New York State Education Minister John King and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña are joining forces to give a big boost to the 145,000 students learning English for the first time in the city schools in New York.
The New York State and city education officials have signed a memo last Monday for the agencies to team up for a three-year plan worth $13 million to have better teaching methods for the English-language learners in the city, which were found to be trailing far behind in several academic subjects compared to other students.
The budget for the joint agreement will come from the city budget. This will put in place a new program for the 145,000 students in the city’s public schools who are struggling to study English, according to Chancellor Fariña. The agreement includes the following measures to be implemented by city education officials:
- Put additional resources to identify the students who are English-language learners and ensure that they get the right type of services
- Ensure that teachers have the proper certifications to teach this specific group of students
- Create programs to convey to the parents of these students how they can get better involved in their children’s education, such as conduction orientations in their native tongues
Education Commissioner King said that the city would be accountable to meet these new goals because this is a very critical commitment for the education system to move forward. They should improve the programming and instruction for the new learners of the English language with the new regulations providing a clear direction on how fuller support could be provided.
From the total students in public schools in the city, about 15% are first time learners of the English language for which the city education officials had been struggling for years to find means to improve their performance. Currently, about 3.4% out of the 15% were able to meet the reading standard for the year, compared to 28.4% of all the city students. While there were some corrective action plans that were issued in 2011, only a part of the action plan was met.
A better outlook
All is not bleak, though. On Monday, a six-year old student named Daniel Zheng proudly praised his bilingual school. The young student studies at Shuang Wen School, which is located in lower Manhattan. He attends P.S. 184 class and he said he was very proud of his school. The school, whose name translates to “two languages,” conducts classes equally in Chinese and English from kindergarten up to the fourth grade.
Their approach is different from other public schools in New York City. They provide classes in English as a second language (ESL), explained Iris Chiu, the Shuang Wen’s principal. They have devised their program based on studies that found out that English language learners (ELL) were not able to fully absorb core subjects that were taught mainly in English. Thus they were not able to perform well in standardized testing compared to native speakers. They have realized that children of immigrants already know the basics, although in their native tongue.
This type of approach is what Chancellor Fariña is after. She wants teachers to learn other languages. Bilingual programs, which are part of the agreement, will be implemented starting in 2015. Use of ESL teachers would be reduced by 25% and qualified bilingual teachers would be hired.