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Know Your Rights
Source: Newsday
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Report: English Learners Find it Hard to Get into NYC Schools

Immigrant students who struggle to master English don’t have the same access to the city’s small schools as their peers who speak the language fluently, according to a report.

The report, released Tuesday by the New York Immigration Coalition (Make the Road by Walking is a leading member of the Coalition) and the group Advocates for Children, focused on a city policy that allows small schools to deny admission to students with limited English proficiency. The policy affects only the schools’ first two years of operation.

But the problem isn’t just access, said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Sometimes they can get in the door but they then face a long-term problem because there are no services for them,” he said.

The report found that 41 percent of 126 small schools do not offer any programs for bilingual students and those learning English as a second language. Students who need such services can attend 11 small International Schools started since 2002, or go to larger schools, which are frequently overcrowded.

School officials disputed the findings in the report, saying that English-language learners have equal access to small schools, which have become a signature reform of the Bloomberg administration. The schools often offer specialties in art, health sciences and sports.

Andres Alonso, deputy chancellor for instruction at the city’s Department of Education, said the city has increased the number of small schools focusing on such students each year.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for increasing enrollment of English learners in small schools and boosting the number of small educational facilities in areas of the city where there are large immigrant populations.