Education for New Americans

There are many new Americans in the city of Erie. What differs from person to person is how they adapt to coming from a different country to the United States. It differs because of home life and education. Some people have more education and opportunities than others, which is a problem when discussing new Americans.

Sai works at Sam’s Club. Her and her family are new Americans who have been living in the U.S. for about nine years. Education is key in every aspect of life. It starts with language barriers that new Americans potentially face. However, Sai claimed that the language was not a big barrier at all. Essentially, you could put the blame on their education system back home. She said that there was no language barrier due to the fact that her and her family studied English in India. Sai was very adamant on saying that education and profession made it much, much easier to adapt to life here in the states. 

The immigrant population tripled to more than 37 million between 1970 through 2007. That is one-in-eight U.S. residents. However, according to a study by U.S. department of education, education attainment rates fall well behind those of who were born in the U.S. The study finds that among adults age 25 and older in year the year 2007, the percentages of the foreign and U.S. born populations who had bachelor’s degrees were similar, however what differed was the percentages that had completed some college, but had not earned a bachelor’s degree. Those percentages were 44 percent for foreign-born citizens and 56 percent for U.S.-born citizens.

U.S. born citizens obtain bachelor’s degrees at a higher rate than immigrants. That’s in part because coming from outside the states, there are plenty of new Americans who go through a bunch of schooling back home. The struggle is that they may have a degree where they are from, but may have to go through more schooling in the U.S. to get their credentials. Now obviously that would be difficult for someone to possibly have to go through years of schooling to get their degree and then move here and have to do it over.

In India, Sai earned three master’s degrees, one in accounting, one in human resources, and one in philosophy in commerce. Now in Erie, PA, she is a cashier. Before coming to the U.S., she was a teacher and taught accounting for ten years.

So you could potentially have new Americans attempt to do school over again here, then dropout because it just ends up being too overwhelming due to the fact that they completed so much schooling back home. Additionally, some may have never completed college and do not realize how difficult it is when they start here in the U.S. College takes a lot of time and energy and even many U.S.-born citizens do not finish.

Moreover, college is far from cheap. Without scholarships and plenty of financial aid, college could virtually be impossible for someone to pay for especially coming from a different country. Postsecondary enrollment and attainment rates differ from one another depending on their country of origin and age at the time of immigration.

The problem does not necessarily always make it to postsecondary education however, as some students dropout during high school. According to dropout rates in the United States, among all youth ages 16 through 24, immigrants are more likely to be status dropouts than native-born students. The alarming statistic is that the dropout rate for immigrants is 29.1 percent. That percentage is for students ages 16 through 24 and is nearly three times the rate of 9.9 percent for native-born students. Immigrants account for a stunning one-quarter of the status dropouts in that age bracket.

Hispanic foreign-born students are at greater risk of dropping out than native-born youths. For foreign born, the dropout rate of 46.2 percent for immigrants is two and one-half times the dropout rate of 17.9 percent for Hispanic young adults born in the U.S.

With these dropout rates and issues with education, how do we find answers to these issues? But whose responsibility is it to get these immigrants the proper education that they need to adapt and to thrive in our culture?

The school systems have to blend teaching styles together to be able to teach native-born students and foreign-born students and make sure all students get the education that they need to move forward to college.

It is not that the U.S. has too many immigrant children in our schools, which is not the problem. The challenge is that the majority of schools across the country do not know how to best educate immigrant children. Today, there are more than 5.1 million children under the age of six whose parents are undocumented. The study shows that one on five children is enrolled in K-12 schools, and it is expected that they will represent 25 percent of the K-12 student population four years from now.

Of these students, school-age immigrants are highly concentrated in six states: California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. In 2000, 47 percent of California’s school-age children were children of immigrants. However, over the last 10 years, there have been four cities that had more immigrant children enroll in their schools than any other city: Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Omaha.

These school districts find themselves with administrators and teachers unable to serve the 7 million Spanish-speaking and 1.5 million Asian-language-speaking children and families. History has taught us that immigrants are mostly poor, have few English language skills, and are unfamiliar with our school system. Moreover, these immigrants are typically subjected to discrimination and injustice, which makes teaching and learning far more difficult for them.

What is noticeable is that in today’s schools, most English language learners find themselves in large urban schools, linguistically and culturally isolated, with principals and teachers that lack the skill and experience to help the students thrive. The lack of preparation and support is more prevalent in schools with high concentrations of English language learners and most are failing their students academically.

There needs to be a clear understanding of the law and with policies in order to solve a school’s failure rate. What needs to happen is a change in state policies, a change in classrooms in order to get properly prepared and supported teachers, and a change in immigrant children’s life chances. To solve this, when hiring new teachers there needs to be a specific emphasis on making sure these immigrant students are getting the attention they need. There should be guidelines in place so that the teachers know exactly what curriculum they need to teach. Moreover, for the students who do dropout, they need to know where they can still go to get help with their educational needs.

A big part of the solution is getting these immigrants to speak the English language. Because not everyone studies English back in their home country, therefore when they get here their English is either very poor or virtually non-existent. For them, they need to take advantage of the many ELS language centers across the country. Developing their English language skills will better equip them for life in the classroom.


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