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Closing the Educational Gap for Multilingual Learners

New York State has always prided itself on being a welcoming home to immigrants. But the state’s school system has failed to live up to a standard of education for immigrant children that we can be proud of.

There are nearly 250,000 multilingual learners in New York State—most of them native speakers of Spanish—and too many of them are finding it difficult to complete their education. According to a new report published by the Hispanic Federation-led Latino Educational Advocacy Directors (LEAD) Coalition, multilingual learners in New York State continue to fall behind in graduation rates compared to other students due to lack of adequate focus on needed resources and funding. The report, Investing in our Future: A Multilingual Learner Policy Agenda for NYS, found that while the population of MLLs across New York State has grown nearly 20% over the last ten years, the supply of certified Bilingual Education and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers has not grown accordingly. The result of this failure to invest in these students has been that multilingual learners have a staggering dropout rate of 30 percent that surpasses their graduation rate of 27 percent.

In an effort to get New York State to invest in these students, the LEAD Coalition has launched a statewide campaign calling on Albany to increase funding for multilingual learners. The campaign called “Invest in Our Future,” kicked off officially last month with the publication of the Investing in Our Future report which outlines the challenges facing multilingual learners and a series of recommendations aimed at closing the achievement gap among this high need student population.

“We cannot afford to ignore the needs of New York State’s multilingual learners (MLLs) any longer,” said Marissa Muñoz, HF’s Senior Director of Educational Advocacy. “As our report shows, the failure of our state to provide adequate resources and supports for our MLLs has created a full fledge educational crisis, where the MLL four-year dropout rate is actually higher than the MLL four-year graduation rate. This is simply unacceptable and requires immediate action on the part of our state leadership. Together, we must act with bold purpose to provide the funding and appropriate resources our MLLs need to succeed academically. I’m proud of Hispanic Federation’s role in the work of the LEAD Coalition so that all students receive a quality education that puts them on the pathway to postsecondary success.”

The LEAD Coalition report outlines six priority recommendations to close the multilingual learner achievement gap including:

  • Fund a Targeted Initiative to Increase Graduation Rates for MLLs
  • Increase the Number of Certified ESOL and BE Teachers in General and Special Education
  • Grow Investment in Academic Supports and Parent Engagement for MLLs
  • Increase Socio-Emotional Supports Provided to MLLs Form a New York State Commission to Advance the Achievement of MLLs
  • Earmark a Minimum of $85 Million annually for MLLs over a Three Years Phase in of the Total $4.1 million Owed in Foundation Aid

As part of the campaign launch, the LEAD Coalition also unveiled a new website: and a public forum featuring advocates and state education officials on the state of multilingual learners who answered questions from parents attending. The list of education leaders included, Dr. Luis Reyes, Regent, NYS Board of Regents, Angélica Infante-Green, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Education Department, Joe Luft, Executive Director, Internationals Network, Rita Rodriguez, Director, Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, Advocates for Children and Evelyn DeJesus, Vice President for Education United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

“We have created a coalition of the most important education stakeholders in our communities,” Muñoz said. “We need Albany to understand that we are all, as a community, deeply concerned about the education and success of these children and that we need them to respond.”

For more information about the “invest in our future” campaign visit: