Archives for category: English Language Learners

Arthur Goldstein is a veteran high school teacher of English and English as a Second Language.

He warns here that New York State is harming students whose native language is not English by reducing the time allotted to teaching them English. He calls on the State Board of Regents to reverse this policy.

“High school can be rough. Our children and students are frequently insecure, uncertain, and grasping to find their way in a new and unfamiliar environment. Some students have to deal with not only that, but also the fact that they don’t speak English.

“For most English Language Learners (ELLs), one safe haven has been their English classroom, where a teacher understood their special needs and made sure no one made fun of their inevitable errors and struggles with a new language. But the most recent revision of Commissioner’s Regulation Part 154, which governs how English as a second language (ESL) instruction is distributed, has largely withdrawn that support system. For example, beginning ELLs who formerly took three classes daily in direct English instruction may now have as few as one.

“Instead of ESL classes, New York State purports to blend English instruction into other courses. For example, in the daily 40 minutes that an United States-born student has to study, say, the Civil War, ELLs are expected to study both the Civil War and English. So not only do they get less English instruction, but they also get less instruction in history than native speakers. Principals may see it as a win-win. They can dump ESL classes, add nothing, save money, and hope for the best.

“I don’t know about you, but if I went to China tomorrow, I’d want intense instruction in Mandarin or Cantonese before I ever attempted opening a history book. I want the best for my students, and that includes as much English instruction as possible. Expecting children to master history before being able to order a pizza or even introduce themselves is remarkably short-sighted, reflecting total ignorance of language acquisition.”

Mike Klonsky reports that most schools in Chicago are violating the right of English language learners to mandated services they need.

The worst violators, naturally, were charter schools.

Fifteen were run by the UNO Network of Charter Schools; nine were run by the Noble Network of Charter Schools. (One of the Noble Network schools is named for its patron, Governor Bruce Rauner.)

In 2009, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras lifted the consent decree ending three decades of efforts to integrate Chicago schools. The decree’s bilingual education provisions, according to Kocoras, duplicated protections in state law. The ruling came despite evidence presented by DOJ lawyers in court that the district repeatedly failed to enroll English learners in bilingual education fast enough or provide them with required services.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out once again, that it was former schools CEO Arne Duncan who successfully pushed Judge Kocoras to abandon the consent decree. Thousands of the district’s English language learners and their families are still paying the price.

I know this seems hard to believe, but in recent years we have learned that some state legislators have hearts of stone.

Peter Greene writes about Oklahoma’s bold and mean-spirited initiative: Turning non-English-speaking kids over to the authorities so they will be deported, thus saving the state the cost of educating them.

He writes:

There’s a lot to unpack in the news from Oklahoma’s GOP legislators, but let’s just skip straight to the most awful. From this special caucus of conservatives, looking for ways to close a budget hole:

The caucus said there are 82,000 non-English speaking students in the state.

“Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens, and do we really have to educate non-citizens?” [Rep. Mike] Ritze asked.

The caucus thinks that could save $60 million.

But that’s not all.

The 22-member platform caucus has also decided they can save $328 million by eliminating “all non-essential, non-instructional employees in higher education.” So… what? All administration? Can the janitors. Make the students cook and serve their own meals? What exactly do they think this third-of-a-billion dollar unnecessary payroll consists of?

When will the people of Oklahoma and many other states with equally mean-spirited legislators wake up and vote for their self-interest and the public interest?

Betsy DeVos likes to point with pride to her husband’s charter school. See, she implies, I know what I am talking about. My husband started a charter school called the West Michigan Aviation Academy, located at the Gerald Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the DeVos family lives.


Jersey Jazzman found that there is another side to the story. 


Dick DeVos’s charter school has one of the lowest shares of special education students in its county.


Understand that Betsy DeVos is absolutely fine with this. In her opinion, we would be better off segregating children who “struggle” from those who do not….


Dick DeVos’s charter school enrolls relatively few Limited English Proficient students….


We can debate whether it’s a good idea to isolate many of these students from the rest of the community. But we all have to agree — unless we’re totally ignorant of the realities of school finance — that schools serving more students with special needs must have more resources. One would think, therefore, that a school like WMAA, with its relatively small special education and LEP populations, wouldn’t be spending nearly as much as the other high schools in the area.


One would be wrong….


Dick DeVos’s charter school spends more on salaries for all employees per pupil than almost every other high school in its county. Hmm… well, Betsy DeVos says she wants to pay “good” teachers more. Maybe all that extra money is going into instructional salaries…


Or not….


Despite its high spending on total salaries, Dick DeVos’s charter school spending on instructional salaries is fairly typical. Which leads me to wonder: where is all that extra money going?


It is not going to pay highly experienced teachers. Like other charter schools in Michigan, DeVos’s charter school has a large proportion of inexperienced teachers.


Teachers gain the most in effectiveness over the first few years of their careers; yet nearly half of the teachers at Dick DeVos’s charter school have less than three years of experience. 


The takeaway:


High spending schools, enrolling proportionally fewer students with special needs, taught by inexperienced teachers. That’s Betsy DeVos’s vision for American education — just ask her husband.







Before the second debate tonight, the Journey for Justice asks the candidates to respond to these questions:


(773) 548-7500
October 8, 2016

Education activists release statement ahead of second presidential debate: “Will the next president be tone deaf…”

CHICAGO – Today, Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4JA) released the following statement ahead of the second presidential debate in St. Louis on Sunday, September 9th. Thousands of African American and Latino parents, students and activists have challenged both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and third-party candidates) to release their K-through-12 public education platforms, as well as identify how, if elected, they will work to end federal education policies that have destabilized communities and hurt students of color:

“As parents, students and residents of communities impacted by corporate education interventions in 24 cities across this nation, we are dismayed by the omission of public education as an issue during this presidential election season. Public education repeatedly polls as a top tier issue, but has been largely ignored by both major and third party candidates,” said Brown.

“Will the next president be tone deaf to the tremors from the ground? As a national network of grassroots community organizations across America, we have seen first-hand a determined resistance to failed, top-down corporate education interventions that cannot be ignored; Title VI civil rights complaints filed in 12 cities, thousands of people in determined protest against school closings, sit-ins and traffic blockades, students occupying the superintendent’s office in Newark, a 34-day hunger strike to save a neighborhood’s last open-enrollment high school in Chicago, the rejection of punitive standardized test across the nation and from those who wish to be the leader of the free world; silence.

“The next president must base their advocacy in relationship with people’s lived reality, not corporate relationships. When a mother cries in Detroit because her child’s school is being closed, or students walk-out by the thousands in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Camden and Newark, Baltimore and Philadelphia; it matters. The next president must understand that the United States ranks 19th in the world in public education among OECD countries but when you remove poverty we are number 2. The next president must have the courage to stare down inequity in public education with a commitment to hear the voices of the people directly impacted. The next president must understand that we do not have failing schools in America, as a public we have been failed,” he continued.

“We are asking the next president to meet with the Journey for Justice Alliance and adopt our education platform. Include J4J on your education transition team so that public policy can be rooted in our lived experiences, not someone’s opinion of our communities. We were disappointed that the vice-presidential candidates said nothing about public education in their October 4th debate. We want to hear from both candidates on October 9th about their education agenda. Will they be honest about the harm inflicted on our communities by school closings and the unwarranted expansion of charter schools? Will they acknowledge that the “illusion of choice” must be erased by the reality of strong, high quality neighborhood schools within safe walking distance of our homes? We will be watching.”


The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) ( is a national network of inter-generational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 24 U.S. cities. With more than 40,000 active members, we assert that the lack of equity is one of the major failures of the American education system. Current U.S. education policies have led to states’ policies that lead to school privatization through school closings and charter school expansion which has energized school segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline; and has subjected children to mediocre education interventions that over the past 15 years have not resulted in sustained, improved education outcomes in urban communities.

Journey For Justice Alliance
4242 S. Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60653

This item appeared in for New York, but it is not posted online, so no link.

Betty Rosa, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, was elected with the help of the New York state opt out leaders.

By Keshia Clukey
09/12/2016 02:39 PM EDT

State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa Monday called for New York State to be a national leader in taking a stand against the testing of English language learners and students with disabilities who are not ready to take the exams.

“I want us to take a super leadership role in our waiver,” Rosa said at the Regents meeting. The state has continued to apply for a federal testing waiver, but the request has yet to be granted.

“Not just children with disabilities, but with the English language learners, we know before they even take a test that they cannot,” Rosa said. “They don’t have [the] language proficiency to demonstrate their success story.”

Regents board member Roger Tilles agreed and said that former state Education Commissioner John King Jr. had signed on and sent the request for the federal testing waiver during his time in New York, but now as U.S. secretary of education has the power to act and has yet to act on it.

With the low proficiency rate of English language learners on the state exams, Regents board member Luis Reyes said, it could be taken up as a civil rights violation.

“Testing children who are recently arrived is child abuse, not to say bad education law or bad education policy,” he said.

Angie Sullivan is a veteran teacher of children in the early grades in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada. She writes to a long list of legislators and journalists from time to time to let them know what is happening at the classroom level. Their discussions need to be informed by teacher knowledge, and Angie has plenty of it to share. She does this without fear of being fired. Angie Sullivan joins the honor roll of this blog for always putting the needs of her students first.

She writes:

My concerns are similar to the Trustees of Clark County School District, but they come from the practicality of the classroom.

Student Achievement:

I have concerns about student achievement as the CCSD Trustees currently implements mandates. Since testing has replaced instruction in many schools, there has been little or no achievement. There has also been little authentic achievement as teachers have been forced to teach to the test instead of teaching at each student’s instructional level to scaffold instruction. This has been particularly detrimental to limited English students and students in poverty. Forcing students with zero background, limited vocabulary, and no access to perform on a rigorous grade-level assessment – invalidates the assessment. The tests are simply too hard to show anything useful to teachers or students. That does not mean my students are not bright and capable; they are a protected class who has not yet had enough developmentally appropriate access
and participation validity is questionable. Simply: testing in English when your primary languages is not English is unfair. Trustees have created an environment where students, parents, and teachers have realized they cannot rely on these test to inform decisions – everyone failing all the time every time does what? Adequate support must be given prior to testing. Adequate instruction with background building and vocabulary building must occur. Protected groups cannot be repeatedly tested over and over and over then the data used as a weapon against children and teachers unless there has been an initial investment in learning time, supplies, and care. This is under the Trustees authority and it has not happened. Instead, labor and children are punished for things beyond our control. And unfortunately any “success” cannot be replicated in authentic situations because teaching to the test does not generalize to a different kind of test on a different day.

Equity and Civil Rights Issues:

We live in a district which has 100,000 students who are undocumented or live in families which are undocumented. We have few services for families to learn English, participate in Citizenship courses, negotiate the labyrinth of scams which take advantage of the unwary. Our students are in jeopardy of being removed from their families everyday. Family members disappear and are never seen again often. Frankly, it is a holocaust with individuals living in fear, under the radar, hiding. This is not conducive to learning and one third of our students live with this daily. My attempts at educating CCSD leadership on this issue has fallen on deaf ears – yet one-third of our students are affected by these issues. What would your life be like if your parents were taken in the night? Would your priority be graduation or something else? Students drop out to survive. I have asked over and over for some care by the Trustees to be taken.

I participated in sex education meetings. The Trustees allowed gay bashing and hate speech for 7 hours at a time. I watched Trustees brag about bringing their churches to the meetings to do this. The LGBTQ community is a protected class. Trustees openly allowed abuse of children who identity as queer. A community that is likely to consider suicide should not be exposed to long meetings where trusted authorities allow speeches about Bibles and hell. This is a human rights violation and unfortunate that Trustees participated in this.

Look at the data and you will see. It is people of color who CCSD fails. We do very very well serving the white outer ring of Las Vegas. CCSD knows how to teach students because we have some of the top schools in the nation. We are extremely successful in some areas of town – directly correlated to socio-economic status (which is the best predictor of educational success). CCSD fails to address the inner ring of the city which is soaked in social problems, poverty, and lack of care. Looking at census data for Las Vegas and you will see we have generations of adults who dropped out before the ninth grade – millions. 30 years of under-funding, crazy mandates, and hiring people who are NOT real teachers has built this. This is the extreme civil rights issue that has been built by the current Trustee leadership. The money has not gotten to the children who needed it most. This was in Trustee control and they failed.

The Department of Justice will become involved because of the severe racial inequity in the CCSD charters. These charters are successful at preventing collective bargaining, causing racial segregation, and siphoning money for questionable ventures. I have watched the Trustees admit that charters are failing and instead of closing them down – renewed their contracts. No regulation, no data, no transparency – another wasteful money pit.

It would be difficult for a new power structure to do worse than the current system which is ranked last in a state which is ranked last. The extreme inequity is difficult to measure currently since the Trustees have not been able to deliver how much money each school receives, though it has been asked repeatedly.

Employment Issues:

150 CCSD schools protested with picket signs to receive a teacher contract after the legislature sent CCSD $1 Billion which it refused to share with labor. Over 15,000 teachers in the streets each payday and marching finally lead to new language.

We fought to keep our non-profit healthcare which still struggles from being forced to spend down. Surely it is not teachers that Trustees are concerned about.

Perhaps it is support staff . . .

Who did not give support staff a raise in 8 years? Who forced support staff into a for-profit insurance that is prepared to gouge them again? Which bodies included out-sourcing in the support staff contracts? This is the current language not put there by legislators. Hint: CCSD and ESEA put outsourcing in the contract not the Nevada legislature. It is not support staff Trustees are concerned about.

Perhaps it is administration (principals) . . .

They haven’t settled a contract either.

Trustees are concerned about interviewing? I’m the one sitting in schools filled with long term subs, TFA, and ARLs. The door revolves in my community and each year the people coming through are less prepared than the year before. We filled our at-risk schools with folks who who had to have 60 college credits (no degree necessary) last year. Special Education students do not have a professional – sometimes for their whole school career? How about being concerned about stuffing warm bodies into vacancies. Those warm bodies are not ready to teach at-risk kids. I digress since that is a civil rights issue – is it not? Frankly, the white outer ring is not staffed with TFAs, ARLs and subs is it?


Have you ever been with 42 five year olds in a room when it is 104 degrees outside? They get sweaty and limp. Everyone gets sick and starts to throw-up. Have you ever done that as a routine for five years or more because the air conditioning routinely goes out because CCSD bought the air conditioner in Wisconsin to save money? Air conditioning and lack of it is not funny or a joke to be ignored. Trustees have failed.

Would I be sad if my principal had the right to call the AC guy who lives across the street to flip the switch so babies do not get heat-stroke? I would not be sad.

And again – I’m sure if I taught students on a different side of town we would not have to endure significant and life-threatening equipment failures. I digress- again a civil rights issues.

Student Funding:

I have taught at my current school for about five years. This week my at-risk Title I school finally received a reading series and a math series.

Yes. We have books.

I find it hard to believe that the Trustees who I have been watching spend money on lasers, trips, gadgets, and yee-haws for all sorts of schools not on my side of town – is now concerned about books, paper, and basic supplies? Because that has been my consistent concern since arriving here.

Frankly, no one has listened to teachers nor have they given us anything we really needed. But they have whipped us for not being successful with invalid data that tells no one anything.

In summary, I find Trustee concerns ironic.

They have had the power to do major change.

They could have shown an interest in civil or human rights long ago.

They could have been bold and really addressed the concerns they listed.

Instead they have mismanaged and abused their power.

Frankly it would be hard to do worse than they have done. So for my kids – I want to move forward.

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports on his blog that the ACLU in Southern California has released a report finding that 20% or more of the state’s charter schools are breaking state and federal laws.

This is very likely the tip of the iceberg and signals that the state should launch a full investigation of illegal activities in charter schools.

Here is the full report.

Will the state dare to investigate privately managed schools that operate with little or no supervision? Will they dare to cross the state’s most powerful lobby, the California Charter Schools Association?

A reader of the blog posted the following comment. She asks the question: What can a standardized test tell the teacher that the teacher doesn’t know already? The answer: nothing. To be precise, “absolutely nothing.”



She writes:



One of the most demoralizing moments of my teaching career was being forced to do ACT prep with my secondary ESL students. We would read the questions together, trying to figure out some way of breaking it down into something manageable, and then the students would furrow their brows or just check out completely, and we would all end up frustrated. And I would think, “I’ve spent the last 7 months building a safe classroom community in which students can grow and learn and express their ideas… and then I betray all of that with this absurdity?”


Another demoralizing moment was having to administer the ACCESS test to ELLs. We had to test every single student in the bilingual program even if they weren’t actually taking bilingual or ESL classes anymore. In addition to losing class time, the bilingual department teachers gave up every prep period and lunch period for about 5 weeks to test students individually on oral proficiency. You want to know about the life cycle of the boll weevil? I could tell you. That was on the test two years in a row. One girl had literally arrived to the U.S. the weekend before and enrolled the day before the testing began, and she had to take it. She opened the booklet, flipped through the entire thing not able to answer any of the questions and looked up at me in complete bewilderment. Luckily, I speak her native language and give her some reassurance, but I felt like a failure as a teacher and an abomination of a human being.


Those experiences affected me deeply, and I wish that I had had more knowledge then. I was young and new as a teacher, and frankly, I was overwhelmed. Now, I do my best to read up on what’s going on in education (thank you, Diane, for making that task infinitely easier!), and my mantra nowadays is “opt out.” There is nothing – absolutely nothing – that those tests could tell anyone that I, as the students’ teacher, couldn’t tell them first.

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of the Opt Out movement in New York.


Governor Cuomo, who made education policy his big issue last year, has gone off on other issues.


The Board of Regents is now led by an experienced educator who has the support of the Opt Out parents.


And Dr. Betty Rosa has not disappointed.


At a recent forum, she said that standardized testing was “abusive” for some students with disabilities and English language learners.


This is a new tone coming from New York State’s highest education official.


It conflicts rather sharply with the pro-testing, pro-Common Core, anti-opt out policies of the state commissioner MaryEllen Elia. This should be interesting.