Buffalo schools adjust to growing numbers of English Language Learners

Jun 6, 2016

Buffalo Public schools have 6,000 students who are what are known as English Language Learners or ELL's. As they struggle learning the English language, they also struggle with standardized tests.

In all, 77 different languages are spoken by city students. About half of the children who do not speak English, were born in the United States.

"You have to identify what the child knows," said Assistant Schools Superintendent Nadia Nashir in explaining how the district works with the students.

Inside Lafayette High School in Buffalo where students speak many languages.
Credit WBFO News file photo

"Were they born here? If they were born here, your expectations have changed involving communication awareness in language because we know that our children, many of them, participate in our Head Start program."

The district screens the students right away. Multi-lingual clerks are hired into the registration to assist with the process.

That process can claim some success. Last year, 700 students graduated from bi-lingual programs. Still, the challenge is only expected grow.

"Population of the Buffalo public schools is pretty stagnant, however the English Language Learner subgroup is increasing in vast numbers. In fact, in less than six years, we have more than doubled our English Language Learner population," Nashir said.