Over the weekend, the Boston Globe ran a story about the Boston Public School system violating the civil rights of students who were not fluent in English. Here’s a link to the story. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Pretty interesting, right? As someone who worked in the public school system, I’ve seen, first hand, the damage done by a lack of properly trained ESL and ELL teachers. Students who suffer under these teachers are shunted through the ESL and ELL system only to be spit out with barely a basic grasp of English grammar, the ability to read and the ability to write in English.

Even now, at my current job, I’ve come across students who are products of this poor system. I commend them for their determination to overcome such a setback, and I do what I can to teach them the rules of the language they missed. However, I’ve also seen good teachers who take the time to give these students the help they require. These educators care enough to go the extra length to make sure their students understand, and Carol Johnson needs more of them.

I respect the fact that Johnson, the BPS superintendent, signed an agreement to make immediate change  but it seems like that is only a stalling maneuver. This has been an issue since 2003, four years before Johnson was brought in, so why hasn’t there been more and greater movement on this?

Well, probably money.

Everyone is aware that the vicissitudes of the economy have affected funds readily available to public schools, but that is not an excuse for this: “school officials, by their own admission, were encouraging parents to decline services because programs were full or because officials were not adequately explaining educational options.”

When close to 42 percent of ELL students are not receiving services because school officials are pushing students away from help or just not doing their job outright, changes need to be made. I’m glad the US Department of Education and Department of Justice have stepped in. It’s not that I don’t trust the BPS to fix itself, I think Johnson is the person to get it done, but a little pressure from the federal government lets people not familiar with the issue know that it is a serious one.

After I read this story, I was crestfallen. The story threw into sharp relief the good work my coworkers and I did at the writing center. But we were fighting a losing battle against insurmountable odds. Hopefully, with this new agreement and the corrections it is implementing, ESL and ELL students will get the help they need.

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