Recently, we’ve learned more information about the deep systemic issues in our school department and how they are harming our ever-growing multilingual student population. Much like the John Hopkins report, this recently publicized ELL Report produced by the Council of the Great City Schools sheds a more intimate light on how our broken school system is not prioritizing students and families. This same disservice was dire enough to warrant the attention of the U.S. Justice Department last year that found that for years we’ve been failing our ELL students.
In addition to failing to provide the necessary supports and resources our ELL students require, a Boston Globe article this week reported that the Classical High School admissions test is only offered in English and that only 8 out of 1000 students at Classical, the City’s most prestigious high school, are in fact ELL.
These longstanding issues point to a more critical problem: this notion or narrative that multilingual learners are the ‘other’ and that they aren’t as capable or as knowledgeable as their English-speaking peers. When children, no matter what language they speak, aren’t treated as the centerpiece of a school culture it manifests itself in the subpar services they are provided and in the problematic behaviors undervalued students often portray.
In order to fix this disservice, we must first confront the biases embedded in our systems, structures, and in ourselves. We have to start treating multilingualism as an asset and not a deficiency and we have to build an educational system that accounts for the needs and supports of our ELL students from inception.
I am hopeful that the state’s intervention will provide us the opportunity to do just that.
Sabina Matos, President – Providence City Council – Councilwoman for Ward 15