Saturday, June 20, 2009

Empty Promises: A Case Study of Restructuring and the Exclusion of English Language Learners in Two Brooklyn High Schools

Hey Norm,
Thanks so much for your blog on our report. It’s great to start hearing from teachers about what is going on in the schools. Would it be possible for you to post the follow-up below from AFC?

Arlen Benjamin-Gomez
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Students Rights Project
Advocates for Children

This week Advocates for Children (AFC) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released a report about the restructuring of Lafayette and Tilden high school, entitled Empty Promises: A Case Study of Restructuring and the Exclusion of English Language Learners in Two Brooklyn High Schools. Our report found, among other things, that English Language Learners (ELLs) who once attended these large schools with well-developed bilingual programs did not have the same access to the new small schools that replaced them.

We found that most of the small schools on the Tilden and Lafayette campuses enrolled very few ELLs, such that an estimated 228 new ELL students had to find other high schools that would accept them during the 2007-08 school year.

In fact, there was a corresponding increase in ELL enrollment in the large schools that surround Tilden and Lafayette that school year. Finally, we found that the ELLs who were able to enroll in the new small schools on these campuses were concentrated into one school on each campus, It Takes a Village on the Tilden campus and the International School on the Lafayette campus, schools which were designed to serve ELLs in particular.

These findings are a case study of a citywide trend. The Department of Education claims that ELLs are as represented in small schools as in other high schools, and recent new articles discussing the New School’s Report (The New Marketplace: How Small School Reforms and School Choice Have Reshaped New York City’s High Schools) have also stated that most small schools matched citywide averages in the number of ELLs.

A closer look at the data reveals, however, that ELLs are clustered primarily in the relatively small number of small schools created expressly to serve them, and most new small schools do not enroll or appropriately serve these students. In this movement to reform high schools, therefore, ELLs have been left with fewer and fewer choices and have paid the price. While the graduation rate of other students has risen over the past few years, the graduation rate of ELL students has actually declined.

The fate of ELLs in the restructuring of Tilden and Lafayette must not be repeated. We fear that the displacement of ELLs is happening at many restructuring schools around the city, particularly when the Department of Education fails to recognize this trend as a problem or take steps to remedy it. As one school staff member has already reported on EdNotes, this is currently happening at Lehman High School.

To all school staff: If you see any of these problems in your school (low enrollment of ELLs in your small school, loss of ELL programming in your school, increased ELL enrollment in your school due to the closing of another, pushing ELL students out of your closing school, etc.), we would like to hear about it. Please call Gisela Alvarez at 212-947-9779 ext. 502. We will maintain the anonymity of any school staff who contact us. It is important that these problems are brought to light. Thank you.

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