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Photos by Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza at P.S. 96 in Brooklyn on Dec. 11

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving a $13 million grant to New York City for will be used to better equip middle school teachers to instruct multilingual learners, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced Wednesday at I.S. 96 in Brooklyn.

“Every year there is a diverse range of students in our classrooms and every year it is our responsibility to understand who is in that classroom and to look and act on the data that is generated so we can continue to evolve our practices,” said Carranza.

School Chancellor Richard Carranza sits in on a classroom with multilingual students at IS 98 in Brooklyn. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

The funds will go towards providing teachers with instructional coaching from the DOE and the creation of “instructional networks” in 45 middle schools across the city over the next five years. It will build on improvements DOE previously made to its multilingual learner program through a 2016 Gates Foundation grant benefitting 17 South Brooklyn schools, including I.S. 96.

“When I first came in, I had never been in such a diverse classroom before,” said John Herron, a 6th and 8th grade social studies teacher at I.S. 96. Among his fellow students, there were 15 languages being spoken in one class.

Through the program, Herron and others were able to learn how to get students from “point A to point B.”

But it is unclear as what techniques he was equipped with to help such a diverse group of students better understand their lessons as they tried to learn English.

School Chancellor Richard Carranza listens to multilanguage students discuss The Jungle by Upton Sinclair at IS 98 in Brooklyn. The school received funding from the DOE in 2016 to help teachers develop better techniques for teaching students learning English. ( Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

The schools that received help from the initial grant saw an 86 percent increase in the number of multilingual learners scoring Proficient or Advanced on the New York State ELA exam, according to the DOE. Multilingual learners test out of ESL services once they score a 3 or a 4 on the state ELA exam.

“This is really a colleague to colleague, peer to peer instructional coaching,” said Carranza.

The grant will allow for teachers to visit colleagues classrooms and to observe teaching practices. The first $10 million of the grant will go towards the coaching for teachers via the Fund for Public Schools and $2 million will given to the schools directly to use as they see fit. Some of the funds will go towards hiring coaches.

None of the 45 schools to receive help have been identified yet but according to the DOE, 20 schools will start to receive expanded services starting in the 2020-2021 school year.

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