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Joint Statement from Steven Choi and Claire Sylvan on the New New York Education Reform Commission’s Final Report

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Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York  (Wednesday, January 15, 2014)

Joint Statement from Steven Choi and Claire Sylvan on the New New York Education Reform Commission’s Final Report

The following is a joint statement from Claire Sylvan, founding executive director of Internationals Network for Public Schools and Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition:

The New New York Education Reform Commission released its much-anticipated final report. Established by Governor Cuomo in 2012 with the goal of developing recommendations for improving the quality of education for all students, the Commission issued a preliminary report in 2013. When that report failed to address the issue of the state’s 200,000 English language learner (ELL) students—who represent the fastest growing segment of the P-12 population—the New York Immigration Coalition and Internationals Network for Public Schools jointly prepared a report highlighting recommendations for leveraging the potential of ELLs, whose diverse cultural and linguistic capacities are singular assets in today’s global economy but who are being left far behind by the school system. (The most recent 3-8 test scores showed astonishingly low proficiency rates of 3 and 10 percent statewide on English Language Arts and Mathematics respectively.)

Our report, Public Education and Dynamic Bilingualism for the 21st Century, was shared with Commission members to ensure that the Commission includes recommendations for addressing the ELL crisis and leveraging ELL potential.

In its final report, the Commission includes several references to ELLs—their proficiency levels, the distinct challenges they face, the lack of support provided, alternative means of assessment that better reflect their capacity, and so on. While disappointed that the Commission did not develop detailed recommendations to address ELL issues, we are gratified that the Commission did acknowledge that ELLs were among the issues that were “clearly relevant to the effective and equitable delivery of public education in our state, but which were beyond the scope of our ability to tackle, given the constraints of time and limited resources, or on which we simply could not come to a consensus…. Each of these subjects is important enough to justify its own task force review.” We are also disappointed that nowhere in the report does the Commission note that the students who speak languages other than English bring important linguistic and cultural assets to our state within the global world. While it is true that they need to be adequately supported so they gain access to a world-class education, it is also true that they can bring tremendous economic, social and cultural benefits to our great state.

Given the urgency of the issue as evidenced in dropping proficiency and graduation rates, we look forward to the state following through on the Commission’s recommendation to establish a special task force, and our “Dynamic Bilingualism” report can serve as an initial blueprint to guide the task force’s actions and allow the task force to hit the ground running. We must harness the assets our English language learners bring to our state. We cannot afford to leave another cohort of English language learners behind.

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The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees.The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.

Internationals Network for Public Schools (Internationals) is an educational non-profit working to provide quality public education for recently arrived immigrants by growing and sustaining a strong national network of innovative International High Schools. Internationals also supports states, districts, schools, and educators outside our network to improve the quality of the education of English language learners through a variety of services and aims to influence policy for English language learners (ELLs).
 

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