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Beefing up bilingual & ENL ranks

UFT able to negotiate incentive, certification changes
New York Teacher

With more than 20,000 asylum-seeking children many who do not speak English now enrolled in New York City public schools, the UFT was able to negotiate a new incentive program and certification changes to expand the number of bilingual education and English as a new language (ENL) teachers to teach these students.

Thanks to the UFT’s advocacy, the state and city education departments have eased requirements for bilingual and ENL certifications, and teachers with secondary certifications in ENL and bilingual education who are willing to make the switch will receive a $5,000 incentive to teach in those license areas to help meet the growing need.

Any teacher who switches this school year will receive the incentive. These teachers will receive a waiver so they will not sacrifice tenure or lose seniority and they will not face a one-year probation period, as had been the case for decades. The bonus will be paid annually as long as the educator teaches ENL or bilingual education.

The waiver for teachers with secondary certifications, which Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David C. Banks first announced on Sept. 7, corrects a disincentive for teachers to shift into ENL and bilingual education teaching, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

“We have teachers who are certified as bilingual or ENL teachers, and we need to be able to let them switch their certificates without any liability to themselves because they’ve already proven to be highly successful teachers,” he said.

The UFT will sponsor an event for the roughly 600 teachers who are eligible for the incentive. Those teachers will be able to get their questions answered and initiate the process for switching to ENL or bilingual education. Mulgrew said he would try to convince the state Board of Regents to make the change permanent, given the growing need.

About 18,500 children from asylum-seeking families enrolled in city public schools during the 2022–23 school year, and roughly 3,000 more did so over the summer, according to the city DOE. City public schools now have about 3,400 English as a new language teachers and about 1,700 certified bilingual teachers who are fluent in Spanish, Banks recently told reporters.

In another measure to help support new immigrants and asylum-seeking students, the state Education Department temporarily modified the requirements for earning an ENL certification and a bilingual education extension to make it easier to obtain these credentials.

Certified teachers and pupil personnel services professionals (i.e., social workers, school counselors and psychologists) can now complete either the examination requirement or the enrollment and education requirements, instead of both. That means candidates can pass the Bilingual Education Assessment and/or the Content Specialty Test in ESOL, if available, in lieu of completing coursework and matriculating in a registered program leading to a bilingual education extension and/or an ENL certificate.

There is a limited time for completing the requirements and, once a supplementary ENL certification is issued, it will be in effect for five years. Applicants may renew the supplementary bilingual education extension one time for three more years from the effective date of the renewal only if they obtained their first extension through this flexibility and meet the requirements for the extension.

Anyone who is interested can apply for the ENL certificate and/or the bilingual extension until Aug. 31, 2024. The Bilingual Education Assessment is only offered on a limited number of dates, so candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. More information is available at on the New York State Education Department website.