Mayor Rudy Giuliani
York City is the gateway for thousands of immigrants each year,
and immigration has long been a source of our city’s greatest
strength. Immigrants come here with a dream of freedom and success,
but their best chance of being successful in this country is by
becoming as proficient as possible in English. Education is the
ladder of success for immigrants, it is the fast track to the
It is essential that we do everything possible to give the children
of immigrants every chance to succeed. Recently, the Board of
Education took a step in the right direction by adopting reforms
that create an English immersion program and empower parents to
choose between traditional bilingual instruction and English immersion.
The sad reality is that more than half of our non-English-speaking
students do not learn enough English in three years of bilingual
education to move into mainstream classes. City schools have historically
offered two bilingual models: a traditional program where students
are taught in the language they speak, and a limited immersion
program where students receive up to three hours of English instruction
The Board of Education reports that English immersion works best
for young students. According to their data, 84 percent of those
enrolled in kindergarten exit within three years. In contrast,
traditional bilingual programs have a far lower success rate.
Therefore, if parents of non-English-speaking children want them
to enter mainstream classes as quickly as possible, they should
choose English immersion. But until now, they have not had that
choice. Instead, such children were automatically enrolled in
bilingual programs, from which parents had to take affirmative
steps to remove them. Even more incredible was the absence in
our system of a true English immersion model, where students learn
to speak English as quickly as possible.
The new plan is based largely on a report by the Mayor’s Task
Force on Bilingual Education, of which Chancellor Harold Levy
was a member. The Board of Education has adopted the following
In addition to the traditional bilingual instruction, an English
immersion program will be created.
Parents will be empowered to make informed choices about which
program is best for their child. They will be able to choose whether
to place their children in bilingual or English immersion programs.
Students mired in bilingual education will get special instruction
to speed them into mainstream classes: The City has budgeted $9
million for Project English, high-intensity English classes after
school and on every weekend during the school year.
Children will be expected to meet and beat the state standard
of exiting bilingual programs within three years.
More resources will be devoted to recruiting and training bilingual
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