Conference of Big 5 School Districts Announces Recommendations to Strengthen Programs for English Language Learners

FOR RELEASE: October 28, 2016
Contact: Georgia M. Asciutto

Members of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, who are currently in Buffalo for the organization’s annual meeting, are issuing recommendations today calling for strengthening programs and services for students who are English Language Learners (ELLs).

The Conference membership includes the school districts of Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and Utica. Collectively, these six school districts represent 41% of New York State’s public school enrollment including 71% of the State’s English Language Learners.

Students who are identified as English Language Learners come from a multitude of backgrounds, experiences and have varying degrees of educational attainment. They include pupils newly-arrived to our country with no prior formal education or with interrupted formal education (SIFE), those from families arriving from refugee communities and children whose home language is not English.

The delivery of high quality instruction, necessary programs and appropriate support services for all children and families is the embodiment of our core educational mission. Local efforts to provide students who are English Language Learners with necessary programs and services are hampered by inadequate State and federal funding, a shortage of bilingual educators, a deficient number of interpreters, unreasonable testing protocols and unnecessarily stringent accountability measures.

The Big 5 recommendations, which were advanced by administrators who oversee bilingual and ELL programs in the organization’s member Districts, are divided into three categories including: State funding concerns; State administrative and regulatory actions; and, federal funding, assessment and accountability issues.

The Conference calls upon the State and federal governments to: direct additional resources for ELL programs; provide targeted funding for refugee resettlement communities; encourage higher education institutions to recruit more bilingual teachers, teaching assistants, classroom aides, translators and support personnel in the multitude of languages spoken in our schools; adjust testing timelines in English Language Arts to align with language acquisition levels; and, reform accountability measures to consider newly-arrived ELL students.

Pupil demographics in the Conference’s six school districts also include large concentrations of students living in poverty, high rates of student mobility, 50% of New York’s school-aged special education population and 65% of the State’s Pre-Kindergarten children.

See a complete list of Big 5 Schools ELL recommendations here:


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