Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Welcoming Immigrant Students with a High-Quality Education: The Internationals Network for Public Schools Models a High-Quality Education for Immigrant Students and Shows How to Prepare Teachers to Support Students Who Are Adjusting to the United States

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Welcoming Immigrant Students with a High-Quality Education: The Internationals Network for Public Schools Models a High-Quality Education for Immigrant Students and Shows How to Prepare Teachers to Support Students Who Are Adjusting to the United States

Article excerpt

How immigrants are received in the United States--through economic opportunities, societal attitudes, government policies--shape how immigrants fare in this country (Portes & Rumbaut, 2008).

Schools play a crucial role in helping children and youth from immigrant backgrounds adapt to a new country and prepare them for future opportunities and identities. All educators need opportunities to reflect on what high-quality education for immigrant youth looks like and what it takes to provide one.

The Internationals Network for Public Schools (INPS) has a reputation for engaging in culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy with immigrant youth. The 19 schools in the international school network serve the unique academic and emotional needs of recently arrived immigrant youth who are English language learners. INPS schools are in New York, California, and the Washington, D.C., area. Students in the network come from over 100 countries, speak over 90 languages, have diverse educational backgrounds, and about 90% are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

English literacy skills for INPS high school students range from early elementary to approaching grade level. While many schools struggle to successfully educate immigrant youth from similar backgrounds, schools in the Internationals network have had relative success in providing immigrant youth with schooling that is culturally responsive and academically rigorous. The 15 INPS schools in New York City have a 64% four-year graduation rate, compared to a 37% graduation rate for English learners in other New York City schools; the six-year graduation rate is 74%. In addition to the strong high school graduation rates, the Internationals are known for the high numbers of students who are accepted and enroll in two- and four-year colleges (Jaffe-Walter & Lee, 2011). While the statistics are clearly impressive, the real quality of the education offered by the Internationals is connected to the academic opportunities they provide and the messages they give immigrant youth about who they are and what they can be.

From the Internationals, we can learn what constitutes a high-quality education for immigrant students and how teachers can work together to ensure that immigrant youth have access to high-quality learning.

The elements

Educators and policy makers generally agree that a high school education should prepare graduates for postsecondary education and/or employment, and this is true for immigrant English learners as well. Immigrant youth from low-income backgrounds face an increasingly hostile economy and are at risk for being trapped in low-wage service jobs (Sassen, 2006).

A vast body of research reveals that too many schools engage in subtractive schooling practices, which approach immigrant cultures and languages from deficit perspectives that focus on what students don't know rather than building on what they do know. Such subtractive schooling produces youth ill-equipped to function in their native cultures or in the mainstream culture (Lee, 2005; Olsen, 1997; Valdes, 1996; Valenzuela, 1999). Instruction often fails to recognize the benefits of bilingualism.

Other research demonstrates that ESL classes generally focus on English acquisition in isolation from academic content, which often translates into vocabulary drills and worksheets. The decision to focus on language in isolation is based on the assumption that students need to be English proficient before they can handle rigorous content (Callahan, 2005; Callahan, Wilkinson, & Muller, 2008). In short, students tracked into ESL are excluded from the academic preparation necessary for college (Callahan, 2005). Thus, deficit approaches marginalize immigrant students, families, and communities and contribute to academic underachievement.

Asset-based approach

The Internationals schools take an asset-based approach to students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.