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April 28, 2014
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JP O'Hare

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SED Presents Recommendations to Board of Regents to Revise Commissioner's Regulations Part 154

New Regulations Will Ensure Equal Opportunities for English Language Learners

The State Education Department (SED) today presented to the State Board of Regents the framework for an historic plan to revise Commissioner's Regulations Part 154, which governs English Language Learner education. The principles guiding the revisions were embodied in the new Blueprint for ELL Success released earlier this month.

"The achievement gap in New York State is still stuck on unacceptable," said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch. "Too many of our ELL students are being denied the opportunity to succeed. These new recommendations embrace the challenge of closing the achievement gap. They provide English Language Learners with high quality instruction that reflects the Common Core. We are laying the foundation necessary to close the achievement gap and help all our students develop the skills and knowledge they need to be successful."

"As we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, New York State is committed to provide our English Language Learners the excellent, effective education all students deserve," said State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. "We are continuing to implement the Common Core and raise standards to ensure that all students are college and career ready. If we're going to help all our students succeed, it's critical that we examine the regulations that govern ELL education, which have not been revised in over 30 years."

The recommended revisions to strengthen Part 154 are a result of an extensive stakeholder engagement process that included educators, community organizations and parent advocates.

SED conducted focus groups with over 100 stakeholders statewide, released a survey to the field that received over 1500 responses, and shared draft recommendations with key stakeholders for their feedback. The recommendations address issues from identification and placement to exit criteria. Some key recommendations include:

  • Creating new requirements for districts to annually identify ELL students not making adequate language and/or academic progress and provide academic and social/emotional supports based on needs identified.
  • Creating new requirements to open more bilingual education programs so that all school districts with a threshold number of ELLs who speak the same home language in the same grade have bilingual programs available.
  • Creating new requirements that all teachers and administrators receive a minimum number of hours of professional development, specifically on the needs of ELLs, language acquisition and the ability to work effectively with diverse students.
  • Allowing for an additional path to determine proficiency in order to exit ELL students, including combinations of NYSESLAT scores and 3-8 ELA assessment scores, or ELA Regents scores.
  • Creating processes for students who have or are suspected of having a disability and may also be ELLs that involves the Committee on Special Education to ensure that such students are properly identified and exited from ELL status.

The U.S. Department of Justice has recently entered into new consent decrees and settlement agreements with districts throughout the country to improve services for ELLs and language access for parents of ELLs as required by the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA). In light of these recent decisions, New York State is taking the lead to ensure that our regulations not only meet, but surpass EEOA requirements.

"I am excited about the new direction New York State is taking," stated Luis Reyes, researcher at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. "The State is making a public commitment to this population which has been neglected for many years."

"We have been concerned about districts not providing equal opportunities for ELLs for many years and are encouraged by the State's new move," said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "These new recommendations are a big step in the right direction, and we look forward to working with the State as they fine-tune and implement them," stated Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.

"For many of these students, their parents came to New York State looking for better opportunities for their children," said Associate Commissioner Angelica Infante. "It is our responsibility as educators to provide equity and access so that they can succeed. These proposed changes are a vital step in that direction."

The next step is for SED to develop regulations consistent with the Regents discussion and to present those regulations for discussion at a Regents meeting later this spring.