Bilingual Programs in New York City: Part 2 (2023)

A Closer Look by Language Community

In Part 1 of this series on the demographics behind bilingual schools in NYC, I discussed the unique multilingualism of New York, the different types of bilingual programs offered in New York City public schools, and started to chart the distributions of the language communities across the city. This was all in an effort to answer the following question on a macro level:

To what extent do bilingual schools in the NYC serve the needs of language communities in the city?

Ok, so I found that Russian and Yiddish speakers are concentrated in Brooklyn. However this data is not specific enough to answer my question school by school. Anyone who has been to New York knows that the boroughs are all enormous in their own right. To paint a more nuanced picture that gets us closer to the school level, we need a smaller geographical unit: census tracts.

What is a Census Tract?

A census tract is a small geographical subdivision used by the U.S. Census Bureau. The borders of census tracts don’t change from census to census, so it’s easy to compare data over time, and see how communities change. While the federal government aims for each Census tract to represent around 4,000 people, the actual population in any census tract can vary from around 1,000 up to over 8,000 people. While the boundaries of these tracts ideally do not change over time, the population within them can fluctuate.

Bilingual Programs in New York City: Part 2 (1)

New York City is made up of 2,123 Census Tracts. Creating maps that are organized by small geographies like this are much more useful than going over a citywide statistic. For example, you might know what percentage of New Yorkers do not speak English well citywide. However, that one statistic varies enormously from neighborhood to neighborhood in the city, as demonstrated in Figure 1. Midtown Manhattan is extremely different from South Brooklyn, and the city government needs to acknowledge that to effectively deliver services to these very different communities. Interpreting services at polling sites, schools, signage in public parks and so much more must be updated for the language communities in each place to be able to access them.

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I will first take a deeper dive into the distribution of the Russian-speaking community. In Figure 2, I mapped the locations of schools with bilingual Russian programs on top of a census tract map of the number of Russian Speakers. Of the five schools with such programs, four are located in South Brooklyn; in Brighton Beach and Bensonhurst. They are close to the largest populations of Russian speakers in the city. It seems that these schools are intended to serve students who speak Russian at home. However, there is one school that is an outlier on West 105th Street in Manhattan.

Bilingual Programs in New York City: Part 2 (2)

The Bloomingdale School is an elementary school that boasts both Spanish and Russian dual language programs. The Russian dual language program is newer, and teachers cite the growth of the Russian speaking community as an opportunity for students who enroll in this program. The data in Figure 2 does not suggest that there is such a big community in the area to enroll in the program though. This mismatch leads us to a huge caveat in mapping such small geographies in New York City, which is caused by School Choice.

While an analysis on the level of School Districts might clear up this discrepancy, even this geographical unit may not be large enough to capture all of the students who attend the Bloomingdale School, or any NYC public school for that matter.

“One-third [of kindergartners] migrate across community school district lines, usually toward higher-income neighborhoods: from Harlem to the Upper West Side; from Crown Heights to Fort Greene; or from southeast Queens to Bayside.”

Bilingual Programs in New York City: Part 2 (3)

According to a report from the New School Center for New York City affairs, only 60% of kindergartners attend the schools that they were zoned for in 2016–2017. Within District 3 — where the Bloomingdale School is located — only roughly 35% of kindergartners attended their zoned school, and 25% of kindergartners left the district entirely, or attended a charter school.

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To return to our guiding question, more analysis is needed to determine whether the dual language program at the Bloomingdale School effectively serves the needs of the two following two overlapping groups students, as well as their families.

  1. The students who are zoned for this school, and
  2. The students who attend this school.

At this point, we are likely better off speaking to the students, teachers, and parents themselves to see what they think of the program.

[Note: To return to Figure 2, there is a second concentration of Russian speakers in Forest Hills, Queens, that is not served by a bilingual school in the area. This area is home to a large population of Bukharian Jews from Uzbekistan. Although many in the community speak Russian, they are distinct from other Russian-speaking communities in the city. Their unique history and identity show a limitation of organizing by language community. There can be many communities who speak the same language who have their own needs and their own institutions, even within the same city!]

Barring the one outlier in Manhattan, Russian-speaking schools seem to be located where they make the most sense. The data is straightforward and easy to map, but that is not the case for all other communities.

It is important to note that on some level, every grouping of languages that the census relies on is problematic. While some categories such as “West African Languages” are clearly catch-all categories, others slip more easily under the radar. You might not be put off by a map of “Chinese speakers,” but this category does not make mention of the hugely different dialects of Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese to name two of them. If some people speak only one dialect and not the other, then we cannot think of Chinese speakers as just one language community.

We run into the same problem with Arabic speakers who come from different countries, whose dialects are also very divergent. Luckily in this case, there is a culturally standard dialect that allows speakers of different dialects to communicate, but this is already getting far too complicated to map each language as a different color on one map.

Consider speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch (the Amish) and Yiddish speakers (mostly religious Jewish people in New York). While their languages are grammatically more similar than even different dialects of Arabic, hardly anyone would want to group these communities together. It just doesn’t make any sense! Yet, the Census does! At the end of the day, we need to classify different language communities somehow, and the best we can do is make sure we note this diversity and heterogeneity implicit within every group.

French and Haitian Creole

Another example of this combination within categories is the grouping of French and Haitian Creole. Haitian Creole is a French-based creole, and so it is often grouped together with French for the purposes of statistical analysis. In 2016, the Census Bureau established a separate code for Haitian Creole, but “French” still includes other French-based creoles and dialects such as Cajun from Louisiana.

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Figure 4 is based on data from the 5-year American Communities Survey from 2018, and so in this example French and Haitian Creole are still mapped together. While it is not immediately clear where there are more speakers of French and where there are more speakers of Haitian Creole, we gain a fuller picture by mapping locations of French and Haitian Creole bilingual schools.

Haitian Creole schools are concentrated in Central Brooklyn in neighborhoods such as Crown Heights and Flatbush. Three of these six schools are Transitional Bilingual Education Programs, which are designed to support students who do not speak English well. We can be reasonably sure that these programs were established with the community in mind. Even the other schools with Dual Language programs are located in close proximity to this community.

Bilingual Programs in New York City: Part 2 (4)

French schools do not follow the same pattern. First of all, all 10 schools with bilingual French programs are Dual Language Programs. They are designed to allow students to gain competency in both languages, not to help English-language learners get a leg up.

This crucial detail changes the way we should think about French language schools altogether. Out of a total 508 bilingual schools in New York City in 2017–2018, 292 of them were Transitional Bilingual Education Programs. This runs counter also to Bengali schools (6, all transitional education), Yiddish schools (6, all transitional), and others. The fact that ALL French programs are dual language indicates that they serve a different purpose in the community than other Bilingual Programs.

They are not intended to support students with different linguistic backgrounds who are zoned for a school. It is to provide further opportunities to the students who attend. To end, we will go back to where we started this discussion— to Chana Joffe-Walt’s remark regarding the establishment of a new French Dual Language Program at a middle school in Cobble Hill Brooklyn.

“There was money for a French program, which meant that at SIS, French had value. Arabic didn’t. Spanish didn’t.”

This, as it turns out, is by design.

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Notes on the Process:

I created the maps used in this blog post in QGIS. Figure 1 was a map I created for a previous project that I added in here to set the stage for my later analysis.

I used data from Table C16001 from the Pratt Neighborhood Data Portal to create figures 2 and 4. I uploaded the shape file from the Portal and in symbology, and I chose the field RU_PO_SL (for speakers of Slavic Languages) as my value. I initially created another field by using RU_PO_SL/Tot to find the percentage of people in each census tract that spoke the language, but the resulting map had only a very few census tracts with 80–100%, and others with very low numbers. I found the raw numbers easier to understand visually.

I repeated the same process with the French and Haitian Creole data, and FR/Tot created a similarly difficult map. To make them easily comparable, I adjusted the classifications to be increments of 500 people.

After I had those maps, I put in the list of Bilingual Programs into Excel, and filtered by language to isolate Russian, French and Haitian Creole. Using, I found the coordinates of these schools and uploaded them as a CSV into QGIS, and in symbology I categorized them by language. This layer on top of the Language Spoken at Home isolated by language showed me the data I was interested in.

I considered performing a union to show the number of speakers of different languages within each school district in New York City, however the more I learn, the less important these smaller geographies seem. The more that families exercise their right to School Choice within New York city, the less they matter, as they no longer constrain where families must send their children to school.

On its own, it does not seem useful. However, a survey of students by school that shows what language they speak at home would be very useful. If we could compare this data with the data in the neighborhoods around each school, then we would know how well diversity within schools reflects the surrounding neighborhoods, and we would be able to tell if this linguistic diversity matches up within census tracts or school districts.


What are 2 types of bilingual programs? ›

Types of Dual Language Programs

Developmental, or maintenance, bilingual programs. These enroll primarily students who are native speakers of the partner language. Two-way (bilingual) immersion programs. These enroll a balance of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language.

How many dual language programs are there in NYC? ›

Instruction is held in both languages, and students in pre-K Dual Language classes may continue on the Dual Language track in Kindergarten and beyond. In addition to the City's pre-K Dual Language programs, there are currently 545 bilingual programs across every borough for students in grades K-12.

What is a dual language program NYC? ›

Dual language programs include both native English speakers and English Language Learners. The students learn in both English and their home language. In most dual language programs, the students get half of their instruction in their home language and the other half in English.

What are the different types of bilingual programs? ›

They are:
  • Bilingual education: Students are given instruction in two or more languages. ...
  • Submersion: ...
  • Two-way bilingual education: ...
  • English as a Second Language (ESL): ...
  • Immersion: ...
  • Three language systems:
29 Apr 2013

What are the 3 types of bilinguals? ›

There are three major types of bilinguals.
The classification informs effective bilingual education design for children, as well as adult language training and assessment.
  • Compound Bilinguals. ...
  • Coordinate Bilinguals. ...
  • Subordinate Bilinguals.

What qualifies you as bilingual? ›

A bilingual person is someone who speaks two languages. A person who speaks more than two languages is called 'multilingual' (although the term 'bilingualism' can be used for both situations). Multilingualism isn't unusual; in fact, it's the norm for most of the world's societies.

How much does a bilingual teacher make in NYC? ›

How much does a Bilingual Education Teacher make in New York? As of Nov 6, 2022, the average annual pay for a Bilingual Education Teacher in New York is $52,517 a year.

What are the 4 levels of ELL in NYC? ›

The NYSITELL results are then used to assess your child's English language level (Entering, Emerging, Transitioning, Expanding, and Commanding). If your child scores at Entering (Beginning), Emerging (Low Intermediate), Transitioning (Intermediate), or Expanding (Advanced), he or she is identified as an ELL.

What is the difference between ESL and dual language? ›

bilingual education are: In a bilingual program, the non-native English speakers all have the same language background, and the teacher speaks both languages as a means of content instruction. In the ESL classroom, the students come from various language backgrounds, and the teacher only speaks English.

Does NYC have a bilingual unit? ›

Two types of bilingual programs are available in NYC public schools: Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) Dual Language (DL)

How do bilingual programs work? ›

In bilingual education, students are taught in two (or more) languages. It is distinct from learning a second language as a subject because both languages are used for instruction in different content areas like math, science, and history. The time spent in each language depends on the model.

Is ENL the same as ESL? ›

English as a New Language (ENL)

Instruction in this program, formerly known as English as a Second Language (ESL), emphasizes English language acquisition. In an ENL program, language arts and content-area instruction are taught in English using specific ENL instructional strategies.

Which type of bilingual education is best? ›

Once again, research supports dual language programs as the best kind of programs that will enable your child to become biliterate and bilingual. Dual language programs not only foster bilingualism but enhanced awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and high levels of academic achievement.

What careers are bilingual? ›

1) Social Worker ($42,000 U.S.) 2) Translator ($42,000 U.S.) 3) Human Resources Specialist ($52,000 U.S.)

What is the biggest problem facing bilingual programs? ›

Lack of Language Development Opportunity

The converse is also true, students with the most oral language skills spend the most time in verbal instructional activities. Either in bilingual or monolingual programs, the most pressing need of limited English proficient children is language development.

Do you have to be fluent to be bilingual? ›

If you're able to speak two languages fluently, you can call yourself bilingual. In this age of global connectivity, many people are even multilingual and have mastered several languages.

What is the most common bilingual language? ›

Spanish is now the most popular second language of the country. America is home to the largest population of English speakers in the world, but bilingualism has been on the rise in the country for decades – a trend that shows no signs of letting up.

Who is the father of bilingualism? ›

These expressions and their associated concepts were created by Wallace Lambert, the Canadian researcher who has been given the title of “the father of bilingualism research”. Passive bilingualism - refers to being able to understand a second language without being able to speak it.

Do you get paid more if you're bilingual? ›

In the increasingly globalized and interconnected world, being able to communicate in more than one language is a highly marketable skill that often commands a higher salary. In fact, research shows that those who are bilingual or multilingual can earn 5%-20% more per hour than those who aren't.

How many years does it take to become bilingual? ›

The correct answer is: “it depends,” but you probably already knew that. The next and most accurate answer is that it can take anywhere between three months to two years to learn how to speak, write, and read in a new language fluently.

Are bilingual teachers in demand? ›

In that time, the demand for bilingual education teachers has grown — as it has every year since 2012-13 when school districts estimated hiring close to 220 bilingual education teachers. By 2017-18, that number had increased by nearly 250%, to an estimate of roughly 760.

How do I become a bilingual teacher in NY? ›

Eligibility & Admission Requirements
  1. A bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of at least 3.0 or a master's degree with a GPA of at least 3.5.
  2. New York State teacher certification in: Early Childhood Education (Birth – Grade 2) Childhood Education (Grades 1-6) Common Branches (PreK – Grade 6)

Who is the highest-paid teacher in NY? ›

Of those, the top two made over $500,000. A Central Islip educator ranked as the highest-paid public school employee in New York. Kevin Donovan made $509,313 in 2020, which is significantly less than the top-paid educator in 2019, James Feltman who made $657,970 as an educator in the Commack School District.

What is a Level 2 ELL student? ›

Level 2. Ability to use and understand phrases and short sentences in oral discourse. Ability to use and understand simple written English with instructional support, but errors often impede meaning. Ability to use high frequency vocabulary.

What is the difference between ESOL and ELL? ›

ESOL stands for English Speakers of Other Languages. ESL stands for English as a Second Language. ELL stands for English Language Learner.

What is the highest ESL level? ›

How many levels in ESL do you have? The school has five (5) levels: Beginner, Intermediate, High-Intermediate, Advanced and High-Advanced.

What are the disadvantages of bilingual education? ›

4 Cons of Bilingual Education
  • Programs Are Inconsistent Over Time. ...
  • Target-Language Content Can Cause Learning Challenges. ...
  • Its Effectiveness Is Unclear for Grades K-3. ...
  • Programs Suffer From a Lack of Qualified Staff.
21 Nov 2020

Which is better ESL or ELL? ›

ESL is a broader term, but generally describes the tools and methods used to teach ELL students. Because of the importance of ELL support in schools, there are many resources available to districts looking to improve their ESL materials and accommodations.

Why is bilingual education controversial? ›

The 40-Year Debate Over Bilingual Education

Grooms finds the principal arguments of bilingual education's critics to be that it hinders students' ability to speak, read, and write in English, and even worse, to assimilate culturally.

Is there a French section in NYC? ›

The establishment of a French community in New York City brings a touch of France to downtown Manhattan. A 'Little Paris' sign, along with the French Flag, mark the official French quarters of New York City. It can be found on Centre Street in Soho.

Do people in NYC speak Spanish? ›

Spanish. Spanish comes in second with 1.87 million residents speaking the language or 25% of the city. This is not surprising as over 2.4 million people in New York City identify as Hispanic or Latino.

What are the most spoken foreign languages in New York City? ›

Top 10 Languages of New York (Other Than English)
  • Spanish. In total, about 2,702,957 New York residents speak Spanish. ...
  • Chinese (Including Cantonese and Mandarin) ...
  • Russian. ...
  • Haitian. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • Bengali. ...
  • French (Including Cajun) ...
  • Arabic.
8 Sept 2022

Is it easier to get a job if you are bilingual? ›

Even as early in the hiring process as when you submit your resume, being bilingual makes an impression. As stated on Knowing a second language makes your resume stand out and can boost you to the top of the interview list with potential employers.

What are the 6 benefits of bilingual education? ›

8 Proven Benefits of Bilingual Education
  • Increased cognitive development. ...
  • Better academic achievement. ...
  • Improved memory. ...
  • Resistance to dementia. ...
  • Increased economic opportunities. ...
  • Make travelling more enjoyable. ...
  • Cross-cultural appreciation. ...
  • Improvements in the executive function of the brain.
4 Jun 2020

What are ESL students called now? ›

LEP – Limited English Proficient. LEP is an acronym used at the federal level to describe English language learners who participate in ESL programs.

What are the 5 levels of ELL students? ›

There are six ELL levels:
  • Beginner.
  • Lower intermediate.
  • Intermediate.
  • Upper intermediate.
  • Advanced.
  • Native speaker.
29 Dec 2021

What is ESL called now? ›

EAL — English as an Additional Language. The shortcomings of 'ESL' directly translate to the advantages for 'EAL' — it is a more inclusive term and applies to a wider range of individuals' contexts.

What are the 2 major language branches? ›

Based on speaker count, Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan are the largest two language families, with over 4.6 billion speakers between them. The two most spoken languages are in these families – English is classified as Indo-European, and Mandarin Chinese is classified as Sino-Tibetan.

What is the two-way bilingual approach? ›

A two-way dual language program is based on the premise that two groups of students (each with different home languages, in the United States one being English) learn together in a systematic way so that both groups become bilingual and biliterate in the two languages.

What are the two types of transitional bilingual education? ›

Transitional bilingual education programs are divided into two categories: early-exit and late-exit. Early-exit programs begin with strong support in the students' native language; nevertheless, this support is rapidly diminished. Late-exit programs, on the other hand, maintain strong support in the primary language.

What are the types types of programs of strong forms of bilingual education? ›

  • Bilingualism and biliteracy: 'Strong' forms of bilingual education aim to develop the learners' language competence in both languages by increasing the contact time with the two languages and are therefore seen as an “additive” type of bilingualism. ...
  • Content learning: ...
  • Bi- and multiculturalism:

What jobs require multiple languages? ›

11 careers that bilinguals and multilinguals will excel in
  • Translator/Interpreter. ...
  • Customer Service Representative. ...
  • Hospitality Manager. ...
  • Human Resources Specialist. ...
  • Flight Attendant. ...
  • Teacher. ...
  • Writer/Journalist. ...
  • Healthcare Professional.
21 May 2020

What is the smallest language family? ›

The Afro-Asiatic language family includes 381 languages, making it the smallest language family on this list. These languages are primarily spoken in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and several islands in Western Asia.

What is the most popular 2nd language? ›

English takes the crown as the most common second language around the world with 55 countries speaking it as a second language. France and Russia are second and third with 14 and 13 respectively.

What are the four types of bilingualism? ›

  • Early and late / Simultaneous and successive bilingualism. The age at which one acquires a second language plays an important role – we thus distinguish between early and late bilingualism. ...
  • Additive vs. subtractive bilingualism. ...
  • Functional bilingualism/plurilingualism. ...
  • Types of bilingualism.

What's the difference between dual language and bilingual? ›

Dual language is a form of education in which students are taught literacy and content in two languages. They are considered “additive” bilingual programs because they “add” a second academic language for students, instead of trying to extinguish a minority language and move a student to exclusively use English.

What are the 3 pillars of bilingual education? ›

Most of us are familiar with the 3 pillars or goals of dual language (DL) education as expressed in the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education, 3rd edition (Howard, et al., 2018): bilingualism and biliteracy, high academic achievement, and sociocultural competence.

What is the difference between ESL and bilingual education? ›

Spanish-speaking students pursuing an MA in bilingual education learn how to teach science, social studies, math, language arts, and reading in Spanish, whereas students pursuing an MA in ESL education are empowered with the skills needed to pass on their own English language skills to their pupils.

What is L1 in bilingual education? ›

Most studies on bilingual language development focus on children's second language (L2). Here, we investigated first language (L1) development of Polish-English early migrant bilinguals in four domains: vocabulary, grammar, phonological processing, and discourse.


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