Queens school with Asian-only kindergarten class reassigns students

September 12, 2014
Parents wait for their kindergartners at P.S. 159 in Queens.

Parents wait for their kindergartners at P.S. 159 in Queens.

P.S. 159, the Queens elementary school accused of segregating its kindergarten class by race by parents, reassigned students to classrooms after administering an ESL test Thursday.

In a meeting Thursday, Paul Didio, the school’s principal, announced the classroom reassignment in front of about 90 parents and Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York President Choi Yoon-hee.

According to parents in attendance, Didio explained they had placed students whose first language was not English into classrooms 207 and 209 and that the first classroom’s composition of all Asian American students — 19 Chinese and seven Korean — was a coincidence.

He reportedly said it was not done on purpose and that teachers assigned to classrooms 207 and 209 are ESL-licensed.

The entire incident came about as a result of the school attempting to form two classrooms with students not fluent in English, Didio told parents.

The day after The Korea Times’ initial Sept. 9 report, the school issued an ESL test to 100 students for the first time. Original classroom assignments were based on data gathered from application forms of students’ primarily spoken languages at home.

Using the test, P.S. 159 re-issued 37 students who scored poorly into classrooms 207 and 209. It also moved some English-fluent students out of these classrooms into non-ESL ones.

“Due to the rearrangement, my child is now moved to classroom 209,” a parent told The Korea Times in a phone interview. “I had worried about how my kid would learn English among children who only spoke Chinese, but now I can relax.”

Some parents, however, still had reservations.

“At other schools nearby, students are put into regular classrooms regardless of how well they speak English, and then they provide an additional one-hour ESL lesson,” one parent said. “I’m dissatisfied with the school dividing children who are and are not fluent in English.”


  1. Eunice Kim

    September 13, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    I agree with the parent who is quoted at the very end of this article. Students who have trouble speaking English should be given the extra 1 hour to learn English. They should NOT be separated from and put into a classroom with only children who share the same ethnicity. America is built on a foundation of diversity and variety. How will the Asian students learn to associate with children of different races if all they see while at school is children of the same race?

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