Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Georgia Must Address Needs of Immigrant Students

Georgia schools are grappling with how to educate growing numbers of immigrant students, while lacking a history of serving such a population.

The state faces a new reality of a rapidly growing and youthful Latino population, without the experience of states such as Texas and California. 

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute, “Education Reform in a Changing America: Promoting High School and College Success for Immigrant Youth,” concludes that the state still has a long way to go in meeting the needs of immigrant students.

According to the report, in 2011-12 about 12 percent of K-12 public school students were Latino. Additionally, in 2012 the four-year high school graduation rate for Latinos was 60 percent — lower than that of white and black students. Even worse, the rate for ELLs was 44 percent.

Calling the state’s education reforms “ambitious,” the report says that they do not meet the needs of immigrant students and English language learners.

A higher share of immigrant young people in Georgia are undocumented immigrants than the national average. Georgia denies admission to undocumented immigrants, including deferred action recipients, who apply to its most selective public universities and colleges. Elsewhere the report says, “higher education is virtually unattainable for most unauthorized immigrants due to high tuition prices.” 

Not all of the findings are negative. The institute credits the state with training teachers in ESL strategies and providing summer school to students learning English. As an example, the Gwinnett County school system has an International Newcomers’ Center that evaluates immigrant students’ English proficiency and places them in the appropriate classes.

The report recommends that Georgia removes its ban on undocumented immigrants at elite universities and grant deferred action recipients in-state tuition. It also recommends on opening up access of adult education courses to young undocumented immigrants who do not have high school diplomas.

Additionally, at all education levels the report recommends that the state more closely track data on ELLs and immigrants.