Feds, schools settle English learner probe
Russell Contreras | 10/5/2010, 7:10 p.m.
Federal officials and the Boston Public Schools have reached an agreement over allegations that the school district violated federal law by not providing English instruction to students with a limited grasp of the language, the U.S. Justice Department announced last week.
Under the agreement, Boston Public Schools agreed to assess the English proficiency of an estimated 7,000 students who were not previously tested in how well they understand, speak, read and write English. The district also agreed to provide the students with extra English language help during other classes including math, social studies and science.
In addition, the Boston Public Schools must monitor the academic performance of current and former English language learners and provide English language learner services at all schools.
The Boston Globe, citing documents obtained under a public records request, reported in July that the federal scrutiny began after Boston schools revealed during a routine state review that 42 percent of the district’s nearly 11,000 English language learners were not receiving the legally required help.
In a statement last Friday, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said that since 2003, Boston Public Schools had failed to properly identify and adequately serve thousands of English language learners under federal law.
Officials said the settlement came after federal authorities examined the district’s policies and visited schools.
“All students who are not proficient in English are entitled to language acquisition services to overcome language barriers that impede their equal and meaningful participation in educational programs,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
For months now, Boston schools have made changes in anticipation of settlement agreement.
“This agreement outlines the work that is already under way in Boston for students learning English,” Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson said in a statement Friday. “Within the last two years we have made significant investments for ELL students and their families that will ensure they are receiving a quality education in any school they choose in Boston.”