Beyond Teaching English: Supporting High School Completion by Immigrant and Refugee Students
Immigrant and refugee youth who enter the United States during their secondary school years face a daunting set of challenges. In addition to learning a new language and adjusting to U.S. classroom norms, they must quickly fill gaps in their subject-matter knowledge and pass the courses required to graduate high school before aging out of the system. For some, the pressure to go from limited literacy to a high school diploma in a few years can be overwhelming. The supports these newcomers receive—either directly in schools and through the community-based organizations with which districts partner—have the power to shape these students' future educational and career trajectories.
The stakes are also high for the schools and districts in which these students enroll. Recent growth and new diversity within newcomer student populations, as well as shifting educational policies, have led many localities to develop or adapt existing programs for these students. The uptick in arrivals of Central American unaccompanied children between 2014 and 2016 lent new urgency to discussions of how to best serve students with interrupted formal schooling, trauma, and other unique instructional and noninstructional needs.
Many of the insights discussed in this report were shared by participants in the Learning Network for Newcomer Youth Success, a project of MPI's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy that brings together practitioners from the education, physical and mental health, and social service fields to discuss common challenges and effective solutions. School districts across the United States are honing their approaches to help newcomer students meet the challenges they face—from developing processes to identify students' academic and socioemotional needs, to connecting them with mental-health and legal supports, and tailoring curricular pathways in ways that balance student needs with policy constraints.
II. Who Are Newcomer Students?
III. Identifying and Meeting Students' Comprehensive Needs
A. Intake and Registration
B. Ongoing Academic Support and Cultural Orientation
C. Community Partnerships
D. Mental Health Services
IV. Design and Implementation of Instructional Programs
A. Program Models
B. Class Placement and Course of Study
C. Options for Older Newcomers
D. Staff and System Capacity
V. Conclusions and Implications