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Policy Brief- Building ELL Success

Policy Brief- Building ELL Success

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The historic infusion of funding to schools as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement and the new Foundation Aid formula provides New York City with a unique opportunity to begin to reverse the alarming ELL dropout crisis. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement resulted in new funds for New York City which are to be used to predominately benefit students with the greatest educational needs, including ELLs, and the Foundation Aid formula assigns each English Language Learner (ELL) student a 0.5 weight or 50 percent additional funding.

New York State law provides accountability on the use of new school aid through Contracts for Excellence, which this year ties $360 million of the City’s $622 million in new state foundation aid. Schools that receive this funding are required to create a Contract for Excellence, which is a strategic plan detailing how this money will be spent on new or expanded programs that predominately benefit ELLs, students living in poverty, and students with disabilities. With more than half – 50.5 percent – of all ELLs who never become English proficient dropping out of high school, and ELL dropout rates continuing to increase each year, a significant portion of New York City’s Contract for Excellence funds must be targeted towards a proactive ELL citywide initiative to ensure ELLs receive a sound basic education, as required by the State Constitution, and realize their potential to earn a high school diploma.

An analysis conducted by the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that English Language Learners are generating $120 million out of the $622 million, or 19%, in foundation aid for New York City for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. This historic increase in aid for ELLs is, in part, a response to the historic under funding of ELL students in New York City. Thus, while increased state funding and Contracts for Excellence represents an important opportunity to direct much needed resources to ELLs, it is essential that the city puts forth an ELL citywide initiative to end the era of neglect for ELL students. This ELL citywide initiative should direct schools on how to assess the needs of their ELL students, and guide them on how to use the Contract for Excellence funds to create new programs and supports for their ELL students.


We recommend that $70 million, 19% of Contract funds, be used for ELL strategic initiatives at schools receiving Contract funds. As ELL students have generated 19% of all new foundation aid for New York City, this same percentage of the Contract for Excellence funds should be used to fund an ELL citywide initiative.

ELL Enrollment & ELL Need:

Approximately 124,011 English Language Learners (83.6% of total ELL population) attended the 1072 New York City schools that met the criteria to receive Contract for Excellence funds last year. We estimate that a minimum of 125,000 ELLs will be attending schools receiving Contract funds this coming school year. The Department of Education should allocate the $70 million ELL initiative on a per-ELL-student basis. Thus schools receiving Contract for Excellence funds under the 75/50 rule should receive a portion of this $70 million ELL initiative based on the number of ELL students they have, and whether they are high needs ELL students, such as Students with Interrupted Formal Education and Long-Term ELLs.

ELL Plan:

Allocations to schools from the ELL citywide initiative must clearly delineate the amount of money that a school is receiving for their ELL students. This is necessary for schools to understand how much money they have to dedicate towards new ELL programs and supports.

Once schools receive their allocations from the ELL citywide initiative, they must initially asses the needs of their ELL population to determine how they can best spend these funds on their ELL students. Schools must determine what programs are currently in place for their ELL students, where their ELLs are not progressing or could use additional support, and what new programs can best help students learn English and earn a Regents Diploma. As such, all schools receiving funds from the ELL citywide initiative must create an ELL plan that first details background information about their existing ELL students and programs. This background information should include, at a minimum: ELL demographics; ELL progress reports (such as NYSESLAT scores, ELA scores, graduation rates, and yearly progress with their ELL population); and existing ELL programs in place (including participation rates in a proven instructional models including ESL, bilingual and/or dual language programs and number of students served). The plan must then propose new ELL programs and supports and explain how such programs will address the identified needs of their ELL students. Finally, the plan must include outcome goals for how the new ELL programs will help ELL students learn English and earn a Regents Diploma or complete a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum.

Each plan must specify new or expanded programs for ELL students and show how each of the six Contract program areas addresses the needs of ELL students and how many ELL students are being served under each area. Providing information on how new Contract programs outside of the ELL citywide initiative will encourage schools to think about ELLs in their overall school planning, and not in a vacuum as a separate student population.


1. Comprehensive Interventions for High Need English Language Learners, Including Students with an Interrupted Formal Education (SIFEs) and Long-Term ELLs:

· One out of every four ELLs (35,816) are either SIFE or Long-Term ELL. Yet, most schools do not receive additional funding to provide the targeted services these students need. Studies have been done by the CUNY Graduate Center and the Office of English Language Learners to develop programs that address the unique needs of SIFE and Long-term ELLs. Contract funds should be used to help schools implement such programs, such as:
o Personalized instruction and smaller class sizes for SIFE and Long-term ELLs
o More time on task, such as after school instruction for SIFE and Long-term ELLs
o A strong literacy-based curriculum to help SIFEs with basic reading and writing needs in all content areas, such as literacy and science, literacy and math, literacy and social studies, and other literacy-based curriculums.
o Material supports, such as computer literacy programs, SIFE diagnostics, etc.
o Professional development on ELLs and literacy for all staff (such as QTEL)

2. Improve ELL Teacher Quality and Increased ELL Instructional Choice by Hiring More ESL & Bilingual Teachers and Creating More Bilingual & Dual Language Programs:

· Schools should use Contract funds to increase their capacity to offer push-in and self-contained ELL programs (as opposed to pull-out services), and reduce ELL teacher portfolios, which includes increased responsibilities regarding funding accountability, identification, placement, and assessment, and parental notification. Small schools should especially be encouraged to hire additional ESL and Bilingual teachers to increase their capacity to serve ELLs.
o Schools with small ELL populations who are proving only pull-out ESL services should hire an additional ESL/Bilingual certified teacher to allow them to provide push-in ESL instruction or create a self-contained ELL class.
o Schools struggling to provide their ELL students with the mandated hours of ESL instruction should hire an additional ESL teacher to help reduce existing ELL teacher portfolios.

· Schools which are only providing ESL instruction should use Contract funds to develop a Bilingual Education Program. ELL parents have a right under State Regulations to choose bilingual education or ESL instruction for their children, but often are not able to make that choice because schools do not provide bilingual education. Moreover, schools with more than 20 students in the same grade level with the same native language must create bilingual programs for those students under State law. Schools should use Contract funds to hire bilingual-certified teachers and develop bilingual curriculums and materials, in order to create quality bilingual programs.

· Schools which already have a bilingual education program in place should use Contract funds to further develop such programs and ensure that they have state of the art bilingual curriculum and resources. Additionally schools should consider developing additional bilingual programs in other languages based on their ELL students’ native-languages.

· Increase the number of dual language programs, including expanding dual language programs to include a wider variety of languages, to replicate a very successful model that leads to bilingual proficiency for ELLs and English-speaking students.

3. Strengthened ELL Instructional Opportunities by Investing in ELL Extended School Day, Saturday Academy & Summer School:

· Create or expand extended school day, Saturday Academy and summer school programs for ELLs. Such programs have been proven to assist ELLs in learning English and native language arts, as well as gaining additional credits in content courses to catch up to grade level and graduate on time.

4. Expanded Immigrant/ELL Student Support and Parent Engagement Through Guidance, Mentoring and Social Support Services for Immigrant/ELL Youth:

· Establish or expand guidance, mentoring and social support services for immigrant and ELL youth. These additional supports can improve retention, help ELLs navigate admissions requirements, encourage post-secondary education, and address non-school related obstacles that impede ELL student success. In order to achieve this, schools should: hire additional guidance counselors, provide professional development on successful strategies for supporting ELL and immigrant youth including information about college access for undocumented students.

· Establish school- and community-based high school readiness and dropout prevention programs to address the ELL dropout crisis by helping them get through the ninth grade successfully.

· Improve immigrant and LEP parent engagement through meetings and forums that address immigrant and language minority parent needs. Such resources include: interpretation at parent meetings, workshops for immigrant parents, adult ESL classes, adult literacy classes.

5. Enhance Learning Resources for ELLs by Bridging the Digital Divide Among ELLs and Investing in Content-Area Books in Various Languages:

· Purchase quality books and other learning resources that are commensurate to those provided to English-proficient students, such as content area and instructional materials in native languages.

· Purchase technology hardware and software to bridge the digital divide among ELL students and parents. Such resources include access to computers for ELLs and computer software programs to strengthen literacy skills, native language, and English proficiency.

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