Published Online: February 19, 1997

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Bilingual & Immigrant Education

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Immigrant students in New York City are often more motivated and happier in school than their native-born peers, a recent study concludes.

And when variables such as socioeconomic status, English proficiency, and class size are held constant, schools with larger immigrant enrollments do better on certain standardized tests, such as reading tests, than do schools with fewer immigrants.

The study, released late last month by the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, includes surveys of nearly 600 elementary and high school students in New York City. While nearly 63 percent of the students said they want to spend every day in school, only 43 percent of native-born students agreed. Roughly 60 percent of the immigrant students said they find most of their classes "very interesting," but only 45 percent of their American-born peers said the same thing.

The study did not explore why immigrants may be more motivated students. But author Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz said that prior research has shown that immigrant families and communities tend to place a high value on education and learning.

"Just the process of migration itself means that these families are highly motivated," said Mr. Rivera-Batiz, an associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College.

Copies of "The Education of Immigrant Children: The Case of New York City" are $10 each; call (212) 678-3780.

The debate over "ebonics," or black English, continues. Triggered by the Oakland, Calif., school board's Dec. 18 adoption of a widely discussed resolution declaring that many black students speak a language distinct from English, lawmakers in states such as Massachusetts and Virginia have filed bills that would prohibit public schools from teaching ebonics.

In Los Angeles, the only black member of the school board last month introduced a motion to expand language programs for African-American students in the nation's second-largest district. Last week, the board voted 4-3 to put off the expansion in favor of studying existing programs' efficacy.

And now, there is the "Stop Ebonics/Save Our Children" campaign being launched by the Legal Affairs Council, a conservative think tank in Fairfax, Va. The campaign seeks to raise $100,000 to pay for a nationwide grassroots effort "to educate, inform, alert, and mobilize Americans about what we see as a threat to the children of our cities."

--LYNN SCHNAIBERG lschnaib@epe.org

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