ELLs neglected in move to small high schools

iStock_000002424978XSmallThe needs of English Language Learners (ELLs) have been neglected in New York City’s move to create small city high schools, says a report by Advocates for Children of New York and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“While the general graduation rate climbed to 52.2% in 2007 from 46.5% in 2005, the rate for ELLs dropped from 28.5% to 23.5% over the same period,” say the 2 organizations.

When large high schools are phased out, students often no longer have access to the large and diverse bilingual education and English as a Second Language programs that those schools have, says the report that focused on the closing of two large Brooklyn high schools, Tilden and Lafayette.

“Most of the small schools that replaced Tilden and Lafayette took very few, if any, ELL students or failed to provide them with legally mandated ELL programming,” the report says.

“ELLs who remained in the schools that were phasing-out began to receive less support and fewer services and in some cases, were pushed into GED classes.”

Often ELLs go to different large schools instead of small schools, placing greater stress on the programs of those schools, according to the report that examined ELL student data from the phased out high schools ELLs who enroll in small schools are concentrated in ELL-focused schools and may not be able to enroll in high schools such Expeditionary Learning or the High School of Sports Management. In general, new small schools open with a first-year class of 80 students and do not have the resources to hire ELL teachers.

One of the recommendations of the report is that the city explore creating or supporting high schools of varying sizes and configurations so that ELLs can receive the level of services that they need.

“Empty Promises, A Case Study of Restructuring and the Exclusion of English Language Learners in Two Brooklyn High Schools,” Advocates for Children of New York and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, June 2009.

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