E.g., 09/26/2023
E.g., 09/26/2023
Critical Choices in Post-Recession California: Investing in the Educational and Career Success of Immigrant Youth

California’s success in integrating immigrant youth is critical, not just to the state but the nation. Sheer numbers demonstrate this significance. The state is home to one-quarter of the nation’s immigrants, and as of 2012, more than half of young adults in California ages 16 to 26 were first- or second-generation immigrants (compared to one-quarter of youth nationwide). California educates more than one-third of U.S. students designated as English Language Learners (ELLs).  

This report examines the educational experiences and outcomes of first- and second-generation immigrant youth ages 16 to 26 across California’s educational institutions, encompassing secondary schools, adult education, and postsecondary education. ELLs are a central focus of the analysis at all levels, as this group has unique educational needs. The findings draw from qualitative fieldwork—including interviews with educators and community leaders in California—and quantitative analyses of the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and state education agencies. 

California’s education systems are at a watershed, with critical choices to be made at all levels—choices that hold significant implications for the state’s first- and second-generation young adults. Integrating immigrant young adults into postsecondary education and the labor force is essential for California’s economic competitiveness. Over the past six years, California has fallen into and emerged from arguably the most severe state budget crisis in the nation—with grave implications for the state’s capacity to produce college-educated workers at the rate it requires. Budget cuts forced California’s community colleges to reduce enrollment by nearly half a million students between 2008 and 2012. And California’s adult education system—once the largest and most robust in the nation—lost more than half of its state funding. Meanwhile, K-12 school districts cut teachers and counselors, and eliminated summer school programs that provided a safety net for students who needed extra time to meet graduation requirements. The challenges arising from reduced capacity were compounded by population growth, as California’s youth population grew by 600,000 between 2000 and 2012. 

While California’s economy has stabilized, its educational institutions remain in flux. At present, California’s ELLs and immigrant youth lag behind their nonimmigrant peers at every stage of education. Foreign-born Latino youth, in particular, have lower high school completion and college degree attainment rates than any other group. The report offers recommendations for educators and policymakers as they implement ongoing reforms across California's educational institutions and seek to improve the state's workforce competitiveness. The recommendations include expanded learning time for ELL students in high school, more robust professional development for teachers, increasing the capacity of the adult education system, and measures for improving college enrollment and retention rates among immigrant young adults.

Table of Contents 

I.  Introduction
A.  California’s Higher Education Imperative
B.  Study Approach
C.  Educating Immigrant Youth: Basic Trade-Offs

II.  Recession and Recovery: The Context of California’s Education Reform Efforts
A.  Consequences of the State Budget Crisis for Public Education
B.  Signs of Recovery: Proposition 30 and Increased State Spending on Education

III.  A Demographic Profile of California’s Immigrants

IV.  Immigrant Youth in California’s High Schools
A.  The Ethnic and Linguistic Profiles of Study Districts
B.  Identifying Immigrant and ELL Subgroups with Unique Educational Needs
C.  The Achievement Gap for High School English Language Learners and Immigrant Students

V.  Promising Practices and Ongoing Challenges at the High School Level
A.  State Policy Context: Changing Standards, Assessments, and Funding Mechanisms
B.  Tailored Programs that Serve a Diverse ELL Population
C.  Teacher Training and Professional Development
D.  Expanded Learning Time and Pathways to Graduation
E.  Building Students’ Career Skills
F.  College Knowledge and Preparation for the Postsecondary Transition

VI.  Adult Education as an On-Ramp to Postsecondary Success
A.  The Need for Adult Education among California’s Immigrant Youth
B.  Enrollment in California’s Adult Education Program
C.  Adult Education and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
D.  The Changing Landscape of Adult Education California: State Policy Directions
E.  Efforts to Improve College and Career Transitions

VII.  Persistence and Success in Postsecondary Education
A.  Enrollment in California’s Postsecondary Institutions
B.  Demographics of Study Colleges
C.  Postsecondary Degree Completion Rates
D.  College Affordability and Financial Aid
E.  Matriculation: Placement Testing, Registration, and Educational Planning
F.  Academic and Social Support Services to Improve Retention and Completion
G.  Transition from Two-Year to Four-Year Colleges

VIII.  Conclusions and the Road Ahead
A.  Looking Ahead: Levers for Change
B.  Recommendations for Action