BPS and federal government reach final agreement on plan to best serve students learning English
Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Carol R. Johnson today joined with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education to announce all three parties have come to final agreement on a plan to best serve students learning English. The agreement demonstrates that BPS leaders and the federal government believe the district has made great progress in servicing students learning English and that a plan is in place that enables students to learn English to access academic content and meet and exceed the targets of the district's five-year strategic plan, the Acceleration Agenda.
“Our collaboration and partnership with the Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights has been a transformative experience for the Boston Public Schools,” said Dr. Johnson. “We have worked hand in hand with our federal partners to find where there were weaknesses in our organization. As a result, we have made dramatic changes in the way we serve students learning English. There is no doubt our school district and the City of Boston is stronger today for having taken advantage of this opportunity to make systematic changes throughout our schools.”
This settlement follows an extensive joint examination by the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (DOJ), the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and BPS that found since 2003 the district had not properly identified or served English Language Learners (ELLs). Upon her arrival in 2007, Superintendent Johnson began an internal review of practices and policies of ELL services. In April 2009, Superintendent Johnson appointed Eileen de los Reyes as the district’s Assistant Superintendent for English Language Learners and tasked her with making wholesale changes to the department. In November of the 2009 the Boston School Committee appointed an independent task force charged with examining all aspects of policies and services affecting ELL students. The task force, which was co-chaired by School Committee member Claudio Martinez, made a host of recommendations to the school committee and the Superintendent in 2010. In the fall of that year the DOJ, OCR, and BPS reached a preliminary agreement on proposed changes. The DOJ and OCR have been closely monitoring the district’s progress since that time.
“We understand that to be successful in urban public education we have to be comfortable saying that just because its always been done one way doesn’t mean its the best way,” said Dr. de los Reyes. “We have made changes that will directly impact students, giving them the very best opportunity to master the English language and putting them on a track where success is within their reach.”
As a result of the joint findings, BPS has made significant changes to the way ELL students are assigned to schools and classrooms, changing policies that enabled students to be identified as having “opted-out” of receiving ELL services. Further, BPS took the unprecedented step of assessing all students who may have been incorrectly identified as not requiring ELL services. Compensatory services were and are being provided to those students who were found to have been misidentified as non-ELL.
An independent study by the Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development at UMass Boston and the Center for Collaborative Education shows BPS cut the number of ELLs designated as Limited English Proficient dropping out of school from 12% to 6.6% from 2006 to 2009.
To read the complete agreement click here.