As the immigrant population continues to grow across the state, the so-called "Big Five" school districts, including Buffalo, are contemplating the challenges that population faces within public schools. Time Warner Cable News reporter Rochelle Alleyne has more.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- By greeting Buffalo students in Swahili and Somali, school interpreter Abdi Yakum says the role gives him a front row seat to the unique challenges that English language learners face when navigating the public school system.
Friday, he and dozens of other members of the "Big Five" school districts met in Buffalo to discuss ways to improve teaching those students.
The group, made up districts in Yonkers, Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Syracuse, currently teaches almost three-quarters of the state's ELL population.
Breaking down that number even further, in Buffalo alone, more than 5,000 students are speaking 84-85 different languages each day.
Despite the large ELL student demographic, they claim that they still receive the same amount of money from the state as other school districts and are now calling on the state Education Department to allocate more money to them in upcoming budgets.
That extra money would go toward hiring additional interpreters and classroom aides, as well as to readjusting test requirements for those students.
Leaders with the group, like Yonkers Superintendent of Schools Edwin Quezada, say they are proof that when given the right tools, these students can thrive in school and beyond.
"I am an English language learner. I came to America when I was 13 years old and now I sit as the superintendent of the fourth largest district in New York state,” said Quezada.