Beyond Teaching English: Supporting High School Completion by Immigrant and Refugee Students

Report Author: 
Julie Sugarman
Original Date of Publication: 
November, 2017

This report examines the ways in which selected school districts across the United States are providing services for immigrant and refugee students who are high school aged, particularly those entering school with limited formal education in their country of origin. Based on research and feedback from schools participating in the Learning Network for Newcomer Youth Success, the author focuses on a few key points. First, in order to address the variety of issues immigrant youth may bring with them (e.g., trauma, feelings of cultural dislocation, etc.) schools should provide wrap-around services that include mental health counseling and explicit support for adjusting to new academic and social expectations. In several locations, this type of work is being done in collaboration with local community-based organizations. Second, schools need to develop flexible and responsive educational structures that meet the needs of diverse students. In some places, this includes programs specifically designed for students starting school over the age of 16. The report highlights multiple models that are shaped by local demographics, geography and the amount of resources school districts possess. Third, the author suggests that since many older students end up in the adult basic education system, high schools need to have a good sense of the larger ecosystem of educational options. Finally, the author stresses that districts need to monitor their success in working with immigrant and refugee students and modify their programs accordingly. She suggests that in some locations decision-making is driven by a desire to conform to ideological agendas rather than by data and rigorous analysis. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

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Sugarman, J. (2017). Beyond Teaching English: Supporting High School Completion by Immigrant and Refugee Students (p. 36). Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from

Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute