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ERIC Number: ED535854
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun
Pages: 38
Abstractor: ERIC
Empty Promises: A Case Study of Restructuring and the Exclusion of English Language Learners in Two Brooklyn High Schools
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Since 2002, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has attempted to reverse the city's severe drop-out crisis through a large scale restructuring of high schools, focused mainly on closing large, comprehensive high schools and replacing them with small high schools that offer a more personalized learning environment. Unfortunately, this reform effort initially included a policy that allowed new small schools to exclude English Language Learners (ELLs), and many small schools still do not provide the programs that ELLs need. Lack of access to new and promising programs is reflected in ELL performance data. While the City's overall graduation rate climbed to 52.2% in 2007 from 46.5% in 2005, the rate for ELLs dropped from 28.5% to 23.5% over the same period. To understand how the small schools movement has affected ELL students in New York City, the researchers studied the restructuring of two large Brooklyn high schools--Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst and Tilden High School in East Flatbush. Through their investigation, they found that: (1) In the years leading up to the DOE's decisions to close these schools, Tilden and Lafayette had a substantial number of ELL students, students with special needs and overaged and under-credited students; (2) ELLs who remained in the schools that were phasing-out began to receive less support and fewer services and in some cases, were pushed into GED classes; (3) Most of the small schools that replaced Tilden and Lafayette took very few, if any, ELL students or failed to provide them with legally mandated ELL programming; (4) The closing of Tilden and Lafayette resulted in the loss of two large and diverse bilingual education programs, as no bilingual programs were created in the new small schools placed on those campuses; and (5) As Tilden and Lafayette began to phase-out, ELL enrollment in surrounding large high schools rose, which may put those schools at greater risk of being closed in the future. The experiences of ELL students in Tilden and Lafayette and the new schools placed on their campuses show what happens when schools are closed without considering and planning for the needs of this population. As the DOE continues to close large schools to make way for an array of small high schools, ELL students--who experience some of the lowest graduation rates in the city--are left with fewer and fewer options or are simply left behind. As it restructures high schools, the DOE must plan ahead to ensure that ELL students have a range of choices and opportunities comparable to other students and do not have to sacrifice the basic support that they need. The DOE is urged to take a comprehensive look at how ELLs are affected by the closure of large high schools and the corresponding elimination of bilingual education programs. (Contains 160 endnotes.) [Additional funding for this paper was provided by the Donors' Education Collaborative and the Durst Family Foundation.]
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. 99 Hudson Street 12th Floor, New York, NY 10013. Tel: 212-966-5932; Fax: 212-966-4303; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Ford Foundation
Authoring Institution: Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Identifiers - Location: New York