Credit: Screenshot of CPS-ASEC data

Immigrant youth without high school diplomas.

Home to one-quarter of the nation’s immigrants and a top-destination for incoming refugees, California must significantly improve educational outcomes for immigrant youth if the state – and the nation – are to stay economically competitive, according to a new report.

“California’s success in integrating immigrant youth is critical not just to the state but the nation,” according to Critical Choices in Post-Recession California, released Wednesday by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The report calls on California state leaders to take advantage of recent reforms and a recovering economy to focus more strongly on improving the educational attainment of the growing segment of the state population, many of whom are classified as English learners. California, the report said, educates more than one-third of English learners in the nation.

“We can’t afford to leave behind such a huge part of the school population,” said Christopher Edley, a law professor and former dean at the UC Berkeley law school and former co-chair of the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. “We have to make a moral commitment that each and every child deserves an effective instructional strategy.”

More than half of those ages 16 to 26 in California, about 3.3 million people, are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to the report, yet immigrants lag behind other groups in academic achievement.

According to the report:

  • Nearly 30 percent of first-generation immigrants ages 21 to 26 in California don’t have a high school diploma, compared with 13 percent of all youth statewide.
  • The four-year graduation rate of students classified as English learners is 63 percent, compared with a statewide average of 80 percent.
  • Latinos – who comprised 51 percent of high school students in 2012 – lag behind other groups in attending college and obtaining college degrees: 16 percent of the state’s second-generation Latino students have at least a two-year degree, compared to 21 percent nationwide in 2009-13.

California is currently 46th in the nation in the number of adults with high school diplomas. The state will have to produce an additional 2.3 million college graduates by 2025 if it is to join the ranks of the top 10 states in the number of adults with college degrees – which are increasingly becoming a requirement for available jobs, the report said.

“If current trends persist, the underperformance of first- and second-generation immigrants could imperil the state’s future workforce competitiveness,” said the report.

Budget cuts during the recession undercut student services, resulting in teacher layoffs, a reduction in college enrollment, and severely diminished adult education services, which allowed many immigrant students to pursue language classes or receive additional support, the report said.

The recovering economy and reforms such as the new Local Control Funding Formula position the state to put a stronger focus on the needs of English learners and other immigrants, report authors said. The funding formula gives schools more discretion over how they spend their money and gives additional funding to districts with high numbers of low-income students and English language learners.

“Coming out of a historic recession, California’s education systems are at a watershed, with enormous changes underway affecting funding, governance, standards and accountability at all levels,” said report co-author Sarah Hooker, an MPI policy analyst, in a statement. “The state’s responses to the recession undercut its performance in educating immigrant youth; whether this record improves will remain in doubt unless the needs of these youth are made a more central focus of reform and accountability efforts.”


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  1. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    There's so much consideration given to educating high needs students we rarely ever discuss the trade off we're making by focusing so much funding for compensatory education at the expense of general education. And we've developed a mindset that low performance can be remedied through more funding and more programs when it is primarily a cultural issue. We are also making every effort at great expense to hold onto the worst performing and most difficult … Read More

    There’s so much consideration given to educating high needs students we rarely ever discuss the trade off we’re making by focusing so much funding for compensatory education at the expense of general education. And we’ve developed a mindset that low performance can be remedied through more funding and more programs when it is primarily a cultural issue. We are also making every effort at great expense to hold onto the worst performing and most difficult students, many of whom significantly increase the risk for the failure of others as a result of their daily classroom behaviors that take away from quality instructional time. Every students needs our best effort to succeed. We never talk about the average student who could become great if only we focused our attention on all students instead of only the ones that are failing?

    For example, in SFUSD since 2010 we spent more than double per pupil, inclusive of all funding streams, among the 16 schools in the Superintendent Zones compared to the rest of the district. What do we have to show for that? Only 3 schools significantly outperformed the district average and most schools barely kept pace while some fell behind even further despite the massive investment including multi-million School Improvement Grants. During this period the SF Chronicle reported it would take 176 years at this rate to close the achievement gap.

    In the meantime and as a result of the district funding scheme, most of the district schools are on extraordinarily tight recession budgets and good students are losing opportunities while we pay for remediation to little avail. Years after its costly efforts to close the achievement gap SFUSD remains the urban district with the largest.

    We are not investing in success and instead simply trying to prevent failure. So let’s get those H1 visas because if we continue to down this path, importing expertise will be ever more necessary as we fail to nurture the best and brightest.

    Replies

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      I don’t know that Id focus on the need for education from an economic standpoint. From a market perspective, it’s less expensive for other countries to educate our workers than it is for us to educate them.

    • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

      No child left behind? Easy. No children go anywhere.

    • Slammy 2 years ago2 years ago

      In SF, the school board unanimously decided to reduce math class options available to all students. Math classes are sacrificed in the pursuit of “equality of success.” It feels like SFUSD has given up on all of our kids. Lowering expectations is educational leadership.

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