How to make it better for Immigrants to integrate with K-12 System

As the number of immigrant students in the United States and countries surges, a new report on global education and migration finds numerous areas where the Unites States could enhance its policies for successful integration into the K-12 system.

In various countries, immigrant students do worse than students without an immigrant background, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD analyzed data from previous Program for global Student Assessments, or PISA, an international examination administered to 15-year-olds around the world. Second-generation students, or those whose parents are from foreign, perform somewhere between the two.


"While immigrants, in general, do poorer in school than their local students, the analysis finds that narrowing the performance gap between students and immigrants without an immigrant background isn't only possible, but it can be accomplished at a amazing pace," said Andreas Schleicher, director of the OECD's Directorate for Skills and Education.

Litanies of causes are to blame for their bad performance, the report notes. In various countries, for example, immigrant students tend to be focused in the schools. But it isn't the concentration of immigrant students at a school as much as the focus of socioeconomic disadvantage at a school that hinders kids achievement.

Even so, the impact of a concentration of immigrant kids is real. The average difference in math exam performance between students who attend schools where more than Twenty Five percent of students are immigrants compared to students who attend schools with no immigrant students is 18 score points on 2012 PISA.

Another difficulty for immigrant children is that several cannot yet speak or read well - if at all - the predominant language of their host countries. On average, the report found, 64 percent of immigrant students and 41 percent of second-generation immigrant students speak a language at home that is different from the language in which they took the PISA Exam.

About 41.3 million immigrant students live in the United States, an all-time high, according to the Migration Policy Institute. About 7 percent, or 2.9 million, are kids under the age of 18. United States immigrants and their U.S.-born kids, who are often referred to a second-generation, now number about 80 million, or one-quarter of the overall United States population.

"Some systems need to integrate huge numbers of school-age immigrant students and asylum-seekers quickly," Schleicher said. "Some need to accommodate students whose native language is different from the language spoken in the host community or whose families are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and several systems are confronted with all three challenges at once."

As the diversity and number of immigrants continues to increase, what is school system to do?

Recommendations from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report may look familiar in that they mirror recommendations policymakers in the US often offer as ways to improve the whole education system.

The report touts the significance of programs like the Parent-Child Home Program, which gives two years of twice-weekly visits to families with kids between the ages of 16 months and 4 years that are living in poverty, and have limited chances for education and literacy skills and poor language. The program also connects the parents to other community resources, such as medical and health facilities.

States and school districts should make sustained language support available as soon as possible, the report underscores - something the United States has had trouble providing as it faces a shortage of bilingual teachers.

"Several students are determined to build the most of any chance that arises from the sacrifices they made by migrating," Schleicher said. "Most immigrant students - and their parents - hold an aim to succeed that in most cases matches, and in some cases surpasses, the ambitions of families in their host country."

The report comes at a critical time of growing push-back against immigrants, partially fueled by presidential hopefuls such as billionaire Donald Trump, who have proposed closing the gate to the United States for Muslims and Mexicans.

The report does not touch on the growing number of students streaming into the US without legal permission, which is posing an entirely new problem for school districts.

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