Boston Public School SEI Teachers Struggle for Resources
By Patricia Nicolas
Haitian Creole, Spanish and Somali are just three of the 84 different languages spoken in the home of approximately 17,000 of the 57,000 students in the Boston Public School system according to district data.
A program entitled the Sheltered English Immersion Program supports these students in their journey through the school system. Most SEI students and parents agreed their SEI teachers were vital to their success in the program.
“Rudy’s SEI teacher was very dedicated. She was patient,” said Jean Francis, a parent of an SEI student. “I honestly do not think he would be where he is today without her.”
The Francis family immigrated to Boston from Haiti when Rudy was only eight years old. “It was hard. Most kids my age were in the second grade by now and here I was, not only new to the country but I also couldn’t speak a lick of English,” Rudy said.
He took a placement test at the Newcomer Assessment and Counseling Center. The center is where families who come from different countries bring their children to be properly placed in schools that will support them in academics and learning English. In Rudy’s instance, he was placed at the Charles H. Taylor School in Mattapan, which has a thriving Haitian Creole SEI program.
“The SEI program is designed for the student. We here at the Newcomers Assessment and Counseling Center want to help the students get the support they need to be successful in the Boston Public School system,” explained Bob Jeremy, director of the Newcomers Assessment and Counseling Center.
The SEI program came about in 2012, replacing the bilingual program in hopes to transition children more quickly into English-speaking classrooms.
The program has two components. The “Language Specific Program” is designed for students who speak Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Chinese, Haitian Creole or Vietnamese. This program provides those students with a classroom where everyone speaks the same language.
The other SEI program offers students a classroom setting where they speak a variety of languages but are provided with supplemental courses designed to help them grasp the English language.
While SEI students and families praise the SEI teachers’ support, the teachers indicated they struggle to provide it.
“Not everything is what it seems. Our speaking the same language had really helped us with our kids but we need more books. We do not have enough,” explained Susan Ashton, a third grade SEI program teacher.
Nola Magnus, an SEI teacher in Dorchester said her biggest issue is also materials. “Our books are out often out of date. Also not all of our kids are on the same reading level. We need different levels not just one.”
Magnus teaches a Haitian Creole classroom. She has been in the Boston Public School system for over 15 years. She loves being able to help newcomer Haitian students as she was once one herself.
“I came to Boston when I was young. I know how it feels to be in a new country and trying to learn. It isn’t easy.”
Magnus and Ashton are only two of the 3,210 SEI teachers in the Boston Public School however their struggle testimonies are one in the same.
Newcomers Assessment and Counseling Center Director Bob Jeremy
SEI TEACHER MS. SHIRLEY LANE