Oakland high school sets standard for serving immigrant students
- California's Oakland International High is a small alternative high school that is among 27 nationwide in the Internationals Network for Public Schools and was the first like it in California when it opened 11 years ago, serving immigrant students as they acclimate to life in the U.S. while also learning core educational subject matter, EdSource reports.
- The school serves over 400 students speaking three dozen languages, operates on a "full-service community school" model with support for students' physical and emotional needs. The school also receives outside funding to keep class sizes small and ensure every teacher has assistants and coaches.
- With 38% of the school's students — many of whom arrived in the U.S. from Central America as unaccompanied minors — having missed at least two years of formal education, Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) classes are a key component of curriculum, as is "survival English" alongside regular English language arts.
Adequately serving immigrant students can present a significant challenge to many schools and districts. On top of the standard pressures of schooling that all students face, these students must also contend with the pressure of acclimating to an entirely new way of life. And depending on the state of things in their countries of origin, they may also bring a variety of traumas that must be considered.
Through a community school model, alternative schools specifically serving immigrants like Oakland International High can provide these students with access to resources intended to address those concerns — which often includes referrals to legal assistance with immigration issues — as well as basic healthcare needs and other community supports. Schools serving these populations must also ensure that educators are prepared to meet the students at their current level of educational progress, and also that services are available to account for the variety of languages they speak.
Smoothing the transition for these students into daily life in America while helping them complete their educations is essential to guaranteeing their future success and productivity as citizens, and programming like that of Oakland International can serve as a solid foundational model for other schools and districts looking to better serve them.
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