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Multilingual Learners (MLLs), also referred to as English Language Learners or ELLs, significantly lag behind their non-MLL peers when it comes to academic achievement and graduation rates.

The New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department are trying to solve this crisis with policies and programs that provide increased support to MLLs.  However, these efforts cannot be implemented without adequate funding from the NYS legislature and the Governor’s Office.

Due to a lack of resources and supports, MLLs in NYS are not performing.

UNDERSTANDING NEW YORK STATE’S MLLs 

Who Are Multilingual Learners?

According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), multilingual learners are students who speak or understand a language other than English and speak or understand little or no English, and require support in order to become proficient in English and are identified pursuant to Section 154.3 of Commissioner's Regulations. These students are also referred to as Limited English Proficient (LEP).

Multilingual learners are identified pursuant to Section 154.3 of Commissioner's Regulations and parents/guardians have the choice to opt into a bilingual program of their choosing.  More information about these program can be found by visiting the NYS Education Department Services Site.


Multilingual Populations Across NYS

The MLL population across New York State has grown 20% over the last decade, and now represents 9% of the overall statewide student population.  However, MLL populations are higher in the big five school districts (Syracuse, Buffalo, NYC, Rochester, and Yonkers),  resulting in an average of 15% of the entire student population.  In addition, two out of three multilingual learners in NYS has a home language of Spanish.

Source: The New York State Report Card 2016-2017, New York State Education Department.

Source: The New York State Report Card 2016-2017, New York State Education Department.


The Challenge: 
MLL High School Graduation Rate

In 2017, the four-year dropout rate for multilingual learners was higher than their four-year graduation rate.  In fact, when it comes to graduation, the four-year 27% graduation rate significantly lags behind the 80% four-year graduation rate of all students.

Note: Years are defined as the end of the academic year.    Source: The New York State Report Card from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017, New York State Education Department.


Note: Years are defined as the end of the academic year.

Source: The New York State Report Card from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017, New York State Education Department.


Addressing New York State’s Certified Bilingual Teacher Shortage

Since 1990, New York State has reported a teacher shortage for certified bilingual teachers. It, along with Texas, are the only two states that have faced a shortage for the last quarter of a century.  The shortage is so dire, that in serve its multilingual learners, schools are placing teachers that are not certified to teach bilingual education in bilingual classrooms, jeopardizing the quality of education multilingual learners receive.

According to a 2017 report by the New York State School Boards Association, over 10% of teachers in bilingual education classrooms in NYS, excluding New York City (NYC), were not certified.  In fact, in regions such as the Genesee-Finger Lakes area, uncertified bilingual education teachers in bilingual classroom settings were as high as 25%

Note: The years listed are the start of the school year. Teacher types include ESL, bilingual education, and dual-language education. Each MLL indicates that the percentage of the State’s proposed teacher shortage areas may not exceed the automatic designated limit of five percent of all unduplicated full-time equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary teaching positions in the State.

Note: The years listed are the start of the school year. Teacher types include ESL, bilingual education, and dual-language education. Each MLL indicates that the percentage of the State’s proposed teacher shortage areas may not exceed the automatic designated limit of five percent of all unduplicated full-time equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary teaching positions in the State.


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The LEAD Coalition outlines a summary of recommendations to improve the academic achievement and postsecondary success of New York State’s multilingual learners.

  • Earmark a Minimum of $85 million of the Foundation Aid Owed to MLLs

  • Increase the Number of Certified English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Bilingual Education (BE) Teachers in General and Special Education Settings 

  • Fund a Targeted Initiative to Increase Graduation Rates for MLLs

  • Provide Additional Academic Supports for MLLs

  • Increase Parent Information and Outreach in Home Languages

  • Increase Socio-Emotional Supports of MLLs

  • Form a New York State Commission to Advance the Achievement of MLLs

  • Increase Investment in Pre-K to Meet the Needs of MLLs


Voices from Our Coalition

“We cannot afford to ignore the needs of New York State’s multilingual learners (MLLs) any longer.  As this report shows, the failure of our state to provide adequate resources and supports for our MLLs has created a full fledge educational crisis, where the MLL four-year dropout rate is actually higher than the MLL four-year graduation rate. This is simply unacceptable and requires immediate action on the part of our state leadership. Together, we must act with bold purpose to provide the funding and appropriate resources our MLLs need to succeed academically. I applaud the work of the LEAD Coalition in elevating this issue and providing the necessary recommendations and advocacy to spur change across the state, so that all students receive a quality education that puts them on the pathway to postsecondary success.”- José Calderón, President, Hispanic Federation.

“ASPIRA of New York continues to advocate on behalf of English Language Learners to protect and ensure access to quality education. We seek a collaborative, active partnership with the New York State Legislative Leadership to fund long overdue New York State Education Department projects and polices meant to increase achievement opportunities and ensure equitable resource allocations for Multilingual Learners. Achievement and graduation rates of Multilingual Learners have declined significantly due to lack of investment, it is time to take action and engage in leveling the playing field for all New York City youth.” - Carmen Diaz-Malvido, Chief Executive Officer, ASPIRA of New York.

“Education without appropriate supports for those in need is NOT equitable. Appropriate supports cannot be provided without targeted funding. Therefore,
as we advocate for equity in education for New York State’s multilingual learners, we urge our elected officials to prioritize the urgent educational needs of these students and ensure appropriate funding to sustain their academic and
socio-emotional success. It is a moral obligation.”
- Nancy Villarreal de Adler,
Executive Director, New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE).

“Multilingual learners bring many and varied assets to schools in New York State. As the leader of an organization supporting public secondary schools in New York State serving thousands of MLLs, I see MLLs' strengths as well as the challenges that they face. To build on students’ strengths while supporting them in meeting these challenges, New York State must provide the resources to ensure that there are enough well-prepared, dedicated educators who can work in alliance with community organizations to meet MLL's needs.  With proper resources and supports, MLLs can and do reach their full potential. New York State will benefit from their success.”- Joe Luft, Executive Director,
Internationals Network.

"The data is clear. There is an undeniable urgency to allocate meaningful resources to support the holistic learning and development of Multilingual Learners. New York State is overdue to have more ESOL and BE teachers and a more targeted approach to increase MLLs graduation rate. We owe it to the young people to act now."- AiLun Ku, President and COO, The Opportunity Network.

“Multilingual Learners make our schools rich in diversity and culture but unfortunately as a City and State, we have failed to provide the appropriate resources and culturally relevant instruction they deserve. Our multilingual learners are an asset and it is time their backgrounds and experiences inform what they learn in the classrooms in order for them to feel empowered and supporter.  Education is in its true form and act of liberation and it can’t be separated from the experiences of the community; therefore the challenges our youth face outside the classroom can’t be ignored, instead our schools need to become hubs where students and families alike can come together, be supported, celebrated  and learn from each other. It is the responsibility of the City and State to allocate fair/equitable resources to the education of our multilingual learners and see our youth for what they are: brilliant young people who given the right resources/opportunities and guided by staff that is properly trained will continue to transform NY. El Puente is glad to be a part of the LEAD coalition and to have the opportunity to advocate for and with our youth.” - Asenhat Gómez, Director, El Puente.