Archives for category: English Language Learners

New York City has received thousands of migrants busses by Governor Greg Abbot of Texas. The city is doing its best to help them. Their children are in public schools.

Parent activist Leonie Haimson visited a school that has enrolled 50 new migrant students. She was stunned to learn that the New York City Department of Education has not provided funding for these students.

She writes:

The school I visited hasn’t received an extra penny, and the principal was told that she would have to wait until November or beyond, for the standard mid-year adjustment to their budget.

When asked when these schools with large numbers of migrant students would receive more funding, Chancellor Banks said at the CPAC meeting this week,and again at a D75 Town Hall meeting, that they were waiting for federal government to kick in with more aid. Here’s the exact quote from the Chancellor at CPAC meeting.

“You might want to be as helpful as possible but if you don’t have the dollars I think the sense here is that the federal government will at some point is going to come and provide a level of support um you’ve got midterm elections that are happening over the next couple of weeks so that’s a lot of this is political as well in terms of when the aid and the support will come but I think I think here in New York the leadership feels as though the federal government is not going to abandon us here.”

However, the DOE still has over more than four billion dollars of unspent federal Covid aid, and an $8 billion reserve fund, so the idea that they couldn’t front the money to schools before the feds provide more dollars is absurd. The account of my visit to this school follows.

Texas has gone overboard for charter schools, even though they consistently post worse results than public schools. In the state’s new plans, charter schools will not be held accountable for the performance of English-language learners or students with disabilities. That is grossly unfair to public schools but it should raise the ratings of charter schools.

A trusted friend who works for the Texas Education Agency sent this information:

The proposed Texas Charter School Performance Framework for 2020 has been posted for public comment. On page 19, in the Operations standards, “Program requirements: Special populations” and “Program requirements: Bilingual education/English as a second language populations” are marked as “N/A for 2020” instead of each counting for one point. These indicators, 3b and 3c, are struck out on page 20. There does not appear to be an explanation for these changes.
Appropriate handling of assessments is another deletion from the Operations standards on pages 23-24.
Due to the lack of academic accountability, the manual will reflect fiscal and operational indicators only, not academic indicators.

There are no academic indicators, which makes sense because there were no tests in 2020. But the state officials removed the program indicators for bilingual and special education populations from the Operations standards on which charter schools will still be rated. These indicators measure if charters meet program requirements such as employing certified teachers in these areas.

This is not the only exception made for charter schools. Those that get a D or F rating three years in a row are supposed to be closed by the state, but that accountability is seldom enforced. Indeed, the state allows failing charters to expand.

I recently posted a long article by Michael Fullan that proposed a new paradigm for education reform. I found Fullan’s dismissal of the status quo persuasive, as well as his description of a forward-looking approach.

Laura Chapman, inveterate researcher and loyal reader, reviewed Fullan’s recent work and was disappointed with what she found:

If ever any paper needed close reading this is it, especially Fullan’s discussion of the 6C’s, 21st Century Skills, and vague references to some ancillary research in California and Australia.

I am working on learning more about at least one of Fullan’s California projects. Unfortunately there are no peer-reviewed summary of accomplishments.

Here is a link if you also want to see what assessment looked like in one Fullan project, a three-year $10 million effort to improve the performance of English Learners including long-term English Learners, funded by the California School Boards Association and several non-profits.

You will see that the main measures of accomplishment are expressed as percentages, and that these percentages changed over the three-year project.

100% of Long-Term English Learners will access new curriculum supported with adequate technology, instructional materials, and assessments.

5% annual increase in English Learner language proficiency.

3% annual increase in English Learner A-G completion. (A-G refers to courses required for admission to either the California State University or University of California systems with a grade of C or better).

50% increase in Long-Term English Learner students reporting they feel positively connected to the school environment and experience success.

Year-to-year changes in these percentages appear to be framed as if evidence for continuous improvement.

This brief suggests that more detail can be found in specific pages of Fullan’s 2016 book: The Taking Action Guide to Building Coherence in Schools, Districts, and Systems. You have to buy or borrow the book to see the details.

Although some of the Fullan’s paper is appealing, it also represents another proposal for managing learning as if there are no redeeming features in our public schools and the principle of democratic governance for these.

It is worth noting that Joanne Quinn, a frequent collaborator with Fullan, has an MBA in Marketing and Human Resource Management. According to LinkedIn for 16 years she has been President of Quinn Consultants in Toronto. She also served for ten years as the Superintendent of Education for four schools in a district with 65,000 students.

Fullan is think-big thinker: “This paper is intended to provide a comprehensive solution to what ails the current public school system and its place in societal development – a system that is failing badly in the face of ever complex fundamental challenges to our survival, let alone our thriving as a species.”

I am uncomfortable with anyone who claims to have a “comprehensive solution” to the current public school system (including the USA) and who fails to address the fiscal and policy constraints that have been imposed on that system for decades along with a pattern of denial that planet earth and human survival is at risk.

If you want a better and brief jargon-free article on doable reforms, find “Twenty Years of Failing Schools” in The Progressive, February/March issue (pages 50-51. This article includes specific suggestions for the Biden administration and the new Secretary of Education. The author is Diane Ravitch.

The New York Times published an editorial correctly blasting Betsy DeVos as the worst Secretary of Education in the 40-year history of the Department of Education. Unfortunately, the balance of the editorial was a plea to administer tests to find out how far the nation’s children had fallen behind because of the pandemic.

This is a misguided proposal, as I have explained many times on this blog. See here.

The Times wrote in this editorial:

Given a shortage of testing data for Black, Hispanic and poor children, it could well be that these groups have fared worse in the pandemic than their white or more affluent peers. The country needs specific information on how these subgroups are doing so that it can allocate educational resources strategically.

Beyond that, parents need to know where their children stand after such a sustained period without much face-to-face instruction. Given these realities, the new education secretary — whoever he or she turns out to be — should resist calls to put off annual student testing.

The annual federally mandated testing will not answer these questions, at a cost of $1 billion or more.

The information the Times wants could have been efficiently collected by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests scientific samples of students in reading and mathematics every other year. The cost would have been substantially less than testing every single student in grades 3-8.

But DeVos canceled the 2021 administration of NAEP. NAEP would have provided voluminous amounts of data about student progress, disaggregated by race, gender, English learner status, and disability status. Everything the Times’ editorial board wants to know would have been reported by NAEP, with no stakes for students, teachers, and schools. No student takes the entire test. The sampling is designed to establish an accurate snapshot of every defined group, and there is a timeline stretching back over decades.

So now, as the editorial demonstrates, the pressure is on to give the annual tests to every single student. The results will be useless. The teachers are usually not allowed to see the questions, never allowed to discuss them, and never allowed to learn how individual students performed on specific questions. The results will be reported 4-6 months after students take the test. The students will have a new teacher. The students will get a score, but no one will get any information about what students do or don’t know.

The tests will show that students in affluent districts have higher scores than students who live in poor districts. Students who are English language learners and students with disabilities, on a average, will have lower scores than students who are fluent in English and those without disabilities. This is not a surprise. This is what the tests show every year.

If Secretary-designate Cardona needs to know how to allocate resources, he doesn’t need the annual tests for direction. He already knows what the tests will tell him. Federal funds should go where the needs are greatest, where low-income students are concentrated, where the numbers of English learners and students with disabilities are concentrated. The nation doesn’t need to spend $1 billion, more or less, to confirm the obvious.

Anyone who thinks that it is necessary or fair to give standardized tests this spring is out of touch with the realities of schooling. More important than test scores right now is the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff.

Advice to the New York Times editorial board: Talk to teachers.

After Johns Hopkins University wrote a scathing critique of the Providence public schools, Governor Gina Raimondo and her new Commissioner of Education took control of the city’s schools. They just announced their turnaround plan and predicted that the low-performing schools of Providence would be on par with the top 25% of schools in the state in five years.

Among the major points of the plan:

It places enhanced focus on the performance of multilingual learners, who represent 34% of Providence students but have been shown to be missing out on an adequate education. Going forward, the district will place more attention on the recruitment of qualified English-as-a-second-language teachers, prioritize meeting the expectations laid out in a Department of Justice settlement over the district’s handling of multilingual learners and double the number of students served by bilingual programs over five years.

The district will renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement with the Providence Teachers Union to make it easier to fire low-performing teachers, hire the best candidates and require additional professional development days, according to the plan.

In order to better engage families, the district will implement a central phone number or text-messaging system for information-sharing that will be accessible 24/7, create a parent and students bill of rights and start a “parent academy” that will train families in how to best advocate for their children. Peters already announced this spring that he plans to completely restructure central office.

The plan also prioritizes hiring more teachers of color, who are underrepresented in Providence schools compared with the student population, in part by partnering with local colleges and universities to attract more diverse candidates to the profession.

The turnaround plan includes an extensive series of metrics that the district aims to hit within five years of implementation, such as increasing the percentage of students who are present for nearly the entire school year to 90% from its current baseline of 62.7%.

To ensure accountability, the district will post updates on the plan’s implementation on and publish a yearly report on its progress.

Nothing was said about additional funding.

I recently wrote an article that referred to charter schools that succeed by excluding students with disabilities, English learners, and others unlikely to get high scores. The editor questioned if this claim was accurate. I turned to several expert researchers to ask their view, and they all agreed with my assertion. David Berliner of Arizona State University—one of the nation’s pre-eminent researchers and statisticians—had data to back it up, and I invited him to write an essay addressing this issue.

He wrote:

Culling, Creaming, Skimming, Thinning: Things We Do to Herds and School Children

To cull is to select things you intend to reject, often in reference to a group of animals. An outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease can cause authorities to order a cull of farm pigs. An outbreak of low-test scores or a meeting with undesirable parents can promote the culling of charter students. To cream is to remove something choice from an aggregate, such as selecting the best and the brightest appearing students and families for acceptance to a charter or private school.

Diane Ravitch was recently criticized for writing that charter schools, supported by public tax money, engage in skimming and creaming students and families. Ravitch, however is right! Public charter schools, and private schools that accept public monies through vouchers, admit only certain students, often those predicted most likely to succeed and whose parents are “acceptable.” And, if these schools choose “wrong,” they cull the herd later. Between selective admissions and culling the student body, the data ordinarily used to describe a school’s accomplishments will make charter and voucher schools look quite good.

Let me illustrate with data collected by my wife, Dr. Ursula Casanova, by a former student (Assistant Professor Amanda Potterton, of the University of Kentucky), and from the ACLU of Arizona.

Dr. Casanova wrote in the Washington Post about the Basis (charter) school in Scottsdale, Arizona, enrolling students in grades 5-12. Based on its test scores that year, it was named the top high school in Arizona. But the year it was so honored, Casanova found enrollments from 5th to 8th grade to be 152, 138, 110, and 94. Then, the high school enrollments, in grades 9-11, were 42, 30, and 23. Finally, the 12th grade graduating class had 8 students! With no shame whatsoever the Basis school was able to claim they graduated 100% of their seniors and that all were accepted at college!

The Basis school of Tucson, part of the same chain of about a dozen charter schools, mostly in Arizona, presented data with a similar pattern. In the year for which Casanova reported, the school started out with 127 students in the fifth grade. But they had only 100 students in eighth grade, 69 in the 9th grade, 45 in 10th grade, and 27 in 11th grade. At the end of 12th grade they had only 24 seniors left at graduation. The graduating class was only 35% of the ninth-grade cohort, and they were less than 20% of that fifth -grade cohort. Culling the herd seems to describe school policy.

Potterton wrote in Teachers College Record about four highly rated charter schools in Arizona, the two Basis schools reported on above, and two other schools from the Great Hearts Academy chain, which run more than 20 schools in the Phoenix area.

In the year of her study she found that the average rate for free and reduced lunch in Arizona schools was 35%. The average for free and reduced lunch in these the four charter schools? 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%. Highly selective admissions and culling work quite well. That same year the state average for English language learners in our schools was 7.5%. The English language learners in these four schools? 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%. The percent of students with IEPs in the state was about 12%. But the percent of such students in these four schools was between, .6% and 3.5%.

Arizona is not unique. In a recent year the federal government reported in the Common Core of data that in 2014 the Boston public schools graduated 85% of its grade 9 students. But the “City on A Hill” Charter school graduated 46% of its grade 9 class; while the “Boston Preparatory Academy,” “Boston Collegiate Charter,” and “Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter” each graduated about 60% of its 9th grade class. Culling in charters seems to be widespread.

Another example comes from Philadelphia’s Boys Latin Charter, as analyzed by Jersey Jazzman in his column of July 28th, 2017. Boys Latin proudly boasted that 98% of its students were accepted into college. But in the years 2011-2015 the school graduated about 60% of its 9th grade class, culling approximately 40% of its student body, and thus allowing the school to make a claim that 98% of its students are accepted to college.

Charter schools cull families with special needs too. Arizona’s ACLU in 2017 noted that state law forbade charter schools from limiting the number of special education students they accept. But “The Rising School” in Tucson advertised blatantly that the school’s special education and resources department “is currently full.… Thus, any student with an IEP will be put on our waiting list.” Also in apparent defiance of the law, “AmeriSchools Academy” (in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma) blatantly noted that “Special Education placements are limited to a capacity of ten (10) students for each school site. Students in excess of this number are to be wait listed with provisional registration.”

Further, by state law, Arizona’s charter schools may not require students or their parents to complete pre-enrollment activities, such as essays, interviews or school tours. Nor can charter schools use students’ performance on interviews or essays, or the student’s decision not to complete requested pre-enrollment activities, to determine which students to accept. But the ACLU found that at the “Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy” students must write a one-page essay as part of their enrollment application. As part of the enrollment process at the “Satori Charter School” in Tucson, parents and students must meet with a school administrator. These are all excellent, though illegal ways to cull potentially undesirable families.

State law also directs charter schools not to require parental involvement as a condition of admission. And furthermore, charter schools must not pressure parents into donating money. As in many states, the Arizona Constitution guarantees students the right to a free public education, and charter schools are supposed to be public schools. Yet the same Great Hearts Academy charter schools reported on above asked each family to contribute $1,500 per student per year. Parents were also encouraged to donate anywhere from $200 to $2,000 to the school. The “Mission Montessori Academy” of Scottsdale asked parents to volunteer 15 hours every year per child enrolled, or make a contribution of $150 to the school in lieu of volunteer hours. The “Montessori Day Public School” chain noted that “All parents are expected to contribute 40 hours of volunteer time per family, per year.” The “Freedom Academy” in Phoenix and Scottsdale required a non-refundable $300 “Extracurricular Arts Fee,” due at enrollment. The “San Tan Charter School (in Gilbert, AZ)” required parents to provide a credit card the school can keep on file to pay several fees, including a $250 technology rental fee for grades 9-12. These are all great ways to cull families, illegality be damned!!

In many states, private schools receive public monies through vouchers, and still discriminate against certain children and families, culling them as needed! One of the most blatant examples I know of is the Fayetteville Christian School in North Carolina, a recipient, in a recent school year, of $495,966 of public money. But it is not open to the public! It says, up front, that it doesn’t want Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s and many others. At this school a student, and at least one parent, have to have taken Jesus Christ as their personal savior, or they cannot be admitted. They also cannot engage in sexual promiscuity, illicit drug use and homosexuality—or anything else that scripture defines as deviate or perverted. Any report of such activities by parents or the students is grounds for expulsion. This is culling of the student body by religion and life style, in a school receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per year!

Many of the schools I mentioned above, are considered great public and/or great private schools. Creaming and culling really do pay off in terms of a school’s reputation, as long as the schools’ policies are not examined too closely. But Dr. Casanova asked an excellent question of our citizenry when she reported on the graduation rates of various charters and private schools, and compared them to the reports from San Luis High School, in San Luis, AZ, on the Mexican border, part of the Yuma, Arizona school system. Data from different sources informs us that in recent years this public high school serves almost 3,000 students a year, almost 100% of whom are Hispanic, half of whom are limited English proficient, and most are classified as economically disadvantaged. But this public high school manages to graduate over 80 percent of their freshman class, and almost 90 percent of its senior class. They also do this with a teacher/pupil ratio well in excess of the U.S. average, and working with Arizona’s per pupil school funding formula, which is among the lowest in the nation. Why isn’t San Luis High School, and others like it, compared to the culling and creaming charters and voucher schools, considered among our great American high schools?

So many of our public schools deserve our gratitude for doing such a good job educating all our citizenry, many under difficult conditions. The Darwinian approach, to push the weakest students out of school, to cull the herd, should not be tolerated in a democracy, and therefore is absolutely inappropriate behavior for a school receiving public money. But Darwinism really is the philosophy guiding some of the highest rated charters. A respondent to a blog by my colleague Gene Glass, where he too criticized the culling and creaming practices of charters, stated the following: “Basis schools does not engage in any form of thinning across any grade. Students do drop out because they are not fit to thrive in the difficult curriculum ….”

Let’s think about what “not fit to thrive” might look like as a guiding philosophy for our public schools. We could do away with special education, bilingual education, counseling and guidance, transportation, free and reduced breakfasts and lunches, school nurses, etc. The Darwinian approach to schooling is not merely undemocratic,….. it is evil! If it were me, I wouldn’t give another public dollar to any charter or voucher school that culls, skims, or creams. They are all patently undemocratic.

David C. Berliner
Regents’ Professor Emeritus
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University

Day 2 of CTU strike will bring educators, allies to City Hall at 1:30 pm

Some movement at bargaining table Thursday, but no agreement on special ed needs, classroom overcrowding, salary floor for low-wage teaching assistants, staffing shortages.

CHICAGO—Educators and frontline staff will hit the picket lines for a second day today, as rank and file union members attempt to bargain a fair contract for 25,000 CTU teachers, clinicians, teaching assistants and support staff. While some progress was made at the bargaining table Thursday, the union and CPS ramain far apart on efforts to reign in exploding class sizes and find a path to remedying dire shortages of school nurses, social workers, special education teachers and other critical staff.

Late this afternoon, CPS refused to discuss a proposal on special education needs with the expert special education teachers and clinicians at the table who had crafted the proposal, because not every CTU officer was present. The CTU’s 40+ member rank and file bargaining team must sign off on any tentative agreement to be sent to members for approval.

Today’s schedule: Thursday, Oct. 17


  • 1:30 p.m.: Mass rally and march, City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. with CTU rank and file, grassroots community groups, CTU officers, elected officials, allies.

Fast facts:

  • The State’s new equity-based school funding formula is sending a billion-plus additional dollars each year to CPS to reduce sizes of chronically overcrowded classes, support students in poverty and increase services to special education students and English language learners.
  • CPS passed the largest budget in its history this year: $7.7 billion. Yet CPS cut the amount of dollars it is spending in school communities this year.
  • Juarez High School in Pilsen, which enrolls over 1,300 overwhelmingly low-income Latinx students, saw its school budget cut this year by $840,000, costing the school nine teaching and staff positions.
  • CPS cut the budgets of more than 200 CPS schools by at least $100,000, and cut the budgets of more than 40 schools by more than half a million dollars for this school year.
  • CTU educators are fighting for better wages, smaller class sizes, adequate staffing, and educational justice for students and their families. They want the additional state revenue CPS receives to increase equity to go to school communities and student needs.
  • Almost half of CPS’ students are Latinx. Yet the district has acute shortages of ELL teachers—teachers for English language learners—and is severely short of bilingual social workers. Bilingual education services are chronically short of both educators and resources—a key issue at the bargaining table.
  • CPS is desperately short of school nurses, social workers, librarians, special education teachers, ELL teachers and more. CPS has staffing ratios three to five times higher than those recommended by national professional organizations and best practices. Fewer than 115 school nurses serve over 500 schools. Most schools have a nurse only one day a week.
  • One out of four schools has a librarian—and that number falls to barely one in ten for Black-majority schools. A decade ago, most schools had a librarian.
  • CPS is desperately short of social workers and special education teachers, even as CPS is under the oversight of a state monitor for shortchanging its diverse learners.
  • This year, more than 1,300 CPS classes are overcrowded under CPS’ own high class caps, up from more than a thousand overcrowded classrooms last year.
  • Almost 25% of elementary students attend overcrowded classes, with some kindergarten classes topping 40 students. Roughly 35% of high school students are enrolled in overcrowded classes; at schools like Simeon, virtually every core class is overcrowded, with math, social studies and world language classes topping 39 students.
  • The CTU’s school clerks and teaching assistants earn wages as low as $28,000/year—so low the children of two-thirds qualify for free and reduced lunch under federal poverty guidelines. Over 1,100 cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment at prevailing rent rates in ANY zip code in the city. In year 5 of the mayor’s proposed contract, most of those workers would still be earning poverty wages. And in the last ten years, NO CTU member’s wages have kept pace with the inflation rate.
  • Candidate Lightfoot ran on a platform calling for equity and educational justice—including a nurse, a social worker and a librarian in every school—all proposals her negotiating team has rejected at the table. She also ran in support of an elected, representative school board—but moved to stall that legislation in the Illinois Senate after she was elected.
  • CPS has said it has budgeted to improve staffing shortages, but refuses to put those commitments in writing in an enforceable contract. The union wants those promises in writing, in an enforceable contract—the only way we have to hold CPS and the 5th floor to their promises.


Veteran teacher Arthur Goldstein writes here about New York state’s cruel indifference to educating non-English-speaking students.

He writes:

President Trump commits outrages against humanity by separating newcomers from their families, leaving them without soap, blankets or toothbrushes. New York State would never do things like that. We’re more enlightened. Instead of depriving young immigrants of physical necessities, we simply decline to them their most fundamental educational need—instruction in English…

State officials, he asserts, decided to give ELL students less direct instruction in English, expecting they would pick up English in their regular subject classes.

This way, while native English speakers take 45 minutes to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg, newcomers would somehow learn not only about the battle, but also all the necessary vocabulary and culture in the same 45 minutes. Having less direct English instruction would somehow support this.

How would they accomplish this? I spoke face to face with NY Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, who told me they would use “strategies and techniques.” You could’ve knocked me down with a feather. I’ve been teaching ESL for three decades. I know strategies and techniques. However, I don’t know of any that compensate for lack of time.

State officials, he writes, have cut ESL classes by 33-100%, then they wonder why ELLs are not succeeding.

Imagine how you’d feel if you went to China tomorrow, and they sat you in classes with almost no instruction in Chinese language. That would mirror official NY State policy. It’s a disgrace, in 2019, that we can’t do better. In NY State, we may not practice outright xenophobia, but our support for newcomers is dubious at best.

Did you know that DeVos wants to scrap the Office of English Language Acquisition by folding it into the much larger Office of Elementary and Secondary Education? OESE is one of the major subdivisions of the Education Department. Making such a change would likely require a Congressional approval, but DeVos hopes to skip that step, which she would be (should be) unlikely to get. Congress may not be as enthusiastic about Trump’s war on immigrants as Trump and DeVos. After this administration, the Republican party will be redefined as the party that is hostile to immigrants, specifically Hispanics, who are the largest beneficiaries of the Office of English Language Acquisition programs and services.

Jan Resseger writes about this bureaucratic maneuver here, which few people are aware of other than advocates for the students served.

A teacher in a big-city district in New York, posted this note on his Facebook page. I can’t give you the link because the teacher requested anonymity for fear of reprisals even though he plans to retire at the end of this academic year.

The post says:

I haven’t taught a class in over a month. I’ve been administering various tests– English, math, and the test for my field–the NYSESLAT. This morning I was giving the second of four parts of the NYSESLAT test to a bilingual class of third graders. It’s the New York state test for English proficiency. It takes roughly 3 1/2 hours for a child to complete. It was the first listening, reading and writing component of the test. A student who came to my school on the second day I started NYSESLAT testing, from Puerto Rico, had to take the test. I haven’t had the chance to spend any time with him because I’ve been giving tests. Nonetheless, he had to take this test. After he did the first two parts of the test before I read the instructions, he passed me this note.

At the bottom of his post there is a note that says, “mister no English.” It is accompanied by four hand-drawn faces with tears streaming from their eyes and downturned mouths, the opposite of smiley faces.