort), an
increase of percentage 16.4 points over the past four years. However, given the
citywide June graduation rate of 61 percent, ELL students have significant room to grow.

If we subtract the International High Schools from the pool the city ELL
graduation rates deflate.

There is little question the state required a devastating sentence.

In addition, only 7 percent of the 2006 ELL cohort was college and

A great strength of this magnificent city is the rich panoply of ethnicity from
every corner of our planet: Spanish speakers from Mexico and Central and South
America, the Slavic speakers from Russia to Albania to the nations of the
former Yugoslavia, Bengali and Urdu speakers from South Asia, Arabic speakers
from across the Middle East, Mandarin and Cantonese speakers and scores of
languages spoken by African immigrants.

They enter our schools as our grand and great grandparents entered our schools a century or so ago. They are the future of our city and the future of our

We are becoming a bi-racial and bi-cultural amalgam,
whether the Bachmans or the Palins like it or not. And, BTW, did you notice who
are the Intel Science Competition finalists?


5 responses to “The State Education Department Spanks Walcott: The Underserving of English Language Learners is Deplorable and Commissioner King Deserves Kudos

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    Moving backwards from accountability for outcomes that has resulted in such exponential growth in achievement marked by historically high graduation rates for ELL students, and returning to a failed culture of compliance is a remarkable disservice to some of our most vulnerable students.


    • Is this to say you don’t support the expansion of bilingual education programs, or simply that you find the return to a focus on compliance a form of regression?


  2. I think I agree with Eric Nadelstern, if I understand that he finds the graduation rate bogus.

    In plain English, the graduation rate is higher because of the phony “credit recovery” coerces and pressure from Principals to pass these students.


  3. oops! courses.not coerces.


    • Credit recoverly, like summer school is used to improve statistics and clear seats for next year’s group of students.. Only a genius can get four years of education in a one term program. Passing a multiple choice test at the end of a two month program does not prepare a student for a real world job. In fact allowing a student to take this shortcut after no meeting standards for four years is counterproductive. A child can miss school for months but get the same degree as everyone else if they pass a standardized math and reading test.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s