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Report - Transforming Districts, Schools and Classrooms in New York State by prioritizing Equity and Academic Success for Multilingual Learners/English Language Learners

August 7, 2019

In spring 2014, New York State Education Department (NYSED) adopted the Blueprint for English Language Learner/Multilingual Learner Success, a new approach to ensure that Multilingual Learners/English Language Learners (MLLs/ELLs) attain the highest levels of academic success and language proficiency. Working to ensure that all students are ready for college, career, and civic readiness, the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL) implemented a comprehensive set of capacity building efforts to implement BOR policies. These all share the common goal of supporting the individual educational paths and socio-emotional needs of all MLLs/ELLs, undergirded by the belief that all teachers are teachers of MLLs/ELLs.

These changes defined a new era in the state’s educational history for MLLs/ELLs, transforming how students are learning English as a new language and developing their understanding of language(s) in their academic classes. This approach focuses learning on 21st-century practices of critical thinking and problem solving through an integrated model of English as a New Language (ENL), key shifts toward culturally responsive and sustaining education, and the development of more robust resources such as those for Students with Interrupted/Inconsistent Formal Education (SIFE) and Emergent Multilingual Learners (EMLLs) in prekindergarten. Underlying this new approach has been a significant investment in capacity building through aligned collaborations with educators, families and community-based organizations (CBOs), and a shift towards a growth model using student performance data on the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT).

These efforts have resulted in modest improvements in student achievement and graduation rates combined with a decline in the dropout rate. All graduates can also now earn the New York State Seal of Biliteracy while early learning programming for EMLLs has been strengthened. At the same time there remains challenges ahead for preparing and building the capacities of all teachers and leaders to educate the state’s MLLs/ELLs.

The goal of NYSED has always been to improve and accelerate teaching and learning efforts and reverse the long-term disparities in educational opportunities between monolingual English learners and MLLs/ELLs (García & Kleifgen, 2018). This synthesis report highlights ways that New York State Education Department (NYSED) has undertaken an ambitious reform strategy in the past five years in order to substantially improve learning opportunities for MLLs/ELLs in the context of Next Generation Learning Standards, while also identifying areas for continued efforts to improve outcomes for these students.

Fast Facts: Who are New York State’s MLL/ELLs?

  • Of the approximately 2.6 million public school students in New York in 2017-18, 9.8% were MLLs/ELLs, representing over 240,000 students statewide. Students who communicate in Spanish (64.8%) and Chinese (8.9%) constitute about three-fourths of the State’s MLL/ELL population.
  • The State’s MLL/ELL population is diverse. Students include Newcomer MLLs/ELLs (48%), Developing MLLs/ELLs (33.7%), Long-term MLLs/ELLs (18.3%), MLLs/ELLs with Disabilities (22.1%), and Former MLLs/ELLs (8.8%).
  • As of 2017-18, the top ten languages spoken by NYS MLLs/ELLs are Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Haitian-Creole, Urdu, French, Karen, and Uzbek.
  • Students with Inconsistent/Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) make up of 3% of the total MLL/ELL population in 2017-18.

(Source: NYSED SIRS 2017-18 SY)