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The State of Bilingual Education in Connecticut

studentsIf state policymakers needed even more reasons to implement programs to bolster the performance of English Language Learners, they heard plenty this morning on WNPR. For starters, panel members on “Where We Live” pointed out that the four-year high school graduation rate for English language learners is only 60 percent compared to a rate of 83 percent for students proficient in English.

Host John Dankosky noted that the number of English language learners in Connecticut schools has increased by 50 percent over the last 10 years, yet there are now fewer certified bilingual teachers than there were 10 years ago. Most English language learners are concentrated in the state’s urban districts, yet smaller districts are also seeing an increase in this population of students.

Orlando Rodriguez, associate legislative analyst at the state’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, said that there aren’t sufficient resources available to meet the needs of students learning English. Six percent of students statewide need bilingual education services, yet only one tenth of one percent of the state’s Education Cost Sharing grant goes to bilingual education resources, according to Rodriguez.

Robert Cotto Jr., director of urban educational initiatives at Trinity College, said that a study done by researchers at Trinity College showed that families in Connecticut with children who are English language learners are less likely to apply to magnet schools. Overall, charters, magnets, and technical schools tend to have a lower percentage of English language learners than the districts that send students to those schools.

Different schools offer different types of bilingual education programs, some of which are more successful than others. Connecticut has few dual language schools — schools that teach in English for part of the day and another language for the second part of the day — yet Rodriguez said that fourth graders who attend dual language schools from first through fourth grade outperform fourth graders who attend schools with transitional programs. Transitional programs start by teaching students in their native language and move students to English language classes as their proficiency increases.

The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission is hosting a Public Policy Forum on English Language Learners and Bilingual Education at the State Capitol on January 13. Click here for more information.

Listen to the entire “Where We Live” conversation here.

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