Testimony of Cheri Micheau to the BOE, July 23, 2020

I would like to request information from relevant administrators and/or Board members on the following two topics: Reorganization of the Academic Support Office, and planning for instruction of English Learners in Fall 2020.

Reorganization: There has been a recent reorganization of the Academic Support Office, as seen in the org chart below. To my knowledge, this change has not been announced publicly, and the rationale behind such a reorganization has also not been published. One change was that the Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs (OMCP), an entity that reported directly to the Chief Academic Support Officer, has now been moved to the Curriculum Division, along with the Office for the Arts, and the Deputy for Curriculum will now supervise those two offices. There is no longer a Deputy for OMCP. One might question this change on several levels:

First, Policy 138 requires that the SDP maintain an office that will direct operations for English Learners: “The SRC authorizes the Superintendent or designee to approve a written Language Instruction Educational Program (LIEP) for students whose dominant language is not English and to maintain an office for multilingual curriculum and programs to develop and support a plan that shall include English Language Development (ELD) and bilingual instruction programs.” While OMCP has not been eliminated in this new plan, the authority and reach of the office is now severely limited by a lack of direct representation in deputy-level meetings and decision making.
In addition, OMCP’s deputy would have, ideally, been a person with specialized academic training and knowledge of second language learning and teaching, with experience in delivering and administering second-language programs. This has not always been the case, but it was the ideal. It is unclear how this new organizational structure will allow for the advocacy and knowledge sharing necessary for making decisions directly affecting ELs. The executive director position that replaces the deputy position is as yet unfilled. Will a qualified person with this specialized training be hired, and how much influence will an executive director have?
In addition, OMCP’s placement under the auspices of the Curriculum Office does not represent the multitude of tasks and responsibilities that must be addressed for English Language Learner programming. Not only has this office developed and adapted curriculum and materials for English Learners——-the mission, it is assumed, of the Curriculum Office—-OMCP has also been tasked with directing and monitoring the following, for example: monitoring and supporting, in cooperation with the Assessment Office, the annual standardized assessment (the WIDA ACCESS test) and preparing teachers to administer the assessment; supporting school staff (administrative and teaching staff, as well as support staff) in registering, placing, evaluating, and informing families of the language program into which their child hash been placed; advocating for and supporting ESOL staff in participating in the placement of English Learners in special education programs and in informing families of that placement; providing language-specific teacher development in ESOL-specific language teaching strategies and content-based strategies for sheltered content classrooms, including supporting new teachers of English Learners with materials and strategies; supporting school staff in the high school application process for ELs—-in assisting 8th-grade students in completing applications, in informing families about the application process, as well as in supporting admissions committees at high schools tasked with evaluating ELs’ applications and ensuring that the LeGare Agreement is enforced; and guiding schools in reclassifying (exiting) English Learners from ESOL. OMCP works with the FACE Office to provide language interpretation and translation services and to deploy Bilingual Counseling Assistants. These are just a few examples. Clearly, the mission of OMCP spans the areas of responsibility of many of the offices supervised by the Chief of Academic Support and involves not only legal/compliance-related tasks, but also instructional programming and instructional delivery-related tasks. Will OMCP have a voice in decisions on these various areas of responsibility?

It may not be as important where OMCP is located in the org chart (although this seems important in terms of prestige and influence), as in ensuring that all the needs of English Learners and their families are addressed. It has been a concern of many advocates for ELs that the SDP is slow to recognize and address ELs’ specific needs and that the SDP frequently omits consideration of ELs in policy and planning documents and procedures. With its new lower prestige and placement in the org chart, will it be even easier for ELs to be forgotten?

B) EL Instruction in Fall 2020: As noted, the SDP has been slow and negligent in addressing the important and specialized needs of English Learners. Indeed, in the presentation of many policies and documents at Board meetings, we have looked to Board members and community members to ask, “What about English Learners?”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the planning for instruction for the Fall of 2020. While Dr. Hite mentioned English Learners in every press conference and interview during the Spring of 2020 as a population that has fallen behind during the pandemic and as needing special, intensive support, budgetary considerations have precluded a special four-day, in-person program for English Learners in the fall. Recognizing that planning is ongoing and that many uncertainties are preventing efficient planning, and recognizing also the herculean effort made by SDP staff to create a workable plan, I would like to know, how very specifically, the SDP will provide appropriate instruction for English Learners—-both in new academic content as well as in “catch-up” for language learning—-in the fall semester.

Particularly, how will newcomer students who are least able to work independently, least likely to have parents who can support them at home, and most in need of access to English-speaking peers and teachers and face-to-face lessons, be served in the instructional models being developed?

How are ESOL teachers being deployed as efficiently as possible to provide much-needed language instruction? While some schools have used a push-in model of ESOL instruction, this is not workable in digital learning. What is being recommended?

How are Bilingual Counseling Assistants (BCAs) being deployed to support non-English-speaking families in registering for school, receiving computers and checking on internet access, and instructing parents on the various instructional platforms that their children are being asked to use—-and master?

How are principals being educated on the needs of English Learners—-especially in distance learning—- and important considerations in scheduling and delivering instruction?

Even if the full scope of services is not affordable, can you assure advocates and families that English Learners will not once again be forgotten? Given the “churn” in the OMCP office, what support is being given, so that planning can progress?