News and Speeches

State Education Commisioner King and City Schools Chancellor Walcott Announce Comprehensive Plan to Support English Language Learners

Plan Will Increase Options for Immigrant Families and Address Areas in Need of Improvement

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott announced today that the State has approved a new City plan to provide more program options, supports and services for English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families. 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.

“English language learners are facing serious obstacles to academic success,” King said. “This plan removes a lot of those obstacles. Seventy percent of the state’s ELL population attends school in New York City. There’s more to do, but we’ll keep on working with Chancellor Walcott to make sure these students graduate from high school college- and career-ready. It’s vital to our economy that we help ELL students succeed. If they’re not successful, everyone suffers.”

“This plan builds upon the progress we’ve made over the past nine years with English Language Learners, providing more options and services for immigrant families,” said Chancellor Walcott. “We know that when these students become proficient in English and no longer need additional services, they perform even better than their peers and boost our system as a whole. I look forward to working with Commissioner King to implement this plan.”

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. In addition, only 7 percent of the 2006 ELL cohort was college and career-ready.

The New York State Board of Regents has been concerned about the performance of New York City’s ELL students, which has consistently lagged behind other students. Only 7 percent of the 2006 cohort was college and career-ready when measured against Common Core standards. Similarly, only 12.4 percent of New York City ELL students were proficient on last year’s grade 3-8 English Language Arts exams, as compared with 43.9 percent citywide. On the 3-8 math exams, only 34.5 percent of the city’s ELL students were proficient, as compared with 57.3 percent citywide. On August 31, 2010, the State Education Department sent a letter to former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, requesting that the city create a “Corrective Action Plan” to improve in several areas of services for English Language Learners.

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.

“For years we have been concerned about the decline in bilingual programs for English language learners, particularly progress in Asian languages and Asian immigrant communities. We are encouraged by the efforts to target bilingual programs in language groups that have few bilingual programs, and we are eager to see the city and the state work together to address the needs of ELLs,” said Khin Mai Aung of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“We applaud the state for their efforts to work with the city to improve services for English language learners,” said Lucía Gómez-Jiménez of La Fuente. “We are particularly encouraged by the plan’s efforts to reach out to parents of ELLs and community groups to inform parents of their choices and gather feedback on the implementation of new bilingual programs.”

The plan will also shorten the time it takes for students to be identified as needing bilingual services; improve services for students who are long-term ELLs; and ensure all schools report how many students are receiving ELL services in their classrooms. Finally, the plan will charge the New York City Department of Education’s auditor general with reviewing whether schools are offering the required range of options – bilingual, English-as-a-Second Language (ESL), and dual-language – to families eligible for ELL programs.

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; open 125 new bilingual programs over the next three years; 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.

The NYC DOE also agreed to enhance training for staff on enrollment procedures for ELLs, create informational materials and provide trainings for parents and community groups on parental options, and enhance training for schools and networks on bilingual programs. In addition, the NYC DOE and SED plan to work together to address statewide shortages of certified bilingual teachers through exploring alternative pathways to certification and incentive programs and funds.

The full text of the approved plan may be found at: