What are the New Rules for ELLs in NYC Schools?

In 2016, the New York City Department of Education set forth new standards and rules for English language instruction in all schools. These new rules were intended to guarantee additional language instruction and support to New York’s growing ELL population but, unfortunately, as Parent Herald puts it, “New York schools are having a difficult time implementing these rules.” Read on to learn about these rules and why, though important and well-intended, they are challenging to implement quickly and effectively.

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Classrooms that have even one ELL student in NYC are now required to have an English Language Teacher present in the room during at least part of the week. This regulation aims to offer ELL students more support in their everyday classroom, instead of only offering English language instruction in separate or “pull-out” settings. Schools and districts are also now required to offer bilingual instruction, as long as the student population who speak the given language is large enough. The NYC Department of Education’s ELL site states that they provide “bilingual programs (Transitional Bilingual Education and Dual Language) that strengthen students’ native language development and content knowledge while they build their social and academic English skills.”

You can view a list of NYC’s bilingual and ELL programs on the NYC DOE site.

One of the main challenges to the program has been finding teachers who are bilingual themselves, licensed, and qualified to teach bilingual classes. With the increased need for teachers, there is an increased need for salary funding, which the $1 million allocated for the new ELL programs in the state may not cover sufficiently. The New York Times shares that Milady Baez of the NYC Education Department says the city is planning to open more bilingual programs and spend $40 million in the next school year to do so. In order to bring on more teachers, both the city and state are working to recruit language teachers and help new teachers to become licensed. Unfortunately, current teachers who switch to English language specialist positions lose seniority within the teacher’s union, and this challenge is also in the midst of being addressed. The New York City’s English Language Learners Demographics Report, based on 2013-14 SY ELL Data, shows that “43.3% (or 423,189) of all NYCDOE students report speaking a language other than English at home.” This statistic highlights the importance of these rigorous English language instruction reforms in New York, and of overcoming the impediments to their fulfillment.

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