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Is this what success looks like?

The ELL student academic program at Hope High School appears to be in total disarray

Photo by Richard Asinof

Scaffolding surrounds Hope High School.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 1/20/20
Despite the outward appearance of infrastructure improvements being made to the edifice of Hope High School, there appear to be defects in the way that ELL students, who make up more than half of the school’s population, are being taught, with many lacking a regular teacher.
What are the consequences of failed instruction for ELL students at the high school level? Who is responsible for making the necessary changes to get regular ELL teachers into the classroom? Do the current classroom conditions at Hope High School violate the terms of the consent decree with the Department of Justice?
Much has been made about the potential future partnerships with institutions of higher learning in Rhode Island and the Providence public schools. In this real-life situation, what are the opportunities for local colleges and universities to provide interim ELL instructors for Hope High School to remedy the current urgent situation? Is this something that Commissioner Infante-Green can make a priority?

PROVIDENCE – The scaffolding surrounding Hope High School provides tangible evidence that work is underway to repair the infrastructure of the school building, at least from the outside looking in.

But what is happening on the inside, regarding repair of the curriculum for students attending classes at Hope High School?

There were some 812 students who were enrolled in grades 9-12 at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, according to available data sources.

More than one-third – 326 students – have been designated as English Language Learning, or ELL students. That number grows to 449 if it includes all the students who were designated ELL students. Some students have waived services but may still need annual testing.

Translated, that means that more than half the students currently enrolled at Hope High School are being monitored for their English language proficiency. That is a big number of students.

The average class size for teachers working with ELL students was estimated to be around 27 students.

Questions to be answered
Here are some questions, hopefully, that can be answered by R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, or by Hope High School Principal Matthew Buchanan and his administrative team.

The first question is: What kinds of services are available for ELL students at Hope High School, if any exist, beyond the classroom?

The second question is: How many students who are ELL students at Hope High School lack a regular teacher? Does that mean that instruction is day-to-day, fill-in-the-blank, with no continuity, no lessons, and little learning?

The third question is: What are the proficiency levels of ELL students at Hope High School? The anecdotal evidence is that the high school serves students with little or no English proficiency, the ones who need the most support to succeed in academics.

As best as could be determined, the breakdown of ELL students at Hope High School has 141 students designated as “entering,” 82 students designed as “emerging,” 80 students designated as “developing,” 59 designated as bridging and 4 as “reaching.” Is that an accurate assessment?

The fourth question is: What are the numbers of special education students who are in self-contained special education classes and are also classified as ELL students? Are they getting all the educational services as required by law? Is there a potential violation of standards established by the U.S. Department of Justice decree?

The fifth question is: If these dire conditions exist for ELL students at Hope High School, many of whom may lack a regular teacher, what are the kinds of urgent responses and solutions that could remedy the situation?

Perhaps the most important benchmark in answering these questions revolve around future hiring plans: Are there plans to hire a full-time ELL teacher and a full-time ELL substitute? What is the schedule to complete such hiring? Is Hope High School actively advertising for ELL teaching positions. Youth wants to know. 

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