Notes on the October 8, 2010 Meeting of the CUNY ESL Discipline Council
Present: Representatives from Baruch, BMCC, , Brooklyn, Hostos, John Jay, Kingsborough, LaGuardia,
NYC Tech, Queens, Queensborough, York.
CUNY ESL Council Funds
The CUNY ESL Council Funds Committee met from 12 to 1. We agreed that of the roughly
$20,000 leftover CUNY ESL Council funds, we would use about $2000 for the Mel Baron essay contest,
$12,000 for grants to ESL programs of up to $3000 for ESL-related projects, and $6000 for CUNY-wide
ESL-related events. At the general meeting from 1 to 2:30, we formed three committees: the Mel Baron
Essay Contest Committee (members: Len Fox, Maria Jersky, Hamid Kherief, Merce Pujol, Cynthia
Wiseman), the ESL Grants Committee (members: Gay Brookes, Len Fox, Hamid Kherief, Howard
Kleinmann, Sue Lantz-Goldhaber, Cynthia Wiseman) and the ESL Academic Events Committee
(members: Gay Brookes, Martha Clark Cummings, Len Fox, Kim Helmer, Sue Lantz-Goldhaber, Merce
Pujol) Len will write a draft of a letter for the essay committee, Howard will write a draft of a call for grant
proposals, and Kim Helmer will write a draft of a call for academic event proposals. You will be hearing
more about these projects as soon as the committees put together calls for proposals.
Reports from programs
1) Len Fox reported for Brooklyn on two major concerns. One is that the Dean of Undergraduate Studies is
proposing to close down the ESL lab and to merge it with the College Learning Center, although ESL
students generally report that the Learning Center tutors are not trained and not helpful in working with
ESL students. A second concern is that in the past, January and June immerse classes were taught by
faculty at full salary, but the Dean is now proposing instead to have the students work with Learning Center
tutors: Once again, there is concern about tutors not being trained and experienced in working with ESL
students. If you’re interested, Len will send you copies of letters that he is sending to the English
Department Chair (the ESL Program is located in the English Dept. and so the English Chair represents the
Program in speaking to the Dean) about these two issues (contact Len at email@example.com).
2. Howard Kleinmann reported for Queens that there are about 100 students in the ESL classes at Queens,
although there is of course a much larger population of ESL background students at the college (as
indicated by such questions on incoming questionnaires as “What language do you speak at home?” and
“In what language do you feel most comfortable?”). He says that one reason for a lower number of ESL
students is that Queens stopped admissions on June 1st , and in the past, ESL students often applied for
admission after that date. He doesn’t yet know about budget for January immerse classes, which comes
from CUE (Coordinated Undergraduate Education) funds. He says that the CUNY budget was cut for this
year and will be cut more for next year. The Queens immerse classes were always taught by faculty at full
teaching salary. At the Queens Writing Center, the Director trains tutors in how to work effectively with
ESL students. Sue Lantz Goldhaber mentioned that unlike some other CUNY colleges, Queens does not
have special ESL section of freshman composition. We will perhaps discuss the rationale for such special
sections at our February meeting.
3. Maria Jerskey reported for LaGuardia that the academic ESL Program is now part of the *Education and
Language Acquisition Department* along with the Modern Languages Program and the Education
Program. Being part of an academic department gives the ESL Program more status and power at the
college. They have recently hired four new full-time faculty. One interesting teaching approach used at
e-portfolios. At our February meeting, we may hear about this and other interesting approaches to teaching
ESL at CUNY. Maria used to direct the Baruch Writing Center, and during that time, it became much more
attuned to addressing the learning needs of the multilingual population. The Writing Center consultants at
Baruch were trained to distinguish and support the unique strengths and weaknesses of ESL students
including international students, generation 1.5/resident ESLs, and recent immigrants, all of whom had
varied literacy backgrounds and needed more nuanced support. Maria will report back to us (through the
email list) about the number of students in the LaGuardia ESL Program.
4. Martha Clark Cummings reported that Kingsborough was recently described by the NY Times as one of
the top 10 U.S. community colleges, largely due to their highly successful Learning Communities Program,
which has improved retention and graduation rates. An innovative teaching approach used at Kingsborough
is a totally online freshman composition class, which we will perhaps hear more about at our February
meeting. There are about 400 students in the Kingsborough ESL Program. There are three levels of ESL,
after which students take two levels of developmental English (mixed with non ESL students), and then
take the CUNY writing test.
5. Patti Juza reported that Baruch has a record high enrollment and higher average entering SAT scores
than in the past. They are talking about budget cuts and cost saving measures like having different
programs share a language lab. We discussed that if colleges demand high SAT scores of entering students,
this will hurt ESL students, who generally have low SAT verbal scores. We think that colleges should give
greater emphasis to high school GPA (grade point average) than to verbal SAT scores. College
administrators are however very concerned about their CUNY PMP (Performance Management Process)
numbers, even though these numbers are not very valid ways of evaluating at students, are often
misleading, and are often just plain inaccurate. We should check to make sure that these numbers about our
programs are accurate, and also should discuss with administrators the meaning of these numbers and if
actions related to these numbers might unfairly negatively affect students. One problem for example is that
we will hear that a certain number of ESL students have not passed the CUNY tests within the required two
year limit, but if we obtain the names of these students, we will find that most of them did not pass the tests
because they dropped out of school, not because the ESL program did not prepare them for the tests.
6. Anna Do reported for NYC Tech that ESL enrollment is down. They were going to hire a new full-time
ESL person, but the line was then taken away due to budget cuts.
7. Gay Brookes reported for BMCC that there are about 1500 students in their four levels of ESL classes.
There are fewer students in the lower levels and more in the upper levels. Teachers are paid $1 per test for
reading and placing writing tests of incoming students. They have 18 full-time faculty and 35-37 adjuncts
and are located in a department that also offers reading classes. She says they plan to place more emphasis
on reading scores for placement. They have had some cuts in tutoring funds. She reports that community
colleges have been told to cut 25% of their budget for the Spring semester. The program has been
challenged about their 47% ACT writing pass rate in upper level writing classes. Gay would like to know
the ACT writing pass rate in top level ESL classes at other colleges. In a discussion of the impact of the
budget cuts around CUNY, Cynthia Wiseman asked about payment of faculty at other campuses for
teaching classes in immersion, whether teachers were paid at the teaching or nonteaching rate. She
explained that at BMCC in the immersion last year, teachers were paid at the non-teaching rate and that this
may be one way that budget cuts are directly impacting instruction. Wiseman suggested that if the ESL DC
were gathering data about the impact of budget cuts on our programs, that this practice might be something
to look into at all campuses. She also mentioned that some years ago, someone at BMCC had filed a
grievance about being paid at the non-teaching rate when teaching in the immersion program and had won
8. Judy Barbanel reports that the Queensborough administration has also questioned their ACT writing pass
rates. In discussing this, we said that CUNY reports pass rates for developmental writing classes but we
should stress to our administrators that they should expect to see a lower pass rate for ESL writing classes.
Judy is interested in the number of hours of ESL classes at other colleges and also whether or not they have
separate writing and reading classes.
9. Kim Helmer reports that they are concerned at John Jay about identifying and placing ESL students. ESL
students there are not required to take ESL classes as they are at other colleges (where an ESL block is
placed on their registration and they must register with an ESL academic advisor).
10. Merce Pujol reported that they have about 500 students in the Hostos ESL classes, but that the number
has been diminishing in recent years. They are concerned that some students who belong in ESL classes are
perhaps going into non-ESL developmental classes instead.
11. Hamid Kherief and Elizabeth Meddeb reported for York that ESL enrollment is down. Hamid is
concerned about raising admission standards and using PMP data in a way that discriminates against ESL
students, pointing out also that the PMP data is often inaccurate. It is important for ESL programs to keep
their own data and to check any PMP data that they are given for inaccuracy, as well as to discuss with
their college administration how to fairly interpret the meaning of this data, rather than to accept the
notions that the data indicates some sort of problem with the ESL students or with the ESL program, or that
the data must always go up from one year to the next.
Request for program information
We are asking each CUNY ESL Program to please let us know the following information:
1) How many students are there in your ESL program?
2) How many hours are the ESL classes?
3) Do you have combined reading and writing classes or separate classes for reading and writing?
4) What has been the pass rate on the ACT writing test of your most advanced ESL writing classes?
Source for CUNY ESL-related documents.
Patti Juza has set up a CUNY Academic Commons site as a source for CUNY ESL-related documents
(Patti, what is the address and briefly, how do people sign up?).
Next ESL DC Meeting
The next meeting of the ESL Discipline Council will be on November 12 from 1 to 2:30. Our guest speaker
will be CUNY Director of Assessment Ray Moy and we will discuss the new CUNY basic skills writing