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Traveling to Brooklyn to find a successful graduation rate among ELL students

Similar troubles within the Buffalo Public School District are happening in other districts across the country. The Buffalo News has been launching a series of stories that look at how a district in New York City is tackling low-graduation rates at an international school. In this Focus on Education report WBFO'S Eileen Buckley talks with Buffalo News Education reporter Sandra Tan who traveled to Brooklyn to learn about a teaching model for English Language Learners.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
International flags line the hallway at Lafayette High School representing many countries of students.

Tan visited the International High School at Prospect Heights.  It is a school closely matching Lafayette High School in Buffalo, where there is a high population of immigrants and refugees struggling to learn because they are still trying to speak English.  Lafayette has a low graduation rate that hovers in the 20% range.  But Tan said the school in Brooklyn a formula has been created that has boosted graduation rates hovering in the high 60 to 70-percent range. 

"The goal here is instead of the Buffalo News focusing all is time on what's wrong with the Buffalo Schools to really go out and find places where this is working. To help the district come up with some solutions and to highlight places where they're taking the same issues that Buffalo has  and actually seeing high achievement rates for their students," said Tan. "It can be difficult to see that when you are simply bombarded with stories that focus on the problems that the Buffalo School district has."   

Tan said unlike Buffalo, the school in Brooklyn leverages its entire student population, removing some of the burden from teachers who are struggling to teach, coach and tutors English Language Learners.

"They took students who knew more and paired them with students who knew less they mixed their 9th and 10th grades together They made sure that every student in the classroom was a teacher in their own way,"said Tan. They were expected to be coaches and tutors for their classmates and in that way they were able to bring up the entire academic level of their entire class."              

You can read part one of Tan's story on International High School at Prospect Heights this Sunday in the Buffalo News.  It will be followed by a close look at Lafayette and the challenges it is facing.  

"Buffalo has a lot of the same problems that many other urban school districts face, but other urban school districts and other urban schools have chose to handle them differently," noted Tan.

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