- Some English language learners miss more than two years of formal education for reasons such as poverty, violence or cultural expectations regarding education and need additional supports and strategies to address school completion.
- Two strategies that can be used to help students who have limited or interrupted formal education are to create buddy system for students who have recently arrived to this country and to “connect classroom learning to its immediate and practical relevance.”
- Other strategies include establishing “collaborative group-work structures that create a shared accountability for learning” and developing “age-appropriate lessons that are highly scaffolded” for this student population.
The education of students who have had their pathways to graduation interrupted used to be more common in the United States. Seventy years ago or so, teens often left school for a while to support their families during crisis situations. It is testimony to the relative peace and economic safety of students in America that such situations are far fewer now.
However, many immigrants have not had that luxury and have lived in crisis mode more frequently. In schools where such situations are common, administrators need to help teachers find ways to scaffold knowledge by breaking it up into smaller, accessible learning chunks and connecting this information with prior knowledge. Such attempts are not always easy and may require a dedicated classroom or teaching staff to help address the issue.
However, the payoff for the student and society is big. In a 2010 report entitled “Sound Investments: Building Immigrants’ Skills to Fuel Economic Growth,” Robin Spence of the Economic Mobility Corporation wrote: “Between now and 2030, immigrants and their children are projected to account for all of the country’s labor market growth, and by 2030 immigrants will constitute nearly one in five workers overall. While many immigrants are highly-skilled, one in three currently lacks a high school degree. Not surprisingly, these low-skilled workers earn low wages and face limited opportunities to advance. Unfortunately, local efforts to help low-skilled workers are often not accessible to immigrant workers, who may face distinct barriers to improving their skills because they lack fluency in English or are unfamiliar with American education or training systems.”
Perhaps it is time for these resources to become more accessible.