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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Schools Hit on Immig Bar

Mayor Bloomberg’s much-celebrated new small high schools exclude immigrants and other kids struggling to learn English, a new report charges.

“It’s the same old story of neglect and exclusion,” said Chung-Wha Hong, of the New York Immigration Coalition (Make the Road by Walking is a leading member of the Coalition), which produced the report with Advocates for Children of New York.

“If there’s going to be a reform initiative with lots of tax levy dollars supporting it … you can’t leave [immigrant] kids out of it and say, ‘We’ll deal with you later,'” she said.

At issue are hundreds of new small schools across the city that have only a few hundred students compared with the thousands of kids packed into traditional large high schools. Many of the schools have themes that focus on sports, arts or business, although at least 10 of the schools cater specifically to immigrant kids and provide them with special services.

The report charges the vast majority of small schools either don’t have services for so-called “English language learners” (ELLs), who comprise almost 12% of the high school population, or exclude them altogether. It also says that immigrant families have less access to information about options for their kids.

The city Education Department allows new schools to exclude both ELLs and special-ed students in their first two years because the schools are too new to properly serve those kids.

It’s a policy being reviewed by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which launched a probe after a complaint from a citywide group of high school parents.

David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College law professor who heads the group, said he would send a copy of the report to investigators.

The report also challenges the services available in traditional schools, noting that kids with poor English skills are more likely to drop out of high school than any other group.

Deputy Schools Chancellor Andres Alonso said he would review the report and meet with its authors, but insisted the department has already improved services to kids learning English – and that the small schools are central to that improvement.