Buffalo Fails ELLs, and the Silence is Deafening

Today’s story in the Buffalo News on the Buffalo City School District’s treatment of English Language Learners is instructive of the double standard that NYSUT and others employ when it comes to charter schools and conventionally managed district schools.† Here are some quotes from a report by the Council of the Great City Schools (a report which Buffalo CSD, to its credit, commissioned):

“The school system didn’t seem to notice [ELLs] were here, didn’t think to modify an otherwise successful program to ensure that these newcomers could succeed, and didn’t create an effective system to reach out to those communities.”

“In short, the instructional program for many of these new Americans is poorly defined, inconsistently implemented, and lacking a clear strategy for developing English acquisition skills.”

”Most of all, the district appears to have very low expectations for these students, and this becomes clear from achievement levels in the late elementary grades and beyond. By the time many of these students reach high school, they are desperately behind and likely to drop out before graduation.”

Tough stuff and pretty depressing. Surely this would engender a reaction from those groups that talk a lot of smack about charters failing to educate the neediest children.

I went to NYSUT’s website to read about how Buffalo City School District had created a separate and unequal school system, one for English Language Learners and one for everyone else.† No such luckóno report, not even a comment.

Then I checked my Blackberry to get Diane’s Ravitch’s latest tweet. She had been very, very concerned about charters not serving ELLs–surely she’d notice. No, not as yet. She’s discovered a new villain in charter school land:

Tomorrow I’ll check to see how many bills the legislature introduces to require Buffalo to serve these kids or be shut down:† Paging Senator Perkins, paging Senator Perkins . . . Senator Perkins?

The political lesson: charters not serving ELLs is not the issueójust a convenient argument that the union and their friends use to beat up charter schools.

The real lesson:† yes, charters need to enroll more ELL students and if the Assembly passes its version of the Senate’s bill, this will happen.† But let’s be real, that’s the easy part.† This report reminds us we all need to do a better job educating them.