Around 30 percent of families across New York State now speak a language other than English at home, resulting in 240,000 English language learners (ELLs) in the state’s primary and secondary schools who speak nearly 200 different languages.
A new report from New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group looks at New York State’s redesign of policies and practices to better support the education of its long-established, yet still growing multilingual population.
In the paper, From Blueprint to Building: Lifting the Torch for Multilingual Students in New York State,” program associate Janie T. Carnock, highlights both the bright spots and the emerging challenges of New York’s ELL reforms by charting their inception, design and early implementation.
Unlike other states grappling with how to respond to recent influxes of ELLs for the first time, the Empire State has been experimenting with ELL policy reforms for some time. New York’s reforms offer a rare example of cohesive state-level policy innovation and leadership for multilingual children.
"The comprehensive nature of New York’s strategy stands out,” says Carnock. “Few states have pulled together such a holistic approach to better serving their ELLs."
The recent reforms, which fall under New York’s new Blueprint for English Language Learners (ELL) Success and update state rules on how schools must serve K-12 ELLs, required districts and school to make several key changes impacting ELLs’ education. These changes included:
New instructional rules that expand “integrated” English as a Second Language (ESL) services, primarily through co-teaching models;
New requirements that set a district-wide(versus school-level) threshold for offering bilingual education in ELL home languages, including through dual immersion models;
Newly specific quotas on ELL professional development for all teachers, mainstream and specialist;
Additional district data reporting requirements by DLL subpopulations,
Expanded requirements for family engagement, including extra parent-teacher conferences on ELL linguistic development, and more.
As the new strategy rolled out in the 2015-2016 school year, the appointment, election and increased visibility of linguistically-diverse, state-level leadership further pushed the momentum for serving ELLs.
In the report, Carnock shares several recommendations for other states to take away from New York’s experience with ELL reforms:
Develop and communicate an ELL vision at the state level;
Design policies that incorporate home languages as an asset;
Design policies that integrate language development and academic instruction across the board;
Build statewide systems to develop administrator and teacher competencies with ELLs, equipping them for success in meeting and exceeding regulatory expectations;
- Coordinate administrative action with institutions of higher education and the state legislature to ensure policies can be implemented optimally.
Even as New York represents an example of strong, state-level policy innovation and leadership, the work is far from finished. Advocates and practitioners in the field have voiced concerns over the rapid scope of change to ELL program design and staffing.
“While the reforms are new, they present rare potential to strengthen educational opportunities for ELLs with state policy,” Carnock notes in the paper. “New York’s evolving policies signal a clear recognition of education’s promise and the role multilingual learners will play in the state’s—and country’s—future.”
The full report can be found here.