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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Newcomer schools: Separate and better?

Michael Krell teaches statistics at the International Academy, a program for  immigrant students at Cardozo Educational Campus in Washington, D.C. Photo: Natalie Gross

Special schools designed for recent immigrants are helping students learn English quickly and catch up academically, reports Natalie Gross in The Atlantic.

But some critics worry the model segregates immigrants, while others complain about “focusing too many resources on immigrant children when the test scores and graduation rates of native-born students of color also lag behind those of their white peers,” writes Gross.

The Internationals Network for Public Schools targets students who’ve been in the U.S. for less than four years and score in the bottom quartile of an English proficiency assessment. These students usually do poorly in traditional high schools.

The network, which has grown to 24 schools, started in New York City and has spread across the country to places like Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Indianapolis has established similar programs.

Though the majority of students at Internationals Network schools are from Spanish-speaking countries, the children come from all over the world and speak close to 100 languages total—from French to Farsi. Some have little to no formal education and others are on par academically with their American peers, said Internationals Network Executive Director Joe Luft.

The schools focus on language development in all classes.

According to graduation statistics in New York City, the approach seems to be working. Last year, 74 percent of graduates at network schools finished in four years, compared to 31 percent of English-language learners citywide. The network’s six-year graduation rate was also higher—78 percent compared to 49 percent.Barbara Dezmon, the education chair for the Maryland NAACP, told Gross the school should transition students out as soon as they’re proficient in English. However, many students prefer to stay in a supportive environment designed for their needs.
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