News stories

Advisory group to examine state ELL regulation

Jonathan Fickies

UFT Vice President Evelyn DeJesus (standing) looks on as Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa (second from right) addresses those at the Jan. 23 meeting.

The State Education Department is creating a task force of teachers of English language learners and other stakeholders to assess and address issues surrounding Part 154, the state regulation governing English language learner instruction.

The advisory group is the direct result of a Jan. 23 meeting, organized by UFT Vice President for Education Evelyn DeJesus, which gathered together 40 teachers from the UFT’s English language learner focus group to discuss their concerns with top city and state officials at union headquarters.

“The intent of the regulation was always to guarantee equity for our students,” said DeJesus. “But there were unintended consequences.”

Part 154 provides guidelines for districts on how to identify English language learners; instructional requirements for these students; how school districts must involve parents in decision-making; and the kind and amount of specialized professional development that teachers of English language learners must receive.

The new approach hinges on keeping English language learners in classroom settings where English language instruction is integrated with content instruction as much as possible. The new regulation also elevates transitional-bilingual and dual-language instruction as viable options. Unforeseen negative effects of the regulation include a reduction in stand-alone English as a new language instruction for some students and challenges for English as a new language and content-area teachers who co-teach.

UFT members had a chance to share their observations and opinions about the regulation with Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regents Kathleen Cashin and Luis O. Reyes and New York City Deputy Chancellor Milady Baez, who was joined by other city officials.

Isis Monteza, an ENL teacher at Emolior Academy in the Tremont section of the Bronx, said the meeting was a valuable opportunity for classroom practitioners to provide input.

“It was good to have the VIPs here, the DOE and the Regents all together,” Monteza said. “It’s important for them to hear about implementation from the teacher’s perspective.”

Several educators said many principals don’t understand Part 154 and the resources teachers need to fully comply with the regulation, including co-planning time for integrated instruction.

Alexandra Hernandez, an ENL teacher at PS 257 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said she has been lucky. “My principal gets it,” she said. But she has heard complaints around the city. “There needs to be accountability on the part of the school district if principals don’t understand Part 154 and how to organize it,” she said. “Otherwise, it becomes chaotic.”

Amy Mascunana, an ENL teacher at Pelham Gardens MS in Baychester, the Bronx, said the discussion remained positive because everyone shared a common goal.

“Everyone has the best intentions for the students,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out how to get it done.”

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