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DOE Didn't Put Out Translated Common Core Materials Until Month of Test

By Nigel Chiwaya | October 2, 2013 7:29am
  Less than 18 percent of uptown 3-8th graders scored at proficient on the new math and english tests.
Uptown Children Struggle With Tougher Common Core Tests
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NORTHERN MANHATTAN — The Department of Education didn't give out teaching materials to help kids who are learning English pass the new, harder Common Core tests until the month of the test last spring — a delay that northern Manhattan parents say contributed to their students' poor performance on the exams.

Just five percent of kids who are learning English in uptown's District 6 passed the third-through-eighth-grade math tests last spring, while just 2.3 percent passed the English Language Arts test, according to DOE data.

Those numbers trail the district as a whole, which saw 17 percent of students pass the math test and 14.3 percent pass the English test, and they're far below the city average of nearly 30 percent of students passing the math test and 26.4 percent passing the English test.

Uptown parents said students learning English were faced with an unnecessarily difficult struggle this year as they took the tests without the aid of textbooks or handouts in their native languages.

"Knowing that the Common Core curriculum is not available in Spanish is really negatively affecting our district," said Miriam Aristy-Farer, president of the District 6 Community Education Council and mother of a fourth-grader who took the exams last spring. "The numbers don't lie."

The Department of Education put out a list of supplemental materials to help students who are learning English pass the math and ELA exams, but not until last April, the same month that students took the tests, DOE documents show. The full set of materials won't be made available until this fall, according to the documents.

In the meantime, teachers at transitional bilingual and dual-language programs were instructed not to translate the English curriculum into other languages, the DOE said in documents.

District 6 Superintendent Elsa Nunez also blamed some of the students' struggle on a non-uniform curriculum that left teachers uncertain of what would be on the exam.

"Although the Common Core was adopted in 2010, the curriculum was not aligned to it," Nunez said at the CEC's September meeting. "So last [school] year, the teachers were scrambling trying to align the units based on what they thought the exam was going to cover."

A DOE spokesman did not respond to questions about the delays in curriculum and supplemental materials. However, the spokesman, Devon Puglia, said in an email that the Department of Education is in contact with schools that have students who are learning English as a second language. 

"There are materials available and there’s been communication with schools that support second language learners," Puglia said.

Aristy-Farer said the CEC would address the issue by forming an English Language Learners committee and examining strategies used by schools that were most successful.

"We can't pay for curriculum to be translated and provided," Aristy-Farer said. "But what we can do is see who is doing it well and if it's something that we can look at other schools to start implementing."