The New York City public school system has, according to recent official estimates, a student population of 950,452. The ethnic breakdown of this population is approximately 18.5% White, 37.6% Black, 35.3% Hispanic, and 8.6% others.
Forty-one percent (41%) of the Hispanic population, approximately 140,000 pupils, are classified as “limited English proficient students”, often referred to, in the federal and educational jargon, as “LEP” students.
Determination of LEP status for students is done through the administration of a battery of instruments such as the Language Assessment Battery (LAB) Test. Students identified as LEP receive bilingual education services in public schools. These services include instruction in the content areas subjects in their vernacular languages, as well as English as a second language. Bilingual education became mandatory for LEP children in the New York City public school system in 1974 as the result of a “consent decree” reached in the 1973 court case Aspira of New York. Inc. v. Board of Education of the City of New York.
The Aspira consent decree was the culmination of various legal proceedings directed at instituting policies to make the education of Hispanic students attending the New York City public schools instructional effective, and consistent with the students’ levels of proficiency in English. Many of these efforts go back to the early 1960s, and even earlier, and started as attempts to facilitate the school integration mainly of Puerto Rican students, and other Hispanics. For example, in 1963, Superintendent Calvin E. Gross urged that “Puerto Rican children and other new arrivals to the City be enabled to develop bicultural and bilingually” and deplored” the melting pot approach in which new arrivals are made over in our own image.