Language equity in Philadelphia
1967 Eleanor Sandstrom, director of the District’s Office of Foreign Languages, puts together one of the first bilingual programs in the U.S. A Title VII grant supports six years of programming, including a Bilingual Institute with Temple University to train 20-30 bilingual applicants each summer for teaching positions in the fall.
1969 District begins program of hiring bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico and Spanish-speaking countries.
1984 Drastic funding cuts, as Bilingual Education Act decreases Title VII funds for programs using students’ heritage language and increases funds for English-only instruction.
1985 Education Law Center files a civil rights class action against the District, known as Y.S. v. School District of Philadelphia, on behalf of Asian students who are English language learners. Suit claims that these students are not being afforded equal opportunity to educational programs and support services.
1987 Y.S. Advisory Committee is established, with District and community representatives responsible for drafting a remedial plan.
1988 Interim Remedial Agreement is signed. Plan provides model for ESOL classes, Welcome Centers, bilingual counseling, bilingual staffing, instructional support services, and translation services. Office of Language Minority Programs is created to administer ESOL program and monitor compliance.
1997 Office of Language Equity Issues is formed. Y.S. mandates broaden to include all ELLs, not just Asians.
1998 Chinese bilingual programs are established at South Philadelphia High and McCall Elementary. Newcomer Center, an alternative high school setting for newly arrived immigrant and refugee students, is established at South Philadelphia High.
2000 District receives five-year Title VII grant to develop dual language programs in elementary schools serving major multilingual communities in the city.
2001 New Y.S. stipulation is signed, providing for annual internal review of services to ELLs and external review every 3 years; also, the District must provide equitable services to ELLs, including access to ESOL and/or bilingual programs and all other programs for which other students are eligible.
2002 Responsibility for language issues is transferred to new Office of Language and Cultural Education, later renamed Office of Language, Culture, and the Arts (OLCA).
2004 School Reform Commission approves new District language policy, requiring high-quality programs for ELLs in key areas including instruction, assessment, support services, and parent/community outreach. Office of Language Access Services and Community Outreach (OLASCO) is formed to address translation and interpretation issues. It is later renamed Office of Family Engagement and Language Equity Services (OFELES), incorporating parent involvement issues.
2005 OLCA implements ESOL Core Curriculum, ESOL textbooks, and other educational resources, marking the first time the District has an ESOL curriculum aligned to its core curriculum and standardized ESOL texts.
2006 OFELES is dismantled because of budget deficit. Holy Family University, along with the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and ASPIRA, introduces Latino Pipeline Program to train local Latino bilingual students to teach in the District.
2008 Arlene Ackerman, superintendent, announces formation of a new office for translation services and new department in teaching and learning unit to oversee and address English language learner issues.