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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

NY cuts English classes for immigrants

More than 10 percent of New York City students are classified as English Language Learners.

Beginning English Language Learners (ELLs) need direct instruction in English writes Arthur Goldstein, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at a New York City high school, in Gotham Gazette.

If that sounds obvious, it’s not. New York state has decided that newly arrived immigrants can learn English in history, math and science classes, while learning those subjects, writes Goldstein. “Beginning ELLs who formerly took three classes daily in direct English instruction may now have as few as one.” They’ll also have less time with teachers who know how to support newly arrived immigrants.

I know a Spanish teacher, dual-licensed in ESL, whose principal asked her if she minded the school using her class to grant ESL credit to students. Can you imagine newcomers studying Spanish and getting credit for English? . . . A friend teaches social studies in Brooklyn. In his class, currently oversized with 41 students, he has several ELLs. There is an ESL teacher who comes in Tuesdays and Thursdays, and New York State says they are therefore getting English instruction. I have no idea how. My friend says the class is completely incomprehensible to the students. Yet there they sit, and twice a week an ESL teacher sits in the same room. According to New York State, they are therefore learning English.

It sounds like the goal is to award ESL credit, not to teach students enough English to succeed in mainstream English-language classes — or in an English-speaking workplace.

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