About 8,300 students in Boston who are not fluent in English will receive the extra help to which they are legally entitled to overcome their language barriers, under a settlement reached between federal civil rights investigators and the Boston public schools.
The agreement, announced this afternoon by local and federal officials, caps off an investigation launched earlier this year by the US departments of education and justice, who were concerned that Boston schools had been denying thousands of students appropriate services to learn English since 2003.
The students, starting this school year, now receive specialized instruction in core academic classes, such as English and math, that is designed for students not fluent in English. These classes will be taught in English, but teachers will use more simplified English and other techniques geared for students with a language barrier. On limited occasions, the teachers will speak in a student's native tongue.
The district also has agreed to overhaul its testing of students for fluency in English. The federal investigation found that about 4,000 students should have been receiving services, but were not because the district's inadequate testing erroneously determined they were fluent.
"All English Language Learner students deserve a quality education free from discrimination that will help them prepare for success in life," Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, said in a statement.
Thomas E. Perez, a US Justice Department official in the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement that "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.''
Perez said the federal agencies will continue to monitor the Boston school system.
Boston schools, in anticipation of reaching the settlement agreement, has already put many of the prescribed remedies in place for this fall.
“This agreement outlines the work that is already underway in Boston for students learning English,” said Boston schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson in a statement. “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.”
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