For students with limited English, glaring gaps in achievement and state remedies – Part I

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish

By: Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, non-profit, non-partisan news organization, covering government, politics and public policy in the state. In order to provide our readers with the full scope of this in-depth report on how the state handles non-English speaking students in the public school system, the article will be published in two parts. “Part 2” will be featured in our April 22 issue.

The state is desperately trying to find more teachers for students who speak and understand limited English.

So a story told at a recent Education Committee hearing was particularly troubling. A teacher who had taught in Puerto Rico for 20 years said he couldn’t teach bilingual education in Connecticut because of the state’s stricter certification requirements.

“This is really not the sort of story we want to hear,” said Rep. Andy Fleischmann, House chair of the Education Committee, and one of the top state legislators seeking to overhaul education for English learners.

With one out of every 15 students in Connecticut’s public schools speaking and understanding limited English, their achievement lags far behind that of their classmates. The gap in Connecticut is among the largest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

And the state’s strategy to catch these students up largely depends on a dwindling qualified workforce of teachers, while the number of students is steadily increasing across the state.

“The gaps in our understanding of these issues and how to deal with them was all so glaring,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said recently after receiving a report from a panel he appointed to review the system.

Parents and advocates in some Connecticut school districts have noticed.

Facing federal investigations into the education being provided to English learners, Hartford and Stamford school officials over the last two years promised major changes. There is also an open investigation into New Britain Public Schools…



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