E.g., 06/28/2024
E.g., 06/28/2024
Education Reform in a Changing Georgia: Promoting High School and College Success for Immigrant Youth

Georgia has experienced one of the fastest rates of growth in immigration in the United States over the past two decades, and immigration has profoundly altered the makeup of the state's educational institutions. ​Together, immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants made up almost one-fifth of Georgia's youth in 2012. These young adults stand to play a decisive role in the current and future workforce competitiveness of the state.

But these first- and second-generation youth in Georgia—particularly those who are English Language Learners (ELLs)—lag considerably behind their nonimmigrant peers in terms of high school graduation, college access, and postsecondary degree completion. For example, 44 percent of ELLs in Georgia’s high schools graduate in four years, compared to 70 percent for all students. ELLs often face extra hurdles as they seek to develop academic English-language skills, complete high school course requirements, navigate the transition to college and careers, and finance postsecondary education—often while juggling work and family responsibilities.

This report describes these hurdles, and shows that Georgia’s recent education reform efforts—while ambitious in scope—often do not address the unique needs of Georgia's immigrant youth, and particularly those who are ELLs. Moreover, state policies have created barriers to entry into the very institutions that are designed to provide basic education and English language instruction for low-skilled adults, as well as the flagship universities that educate the state’s most promising students.

This report provides one of the first analyses of the educational experiences and outcomes of immigrant youth ages 16 to 26 across the education systems in Georgia, encompassing K-12, adult education, and postsecondary education. By examining these separate-but-interconnected elements of Georgia’s education system together, the analysis offers a set of linked strategies for advancing the educational attainment of Georgia’s immigrant youth. The findings draw from qualitative fieldwork including site visits and interviews in Georgia's educational institutions in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, and quantitative analyses of the most recently available data from the U.S. Census Bureau and state education agencies.


Table of Contents 

I.  Introduction
A.  Georgia’s Immigrant Education Imperative
B.  Study Approach
C.  Trade-Offs in Education Policy and Practice

II.  Policy Context: Unauthorized Immigrant Youth in Georgia
A.  Access to Education: State Policies
B.  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

III.  A Demographic Profile of Georgia’s Immigrants

IV.  The Characteristics and Performance of Immigrant Youth in Georgia High Schools
A.  The Demographics of Gwinnett County Public Schools
B.  Identifying ELL Subgroups with Unique Educational Needs
C.  The Achievement Gap for High School ELLs

V.  Promising Practices and Ongoing Challenges at the High School Level
A.  K-12 Education Funding in Georgia
B.  Tailored Programs that Serve a Diverse ELL Population
C.  Teacher Credentialing and Professional Development
D.  Not Enough Time: Credit Accumulation and Graduation Challenges for ELLs

VI.  Preparation for College and Careers
A.  Access to College-Ready Content
B.  Building Students’ Career Skills
C.  Sources of “College Knowledge:” How Immigrant Youth Navigate the Higher Education System
D.  College Affordability and Financial Aid

VII.  Adult Education as an On-Ramp to Postsecondary Success
A.  The Need for Adult Education among Georgia’s Immigrant Youth
B.  Enrollment in Georgia’s Adult Education System
C.  Diverse Program Options at Georgia Piedmont Technical College
D.  State Efforts to Promote College Transitions for Adult Education Students
E.  Legal-Status Barriers to Adult ESL

VIII.  Persistence and Success in Postsecondary Education
A.  Enrollment in Georgia’s Postsecondary Institutions
B.  Demographics of Study Colleges
C.  Postsecondary Degree Completion
D.  Georgia’s Major Higher Education Reform Initiatives
E.  Admissions and Placement Testing
F.  Developmental Education Reform
G.  English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Courses
H.  Advising, Support Services, and Campus Culture

IX.  Conclusions and the Road Ahead
A.  High School Completion
B.  Preparing for College and Careers
C.  Adult Education
D.  Postsecondary Education
E.  Across Systems