Thursday, March 20, 2014

Georgia’s Educational Innovations Not Going Far Enough to Meet Needs of Students from Immigrant Families


Even as the children of immigrants represent a growing share of Georgia’s youth (ages 16-26), the state’s ambitious education reforms often fail to target this group of U.S.-born and foreign-born students — many of whom have lower high school graduation rates and face greater barriers to adult education and public college enrollment, a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report finds.

In Education Reform in a Changing Georgia: Promoting High School and College Success for Immigrant Youth, MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy (NCIIP) examines the high school achievement and adult education and post-secondary success of immigrants and the children of immigrants in Georgia. These youth now account for one in five residents between ages 16 and 26 in the state. The report, which provides one of the first cross-system analyses of the educational experiences of Georgia first- and second-generation youth, draws on fieldwork conducted in Gwinnett County, home to the largest immigrant population in Georgia, and DeKalb County, the state’s top refugee resettlement destination.

Georgia’s immigration history is a recent one, with major flows during the 1990s (when its 233 percent growth rate was surpassed by only one state) and the 2000s. While immigration has slowed since the recession, the second-generation youth population (the U.S.-born children of immigrants) has grown steadily and substantially: increasing 43 percent over a recent five-year period.

Many of these U.S.-born youth are English language learners (ELLs). These students face extra hurdles in mastering language skills and academic content — challenges that state policies and school district practices have not kept pace in addressing.

Drawing on analysis of U.S. Census and state administrative data, the report finds that:

• Students who are ELLs had a four-year high school graduation rate of 44 percent in 2012, compared to the state’s overall 70 percent graduation rate

• Nearly one-third of the state’s foreign-born youth ages 21-26 lack a high school diploma or GED — more than double the state’s overall rate of 13 percent

• Twenty-nine percent of the high school students designated as ELLs are long-term ELLs, having been in U.S. schools for six years or more

• Hispanics face a steep drop-off in enrollment between secondary and post-secondary education — accounting for 10 percent of the state’s high school students, 4 percent of technical college enrollment and 5 percent of students at University System of Georgia (USG) institutions in spring 2012.


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