Thursday, January 17

Village Voice article illustrates ELLs' struggle to find the right schools

Many of us know that kids with limited English proficiency have limited high school options. But it's a lot easier to understand what that means to immigrant kids and their families after reading Jessica Siegel's article about Ralph Antony Toussaint, who arrived from Haiti in August at age 16, in the Village Voice's education supplement this week.

For weeks this past fall, Ralph Antony and various members of his family ping-ponged around Brooklyn, encountering obstacles at the enrollment center and finding that several schools suggested by the DOE were too crowded to take another student or lacked the special English language instruction that a new immigrant would need. Eventually, it took the help of an advocate to get Ralph Antony admitted into overcrowded Clara Barton High School, which has a Haitian Creole dual language program.

No one should have to spend five weeks finding a high school, but at least Ralph Antony finally landed in a school that was right for him. A DOE spokesperson told the Voice, "If a school is sent a student from the enrollment center, the school should take him or her." But several of the small high schools to which the enrollment office directed the family rejected Ralph Antony because they couldn't provide him the services he needed. Last year, Advocates for Children Director Kim Sweet explained to the Citywide Council on High Schools that the DOE requires kids with special needs to go through the regular high school admissions process without having any assurance that their match will have the services they need. The DOE's thinking in this situation appears to be similar, and kids who need English language services lose out.

(Incidentally, I know that I read this article last fall I read an article on the Voice's website — and for a while I tried to find it again to link to it, but it was gone. I guess holding articles for six months is one way New Times is cutting the Voice's costs. It's too bad, because articles like this one deserve to be seen.)

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