The English-Second-Language Gap in Philadelphia Schools

Of all Philadelphia households, about 6.8 percent speak limited English, according to the U.S. Census.

Of that 6.8 percent, over a quarter primarily speak Spanish, according to the U.S. Census.

The School District of Philadelphia offers two main services for children who do not speak English as their primary language.

However, schools in Philadelphia that offer these accommodations are slim in comparison to other major cities.

Philadelphia has only six schools that offer programs listed on the official school district website.

Sources include The School District of Philadelphia, Chicago Public Schools, and New York City Department of Education.

Chicago, another major city, has 15 different publicly-funded schools with dual language education and another five will be added by next school year.

As of 2015, New York City has over 465 transitional bilingual or dual language programs for english-second-language students, according to the New York City Department of Education.

The two main options Philadelphia offers include English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Bilingual Programs. Both types of programs is get students to meet the Pennsylvania Department of Education Exit Criteria within five years of participating. The goal of ESOL is to teach English while also teaching students’ at their appropriate grade level. The Bilingual program aims for students to learn both literacy and content in two specific languages: English and Spanish, according to the School District of Philadelphia.

Specific schools that adhere to some type of bilingual program model include Alexander McClure, Bayard Taylor School, Cayuga, Lewis Elkin School, Hon. Luis Muñoz Marín, and Southwark School.

The School Reform Commission has other prominent issues that is it’s focus at the moment. The School Reform Commission is the entity that controls the city’s school district.

These issues include poverty, adequate staffing of educators, and low academic performance according to Superintendent Dr. William Hite.

A mural by Mural Arts Philadelphia across the street from Dr. Tanner G. Duckrey Public School in North Philadelphia. This school is not on the list of schools that have some type of bilingual programs.

that is not on the list of Philadelphia public schools with some type of ESOL program on

Hite understands that more should be done for students whose primarily language is not English and has previously stated this to Philadelphia’s City Council in May 2015 when discussing how to improve Philadelphia’s school system.

“We asked school leaders and their teams to tell us how they best use the resources to meet student needs,” Hite said. “…common themes include additional resources to English Learning Learners.”

Since that May 2015 council meeting, the Newcomer Learning Academy has been announced to open. The Newcomer Learning Academy is supposed to provide students new to America and the English language an accelerated course of study to aid their success in school. It’s advertised as a ‘[provider of] academic and social opportunities to improve English language skills in a nurturing environment.”

The Newcomer Learning Academy will be located at the Franklin Learning Center at 616 N. 15th Street in Spring Garden.

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