Friday, January 31, 2020

Targeted--NY ESL Teachers (and Students)

I should've known the first time I heard Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa speak at George Washington Campus. There is a plan. Rosa said they'd changed Part 154 so that students could have more content instruction. At the time I didn't really grasp the implications.

It's now clear to me that neither Rosa nor and of the other geniuses in Albany see English as content. It's just something you magically acquire by virtue of being here. To an extent, that's true, but to a much larger extent, it is ridiculous and hurtful.

Imagine yourself shipped to China tomorrow and placed in a Chinese history class taught entirely in Chinese. If you didn't know the language, you'd be lost. Now imagine how my kids feel when they're dumped into an American history class. Will it matter if there's an ESL teacher sitting in the room two days a week? It's entirely likely that teacher has no time to make contact with the content teacher. How that person is supposed to catch you up on language, culture and background knowledge concurrently with instruction I have no idea.

What if you have a social studies teacher who has taken the magical 12 credits and is provisionally certified in ESL? Will that person be able to teach not only the content, but also all the vocabulary and background in the same 40 minutes her colleagues teach the content only? Perhaps she's a miracle worker, but four classes do not a miracle worker make. It's highly unlikely the students will develop a love for social studies or civics under these conditions.

The fact is that the geniuses in Albany have based all of their brilliant programs on studies of younger children. While it is indeed counter-productive and myopic to have reduced support for younger ELLs, they may do better with Albany's new dictates. After all, as many people will tell you, their grandparents arrived without knowing English, and somehow managed to make a living. Who's to say, though, that they might not have had more opportunities if they'd received the supports we used to give ELLs before the Regents woke up and decided to take most of them away?

Young children are hardwired to learn language, and will acquire it very rapidly. This ability declines rapidly after puberty, and this is something the geniuses in Albany did not consider over any of their gala luncheons. High school students have had direct English instruction reduced by a factor of 33-100%, and they are suffering for it. Of course, up in Albany they're having Very Important Meetings and can't be bothered with such things.

I've been saying that ESL teachers ought not to be programmed with more than two co-teachers. People tell me that this will discourage principals from hiring teachers who teach only ESL, as opposed to teachers possessing dual certification. I'm here to tell you that train left the station five years ago, and teachers with dual certification are grabbed up by principals much faster than those of us who fritter away valuable school time teaching newcomers English.

Here's the truth--English instruction is the most important thing we can give newcomers, bar none. Without it, they cannot thrive in their other classes. Maybe they'll pass tests, including the English tests, because they are all crap. Maybe, by the ridiculous standards dictated by Albany, they'll be "college and career ready."

But I've seen the results up close and personal. I've had students who tested out of ESL, who passed the English Regents exam, who cannot write their way out of a paper bag. They cannot produce a coherent sentence, There is no way these students will thrive in college without either remedial instruction or someone else to do the actual work for them.

Shame on the Regents for removing the best lifeline these students had, and for failing to see the value of our work.
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