Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Educating Immigrant Students

As school districts search for ways to accommodate growing immigrant populations, one trend seems to be emerging: separate schools for newcomers.

In Massachusetts, one group has proposed the Somerville Progressive Charter School, which would serve “the needs of children in Somerville whose first language is not English, the children of fairly recent immigrants,’’ according to this Boston Globe story. The student population in Somerville, a city adjacent to Cambridge, is more than 50 percent immigrant, the group says.

Other similar schools have popped up across the country. In New York City, as this New York Times story shows, there is the Ellis Preparatory School in the South Bronx for students arriving with little or no formal schooling and the Internationals Network for Public Schools for immigrants of all educational levels. In Colorado, The New America School system serves English Language Learners and their families.

These schools offer smaller settings and more focused instruction. It is unclear, however, if this approach is more effective than including new immigrants in mainstream schools.

But, as the Times story notes, “the system over all generally does not serve these immigrants well.” Too often, schools can shuttle new immigrants into special education programs or keep them in classrooms where work stagnates at a basic levels. The range of learning levels is also challenging for teachers, who may have some newcomer students who are unable to read a picture book, while others can produce three-page essays.

How does your district educate recently arrived immigrants? Are they funneled into the general student population, or is there a separate program designed specifically for the needs of newcomers? Have new charter schools serving this population started to pop up?

Most importantly, what are the educational outcomes for immigrant students? Does your district or state track this group?

A quick story could take a look at a day in such a school or a program, telling the stories of the students. (They are often compelling, sometimes heartbreaking). For a more in-depth analysis, examine the student population, the curriculum, graduation rates, and the number of immigrants in special education.