Chris Goyette and Natalie Simpson | Scroll Illustration

Are we adaptable for new immigrants?

Story by Natalie Simpson, @byuiscroll

As immigration within the United States continues to increase, schools are working to provide better English language instruction and mental-health care, according to The Washington Post. 

“There were more than 630,000 immigrant students nationwide in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the latest federal education data available,” according to The Washington Post.

Nathalie Tate, a senior studying child development, was born in the United States to a Chilean mother and a    Cuban father.

“I got picked on a lot when I was in school because I was brown and I was in a school with a lot of white people,” Tate said. “And a lot of times when people come to parent-teacher conferences, they would make fun of my mom because my mom had a very strong, strong accent, and she would attempt to speak English just to help people understand her. Yeah, she might have incorrect words or tenses, and (she doesn’t) know everything. It might be Spanglish, but she was trying.”

Immigrant students are all children born outside the country that have been enrolled in the U.S. public school system for less than three years, according to The Washington Post. 

“Between Oct. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2015, federal officials released more than 95,000 unaccompanied minors into the U.S. communities, virtually all of them entitled to enroll in public school,” according to The Washington Post.  

Eighty million Americans living in the United States are considered first- and second-generation migrant Americans, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Roughly 46 percent of migrants report being Hispanic or Latino in origin, according to the Migration  Policy Institute.

“The core is the fact that these students come to us with knowledge and skills in one language, and we need to use that as a very positive set of skills that they have that then can be the basis for their ability to learn a second language,” said Gail Rochelle, Idaho Falls District 91’s director of student achievement and school improvement.

On May 25, 1970, the Department of Education released a memorandum requiring school districts to make necessary changes to assist Limited English Proficiency students to participate significantly in the classroom by becoming proficient in English, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“There was a lot of times where I was pulled out of class because I wasn’t up to par with everyone,” Tate said.

Tate said she learned English by being read to. The books would first give a word in Spanish, and then in English.

“So I remember when I was kid, I would sit on the floor and they would read a book about cats… they would have gato and cat, or perro and dog,” Tate said. “We would learn the Spanish word and English word.”

Parents are able to opt their children out of LEP programs, but schools must make assistance available to their LEP students until they have the level of English proficiency to participate normally in the classroom, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“We don’t believe that these students are, even though the label says, limited English proficient,” Rochelle said. “We prefer not to think of them as limited English proficient, but instead they are second language learners, or English language learners, that they come with a lot of knowledge that we need to build on.”

In 2009, the average high school dropout rate for Latinos in the U.S. was roughly 20 percent, nearly double the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Only 9.9 percent of White Americans are considered poor, while 26.6 percent of Hispanic Americans are considered poor, according to the University of Michigan National Poverty Center.

“Many students are not only poor, struggling with English and navigating without a lot of support at home, they say, but also often are under pressure from gangs seeking new recruits,” according to The Washington Post. 

The dropout rates of those with lower income nearly doubled the dropout rate of those with average income in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“My parents always grew up that way to have a better life for us,” Tate said. “And I choose better choices and to grow and to learn and to want and have that desire to learn and to be better because we can, because we have that opportunity.  That’s what our parents give us.”

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