NYC to expand transfer high schools to help English language learners

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New York City education officials plan to increase the number of transfer high schools that can serve students learning English as a new language, using a Bronx school for newcomers as a model, according to a senior department official.

The city shared few details, but the move could be a response to calls from advocates for more support in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx for new immigrant students, who may struggle to find schools that meet their academic needs and who ultimately may not graduate. time or even stay in school. The city defines a new immigrant student as someone who has been in the United States for three years or less, but officials did not say whether other English learners would be eligible for the spots.

Collaborative Education has been pushing for such an investment since before the pandemic, arguing that new immigrant students may juggle work and family responsibilities, know little or no English, or have gone years without formal education before joining. arrive in New York but cannot find high schools that meet their academic and social-emotional needs. These advocates worked with Education Department officials to develop a pilot program that would place more English as a New Language teachers and bilingual social workers in some of the city’s existing transfer schools, which are designed to any student who is not on track. graduate on time. Sixteen percent of English language learners dropped out last year, compared to 5% of all students in the city.

One of the main aims of the pilot project is to provide more intensive support to schools in neighborhoods where immigrants actually live. Four of the five existing transfer schools that serve students learning English as a new language are located in Manhattan and one in the Bronx, although the majority of new immigrants, ages 14 to 21, live in the Bronx, followed by the Queens and Queens. Brooklyn, according to census data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute.

In April, department officials said they were working with advocates for the idea, but any decision will include “input from our superintendents, principals and communities.” On Tuesday, Vice Chancellor Carolyne Quintana said the city plans to “increase the number of transfer schools that currently meet the needs of our English language learner population” over the next school year. She cited English Language Learners and International Support Preparatory Academy in the Bronx as a role model. ELLIS Prep is one of five transfer schools in the city for English learners and caters specifically to newcomers.

Quintana told city council members they want to develop individual schools that serve these students “and where possible…design or find existing transfer schools so that they can meet the needs of our English language learners. using models that are already successful”.

The pilot program proposed by Education Collaborative would cost $8.2 million over three years to reach 400 newcomer immigrant students, with $2.1 million for the next school year alone. The money would be injected into a handful of existing transfer schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. In addition to ENL teachers and bilingual social workers, the money would cover overtime for teachers planning summer and after-school programs, training current teachers to work with new immigrant students, internships for students, comprehensive support provided by community organizations, and enrichment programs for students who are two or more years behind grade level in their native language in literacy, math, or both.

The Department of Education is reviewing districts where programs like ELLIS Prep do not currently exist and “working closely with our school designers to make those decisions and implement them as soon as possible,” Quintana said.

A department spokesperson declined to answer questions about Quintana’s comments, including whether she was referring to the pilot the advocates are proposing, saying only, “More to come soon.”

Advocates — who staged a rally on the Education Department steps on Wednesday to support the city’s expansion of such programs — were surprised by Quintana’s comments. Officials have not confirmed to advocates that they will expand these programs, but have previously said they are “committed” to making them work, said Andrea Ortiz, education policy manager at the New York Immigration Coalition, who worked on the pilot program proposal.

“We haven’t heard anything about new schools, but we’ll take them if they come,” Ortiz said. “We know this is a longer term process — it may take a few years to find funding for this. That’s why the pilot program was a great first step: we can create a model, and then if we have the funding and energy for a new school, we know what to do and how to implement it. »

ELLIS Prep director Norma Vega said she’s “grateful” that her school is seen as a role model, but she hasn’t heard anything from department officials to help duplicate it. Department officials visited her school last month, she said, but the initiative was not mentioned.

Rather than creating individual programs, Vega thinks the city should focus on creating new dedicated schools like hers for new immigrants, mainly because she thinks the principal should focus only on this student population, because they may have varying degrees of high need.

But with declining enrollment, it can be difficult for city officials to justify opening new schools.

“If the leader doesn’t feel passionate, it won’t work,” Vega said.

Reema Amine is a journalist covering New York City schools with a focus on state politics and English language learners. Contact Reema at [email protected]

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