The Department of Education says it made some big changes this year when it comes to serving students learning English. But City Council members questioned why the statistics have not improved. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Two-thirds of the students in city public schools are immigrants or the children of immigrants and they show up to school speaking 168 different languages. But while the city may have a lot of experience educating students who are still learning English, it has not had a lot of success.
In fact, New York State put the city on a formal "corrective action plan" last fall, saying city schools had been out of compliance for decades when it came to serving students learning English.
But Thursday, city officials told City Council they're now on track.
"I am delighted to report that the Department has exceeded the targets for each of the identified areas of improvement," said Corinne Rello-Anselmi of the Department of Education.
Those areas of improvement include opening more than 60 new bilingual programs and putting a specific plan in place to increase the number of certified bilingual teachers.
But still, the numbers, already low, actually went down this year when it comes to English learners. Their graduation rate fell to 39 percent and just 11.6 percent passed the state reading exam.
"The fact that ELL scores have declined when all others have increased is disgraceful," said City Councilman Robert Jackson.
Councilman David Greenfield asked the DOE why it presented the "corrective action plan" as a type of reward without acknowledging all of the issues that remain.
"To build upon our success, in October 2011, the State Education Department and the NYC Department of Education agreed on a corrective action plan to improve and expand our services to English language learners," Rello-Anselmi said.
"Now, I'm no expert but I believe the reason why you have a corrective action plan is because there are problems," Greenfield said. "Things were so great that you and the state sat down and they said "congratulations, we're going to have a corrective action plan!"
DOE officials then acknowledged they still have a long way to go when it comes to improving results. But they said that now that they're doing a better job complying with state requirements, they hope student performance begins to improve.