English Language Learners


English language learners (ELLs) are students who are learning English and mastering academic content at the same time. There are approximately 140,000 ELLs in the city’s public schools, and they are a diverse group. Among them, they speak some 158 languages. Some are newly arrived from other countries; others were born and raised in New York but do not speak English at home. They are in every grade and every borough. It is a rare teacher that does not have at least a few ELLs in class.

The school system offers a variety of instructional settings for these students — ENL classes (both free-standing and integrated), dual language programs and transitional bilingual education. State education law and New York City Department of Education policy govern some aspects of ELL instruction. Beyond those rules and policies, the UFT and the UFT Teacher Center have located and developed extensive resources to help educators succeed in teaching ELLs. Get a good start on them, below:

The DOE’s Language Allocation Policy is the systematic plan for language development that guides programmatic and curricular decisions for English language learners until the students acquire academic proficiency in English. This toolkit will help educators with this planning.

Where to get help and more information

Contact your chapter leader if you have questions or concerns about ELL issues in your building. Additional support is available through your district representative in your UFT borough office.

Questions regarding laws, regulations and policies may be addressed to ELL specialist Christine Rowland at crowland@uft.org through the office of the UFT's vice president for education, Evelyn DeJesus.

Special Education/ELL Complaint
The goal of the Special Education/English Language Learners (ELL) Complaint process is to make sure students have the supports and services they need to succeed. To support this goal, we are asking you to tell us how the issue you are reporting affects student progress. We also want to know if you are receiving the professional development you need and whether your Borough Field Support Centers and/or Superintendents are implementing Special Education/ELL requirements.

How does the UFT support members who work with ELLs?

The UFT supports members who work with ELLs by:

  1. Providing information on laws, regulations and policies;
  2. Assisting members and parents in understanding and working with state laws and mandates;
  3. Providing professional development on ELL instructional strategies and best practices through the UFT Teacher Center
  4. Assisting members with the ELL services complaints process;
  5. Collaborating with parents and advocates to improve services and opportunities for ELLs;
  6. Visiting schools at the request of chapter leaders to discuss ELL issues;
  7. Holding citywide meetings to promote clarity regarding changes in policy and practice; and
  8. Engaging members in legislative, regulatory and instructional initiatives.

See resources for supporting effective instruction »

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