Bilingual-Ed Students are Quitting at a Growing Rate

ALBANY – Immigrants learning English in city schools are dropping out at nearly double the rate they were two years ago – far surpassing the overall student dropout rate, The Post has learned.

Of the 9,942 students in the class of 2000 who were in bilingual programs, 31 percent quit school, a sharp increase from the 17 percent dropout rate in 1998, according to city Board of Education figures.

The gap between immigrants learning English in special classes and other students also is widening, the numbers also show.

For the class of 1999, the dropout rate for English-language learners was only 4 percent higher than in the overall student population. That figure rose to 11 percent last year.

The overall city schools dropout rate rose to 19.3 percent from 17.6 percent.

The alarming increase among immigrants coincides with tougher state standards that took effect last year, requiring almost all students to pass the English Regents exam before graduating.

The troubling statistics have immigrant groups and some lawmakers stepping up their call for a suspension of the state’s English graduation standards for students in language-immersion programs.

Mark Lewis, of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a letter to state education officials that “a safety net is needed” for these students to give them “a realistic chance” of graduating.

State Education Department spokesman Alan Ray denied higher Regents standards were behind the rising dropout rate.

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