Beyond Teaching English: Supporting High School Completion by Immigrant and Refugee Students

On November 2, 2017, The Migration Policy Institute released an important report about ways that schools can support high school and refugee students. In their press release for the report, the writers at MPI explained:

The stakes for newcomer students, their school districts and communities are high, as the report notes. For the students, the pressure to go from limited literacy to passing the coursework required to get a high school diploma can be overwhelming, particularly if it is coupled with the pressure to work to earn money for themselves and their families. If the students drop out or cannot maximize their education and earnings, the resulting loss of potential wages and talents represents a longer-term loss for themselves as well as the community in which they have settled. And for school systems, the success of these students is a mandatory component of accountability benchmarks they must meet under federal education laws.

While many school districts have set up newcomer programs that centralize instruction and additional services for these students, far more remains to be done, the report finds.

As student populations change, state and local policies evolve and academic demands shift in focus, the report recommends that school districts regularly design new services and evaluate the effectiveness of existing ones. Districts have a number of opportunities to better support newcomer students by:

  • Evaluating policies and practices created on a provisional basis by teachers and administrators in response to changing needs and systematizing those that are effective
  • Encouraging well-coordinated partnerships between school districts and community organizations, particularly as these organizations can be natural partners for districts with limited capacity to offer or refer students to physical and mental health, legal and housing services.
  • Ensuring sufficient funding for instructional and socioemotional services for newcomer students, and that policymakers understand the value of these investments extends beyond the students themselves to the broader community
  • Tracking the impact of evolving federal, state and local policies on newcomer student achievement.

“By taking such steps, school systems can help immigrant students meet their educational goals and step into the workforce on firmer footing,” writes author Julie Sugarman, an MPI policy analyst. “These efforts also hold the potential to positively impact the school environment and communities more broadly through the realization of individual potential and the social and economic integration of immigrant communities.”

The entire report is available at:

As educators think about their role in integrating newcomers we want to highlight a research study conducted in the United States and in Europe, a team of researchers led by co-founder of Re-imagining Migration, Carola Suarez-Orozco, identified several promising educational practices. A number of the practices they identified are beneficial for all students, while others are more specific to children of immigrants. We’ve identified several practices from the report here.