Members of the SRC, Dr. Hite, and audience:
I would like to discuss funding of newcomer education in the SDP. There is currently one newcomer program (Newcomer Learning Academy or NLA) housed at Franklin Learning Center. Each year 80 new students enter this program as Level 1 or beginner students; these students have the option of staying on for a second year. This academic year 80 students have already entered Level 1, and I estimate that about 55 students have stayed on for the second year—a total of 135. Added to that number is a group of Level 3 ELLs, not only new FLC 9th graders, but also some NLA students who were accepted into the “regular” FLC programs. Approximately 40 of those Level 3 students are also being served by FLC ESOL staff (estimate). There are also about 15 Level 4-5 students who have not yet exited ESOL. The formula for calculating ESOL allocation calls for 1 point for each Level 1 or 2 student, half a point for each Level 3, and a quarter point for each Level 4-5-6 student. 30 is the average point total per full-time ESOL teacher. With a point total of approximately 160 (estimate) AND 80 more students nearly guaranteed for next fall for the new Level 1 class and ELL 9th graders (and allowing for students who will graduate), an allocation of 6.5 ESOL teachers is a minimum. The projected allocation for next year seems to be unchanged—-5.5 teachers–even though the NLA is set to become a “four-year program.” Insufficient.
Level 1 students—according to the Multilingual Office’s own guidelines—are to take three ESOL classes daily. NLA—because of a lack of appropriate allocation—-has not been able to offer the third ESOL class to Level 1 students, despite also serving SLIFEs with very limited literacy skills. This decision to underfund the NLA ESOL program will undoubtedly result in many ELLs’ graduating with low English proficiency.
In addition, since starting the NLA program, the OMCP budget has funded three content teacher positions. It is rare for high schools to have content-area teachers funded through the multilingual/ESOL budget. When the program was a one-year program, this team of content teachers was able to provide the necessary sheltered instruction for all NLA classes. Now that the program has extended to Years 2 and 3 (and will continue to expand to a Year 4 cohort), more science, math and history teachers will be needed at FLC. In calculating content teacher needs, FLC must be given credit in its budget for the large number of NLA students AND the 80 students who will join the NLA next fall, along with the new ELL 9th graders. These content positions would be enrollment-driven positions, not “extra” positions added through ESOL funding. It is hoped that sufficient numbers of well-qualified content-area teachers for ELLs will influence student achievement and test scores, much desired at FLC, a special-admission school.
There is interest in expanding the newcomer offerings in other high schools in the city. Eventually, this could be a useful plan for addressing newcomers’ needs. Along with thoughtful program design, curriculum development and teacher education, sufficient funding for ESOL and content support will be a key to developing successful newcomer programs.