Like many New Yorkers, I am a child of immigrants. Being a City of immigrants is what makes us strong and resilient, and as New Yorkers, we take pride in living in a diverse, multicultural place. That same pride extends to our schools. First and foremost, we know that in the 21st century, speaking more than one language opens doors and opportunities for our City’s students. That’s why, as Chancellor, I am dedicated to increasing Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education programs across the City, which provide instruction for students to acquire fluency in two languages while fostering an appreciation for multiple cultures. In other words, to be thoughtful and productive citizens of our country – and our world.
This year, I am particularly proud that we are opening 68 new Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education programs across all five boroughs in September 2017. This large expansion includes our first Urdu Transitional Bilingual Education program in Brooklyn, in addition to programs in Chinese, Russian, Arabic, French, Bengali, and Spanish.
Bilingual programs are critical for the 150,000 English Language Learners who attend public school in New York City. As a former ELL myself, I know the many benefits that come with being bilingual. This expansion will give hundreds of ELLs access to high-quality bilingual programs, preparing them for real world experiences and success in the classroom and beyond.
Bilingual programs give our students confidence as they develop proficiency in a second language and can also help students to develop a vision for their futures. One of our remarkable students, Carlos Vega, attends Manhattan Bridges High School. Carlos was born in Mexico and arrived in New York with his parents six years ago. Moving to New York City exposed him to different languages, cultures and needs of people, in particular he noticed many handicapped New Yorkers struggling to get on the train, climb stairs and overall navigate the City independently. Carlos is a Pre-Engineering and Dual Language student and hopes to one day create prosthetics and sensory aids to help people without limbs to become more independent. This is the beauty of our City and our bilingual programs, which increase opportunities for thousands of students like Carlos every day.
Parents are partners in expanding bilingual programs. Family engagement helps us open bilingual programs in neighborhoods that need them, and I am pleased to hear from parents at town hall meetings requesting these programs in their schools. We want to hear from our communities about the Dual Language and Transitional Bilingual Education programs that they need.
And doing a better job of reaching parents – who represent the diversity and many cultures of New York City – is also on our mind. As Chancellor, providing families with limited English skills access to information, workshops and conferences in their native language has been one of my biggest priorities. Since the fall, for the first time, we’ve offered Native Language Parent Conferences for families in Mandarin, Bengali, Arabic and Spanish. I encourage families to attend these conferences, and also to find other ways to get involved in their child’s education. It could be through a weekend club or English classes-there are many ways for the entire family to support their child’s future.
I look forward to visiting these programs, and seeing the benefits firsthand for our students and families. As we continue to bring more educational opportunities to students across the city, we’re celebrating our diversity, building Equity and Excellence across our schools, and putting more students on the path to college and meaningful careers.
To learn how to apply for these programs, families can call 718-935-3500 or visit one of our family welcome centers.