Tech, personalization ease immigrant student integration
- Writing for EdSurge, Baldwin-Whitehall School District (PA) Assistant Superintendent Denise Sedlacek shares how her school district is working to integrate a growing number of refugees and immigrants now attending school.
- To meet these diverse sets of needs, the district is relying more on technology for classwork and is even seeking ways to allow parents to use school laptops to improve their English skills.
- One way the district is seeking to break down barriers is through partnerships with organizations such as the Malala Fund and by using other grants to translate folk tales and early developmental reading stories into the immigrants' languages.
The situation in which the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in Pittsburgh finds itself offers a unique opportunity to see how a school district deals with such divergent cultures. Other districts with large multicultural populations have also had to experiment with ways to connect students to one another, in addition to ways to connect with parents for whom English is a second language or who speak no English at all.
One interesting aspect of this article is the attempt the district is making to integrate parents, as well as students, into American culture. Using school devices to help provide English instruction at home will not only make communication with parents easier, but will also help these parents find a firmer footing in the marketplace and thus make them better able to provide for their families. The district is also working hard to connect with parents and teach them to access the communication tools that help them understand student progress. For districts facing similar communication challenges, an organization called One America works with education and community partners to help break down these communication barriers.
Another take-away from the efforts of this district is the way in which personalized learning strategies are helping students from diverse backgrounds learn together. If this approach can work in an area as diverse as Pittsburg, it may be worth exploring in other areas where cultural divides are not quite so wide.