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Creating New Futures for Newcomers

Creating New Futures for Newcomers:
Lessons from Five Schools that Serve K-12 Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylees


You will learn:

  • Who are newcomer students and where do they come from?
  • What kinds of schools and programs help newcomer students?  
  • What makes a “bright spot” school?
  • What promising practices can we learn from these schools?

About the report:

  • Newcomer students are recently arrived immigrants and refugees found in the classrooms of rural towns, suburbs, and big cities. They face many challenges after arriving here, including adapting to a new culture socially, mastering a new language, and adjusting to a new educational system.
  • The Center for Education Equity at MAEC searched for schools that offer promising and effective strategies for newcomer students. We identified five “bright spot” schools and profiled them in our report, Creating New Futures for Newcomers.
  • Educators seeking guidance will find proven approaches and other fresh ideas that can benefit all students, but especially immigrant and refugee students.

The Newcomer Dream. Manhattan International High School, NY

Speaker 1: Newcomer students are recently arrived immigrants or refugees who attend our schools. Many speak little or no English.
Speaker 1: Newcomer students are recently arrived immigrants or refugees who attend our schools. Many speak little or no English.
Many have big gaps in their education. They may be fleeing violence or crushing poverty. They come looking for a better life. For these children, the newcomer dream starts with getting a good education. Here at the Center for Education Equity, we wanted to find out what schools are doing right with newcomers, so we could share their best practices. We identified five very different newcomer schools, bright spots, which are highlighted in our report, Creating New Futures. At Manhattan International High School, newcomer students are achieving remarkable outcomes against the odds.

[00:00:58] Speaker 2: First of all, I didn't really want to come here. I never had that dream for like, oh my God, I want to be in United States, it’s so great. My dad decided to leave to United States to get some money, because at that time, Kazakhstan was experiencing some financial problems. So, I was two when my dad left. Over time, my dad decided that I have to come here too. I came to United States when I was 12 years old from Kazakhstan.
It was really sad that my mom wasn't able to come here, because for 7 years, it was just me and my mom. I knew he's my dad, but I didn't really have that connection with him, so it was very weird to come here, and like live with him.
When I came to New York, I was in eighth grade, so I had to go to middle school, the last year of middle school. When I came to school, I didn't understand anything, but it was really hard for me, because I didn't know any basic words, and there was like subjects such as math, history, and they had like much more complicated terms, so it was even more pressure. I was afraid of my accent. I was afraid of just putting words, and not in the right place. So, all of this things just pressured me, and so thinking, Darya, if you're going to talk, people will make fun of you, people will say, oh, you don't know English, or something like that.

[00:02:20] Speaker 3: Our students come from all over the world, and they have diverse experiences and needs. Our students experience a life change that's unlike any other experience that we might have if we're born and raised in this country. Some of our students have said it's like being born again. And they don't mean it in the religious way. They talk about part of them dying, and having to learn how to understand a world that's completely unlike what they've seen their whole life.
There's trauma from family separations, from not having stable homes when they come, or having employment, or medical assistance. Some of our students are parents. So, they're coming with great social emotional needs, and I think that that is at the heart and key of our program.

[00:03:21] Speaker 2: So, when I came to Manhattan International High School, I just saw a lot of people that were not speaking English, but other languages other than English. All of our teachers, they were really supportive. They understood that English wasn't our first language, and it was really a big struggle for us, not to only talk, but just to be in the new environment.

[00:03:43] Speaker 3: We begin by having teams of teachers do very complete and thorough diagnostics. So, we meet each and every student by interviewing them individually. We learned where they come from, what they've gone through, how they're living today. We make sure to put in place counselors, social workers, or any other type of services that they might need, and make sure to embed within our program mentoring and counseling to address all the needs that have been identified from the beginning of the year. Our teachers use curriculum that they developed together in an interdisciplinary way to address some of those needs.

[00:04:29] Speaker 2: Ninth grade was really focusing on like to improve our English skills, to work in teams, so we could talk more. We didn't just listen or talk or just write or read. We had really fun interactive projects. It was making us to learn more, making us just to get this information as soon as possible, and like to get as much more of it.

[00:04:58] Speaker 4: Every class has students who are relatively new to the language. But some are performing at higher levels, and some are brand new beginners and maybe have very few words in English at all. But working together to solve problems, working together on a project, helps them really use their peers and leverage their peers to help build skills with a low affective filter, I would say. So, it's peer work, and there's no fear of judgment or even evaluation while they're working on a project.

[00:05:32] Speaker 2: The first two months in ninth grade, I still was lost. I still didn't understand some parts of like what my teachers were saying. I didn't really understand any books. I think it was like January, February, that's when I was like, Darya, you’re finally starting to study something, your grades became much better, you started not feeling that shy or scared of talking with other people. And by the end of ninth grade, I was so confident myself.

[00:06:01] Speaker 3: Although teachers work on rigorous curriculum on addressing every student’s specific needs, we're not teaching content separate from language. There is no separation between a content area science class and learning English. They go hand-in-hand, and they strengthen each other. They deepen the learning.
We talked about student-centered classrooms. We need to talk about teacher-centered schools, because there are truly the ones that live with the student and know what they need. I think what makes our school special also is the school governance and the structures in place to allow teachers to have a voice, and to participate in running the school, identifying what the issues are to make the school grow and improve, and in making decisions, entrusting teachers to make decisions.

[00:07:07] Speaker 2: High School graduation, it means a lot for my family. I'm the first person who's going to finish like High School in here. And they don't really know how like the whole system works. But from what I told my dad and my mom and my brother, they really think that I did a lot of hard work in order to get here.

[00:07:29] Speaker 3: When our students graduate, they go everywhere. Some of our students go to community colleges, others go to four-year schools, others go to private schools. We have students come back, and they have become police officers, or they're working at some big, great technology company, coding, and making models. Some students are going into law. Other students have to work for a little while in order to be able to pay for their schools, and continue their education. They are prepared to be successful with the necessary skills to achieve whatever it is they're interested in pursuing, and having a good productive life.

[00:08:11] Speaker 2: When I started high school, I wasn't very confident in myself. I didn't think that I would succeed in anything. I didn't think that I would be something more. But these four years passed, and I can see of how much I improved, how much I learned, and that I had all that power just to be more, just to be successful. And now, I just feel like I can do anything if I just put my mind and work into it.

[00:08:42] Speaker 5: [Foreign language 00:08:42] Hello, my name is Edwin, I was raised in Mexico, but born in the USA and I have been here since I was 9 years old.

[00:08:49] Speaker 6: [Foreign language 00:08:49] Hi, my name is Monica and I’m from Nepal. I was 17 when I came to the United States.

[00:08:55] Speaker 7: [Foreign language 00:08:55] My name is Mohamed, I’m from Egypt. I’ve been living in the United States since I was 16 years old.

[00:09:01] Speaker 8: [Foreign language 00:09:01] Hello, my name is Karina and I’m from Russia. I have been living in the United States for 3 years.

[00:09:07] Speaker 9: [Foreign language 00:09:07] My name is Sarah, I’m from France. I arrived to the United States when I was 15.

[00:09:13] Speaker 5: Next year, I will be going to New York City College of Technology, and I will become a social worker.

[00:09:19] Speaker 6: Next year, I will be going to at Lehman College, and I'll be studying nursing.

[00:09:23] Speaker 7: Next year, I'm going to New York City College of Technology, going to study computer science.

[00:09:30] Speaker 8: Next year, I will be going to University at Buffalo, study pharmacy.

[00:09:34] Speaker 9: In the future, I want to be a flight attendant for a specific company that’s name Air France.

[00:09:39] Speaker 2: [Foreign language 00:09:39]. Hello my name is Darya. I came to the United States when I was 12 years old from Kazakstan.

[00:09:46] Speaker 2: Me and my classmates, we all had our struggles and problems, but we conquered them. And next year, I will be going to Brooklyn College to study nursing. And I hope when I graduate, my mom will be next to me that day.

[00:10:00][END OF AUDIO]

Infographic: These students arrived in the U.S. less than 4 years earlier.
75% graduated in 4 years.
90% graduated in 6 years.
To graduate, seniors prepare a portfolio in English, math, social studies, science and their native language. It also includes a creative piece, resume and self-evaluation.
Each senior has a mentor to help prepare and present their portfolio and to plan for college and career.
Learn more: Creating New Futures for Newcomers, lessons from 5 schools that serve K-12 immigrants, refugees and asylees. A report by the Center for Education Equity at MAEC.
The Center for Education Equity at MAEC
The Center for Education Equity is the Region 1 equity assistance center. MAEC partners with WestEd and AIR to improve and sustain the systemic capacity of public education to increase the outcomes of students regardless of race, gender,religion and national origin.
The Center for Education Equity at MAEC is one of four EACS funded by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This content does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
With sincere thanks to the teachers, staff and students at The Manhattan International High School.

[00:11:06][End of Video]

This report was developed by the Center for Education Equity at MAEC and written by BethAnn Berliner, WestEd.

The contents of this guide were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

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