Adequate Teaching Levels for English-Language Learners
A parent filed a complaint with OCR against a school district that has thousands of English language learners. When OCR began its investigation, staff found that there were only 16 teachers and four paraprofessionals trained to serve these students. OCR's intervention resulted in the school district hiring 90 additional capable teachers and 81 para-professionals. Because the teachers and teaching assistants were new hires and their status may have been jeopardized by possible layoffs, OCR worked with the school district and its teachers' union to amend their procedures so that alternative program staffing levels would remain adequate even in the case of layoffs. In addition, OCR and the school district collaboratively developed a tuition reimbursement program to encourage teachers to earn specialized certification to teach in alternative language programs. In 1999, 41 teaching staff were working toward this goal through the new tuition reimbursement program.
English Language Learners Get Much Needed Assistance From School District
OCR staff learned that in a western school district that had 1,272 English language learners out of 13,000 students, most of the district's English language learners were instructed by teachers who were only minimally qualified or who were teacher assistants. More than half of the students received no alternative language program. In addition, students were being evaluated with instruments that required knowledge of English and, not surprisingly, many were inappropriately classified and placed in special education programs that did not offer an alternative language program.
OCR's intervention resulted in significant changes, including training on the requirements of an alternative language program, to dozens of teachers and administrators. In response, the school district made immediate and positive changes. Specialized teachers in English as a Second Language were hired and child assessment teams were deployed at each school to review each student's assessment, placement and education needs. OCR has continued to monitor and review schools throughout the District and has kept in communication with its administrators. Last August, a reworked plan was approved that provides additional services to students whose first language is not English.
School District Receives Federal Refugee Funding
A former teacher filed a complaint with OCR against a school district, saying that it under-served English-language learners. The changes the district made, with OCR's assistance, included: appropriate identification and assessment of English language learners, placing them in appropriate programs, and monitoring them to make sure their transition to other programs was successful. These changes prompted a federal agency that supports refugee relocation to give the school district additional funding for its language-assistance program.
Latino Students Were Segregated
The OCR established that a school district unjustifiably segregated Latino students from other students during both academic and non-academic classes. Latino students were even separated from others for lunch and assemblies. The reason for their segregation was solely their national origin: the district did not measure their English-language skills before grouping them with other Latino students. The district had other problems, as well. In these children's academic program, the quality of schooling varied from one grade to the next and lacked an overall educational framework. By the time the students reached high school, they had a significantly higher drop-out rate and a lower college admission rate than students who were not Latino. Through assistance from the OCR and its ties to the state department of education and the Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, the district designed a comprehensive program to end segregation and implement effective programs for English-language-learning students of all national origins. Both the district and the community have praised the OCR for our method of resolving this issue and for the continuing assistance provided: "This letter is to express...our sincere gratitude and appreciation for the quality assistance, guidance and leadership that has been provided by you and your staff managing our complaint against the [state]."