“Little-Noticed” Group: Out-of-School Immigrant Youths

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 23, 2007 1 min read
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It may seem obvious that immigrant youths who are “out of school” aren’t going to get much educational help, but a couple of researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California suggest in a research brief and study that educators should try to figure out how to reach such youths anyway. The researchers define out-of-school immigrant youths as young people ages 13-22 who are born abroad and don’t have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate.

They note that the mission of the federal migrant education program officially expanded in recent years to include out-of-school immigrant youths. Yet, few of the dollars from that program spent in California go to out-of-school immigrant youths and the program is influencing the educational progress of such young people “only slightly,” the researchers say.

When I read the description of some of these youth in California--that half of out-of-school youths ages 13-15 live apart from their parents, that more than half in that same age group have less than a 7th-grade education--I thought of an out-of-school teenager from Oaxaca, Mexico, who I met five years ago when I visited a camp for migrant farmworkers in Hillsboro, Ore. I was writing about how local educators reached out to migrant families. Briefly I met Juliana, who told me she was 15 and had come to the United States with her husband. She and her sister, who was also a teenager, were illiterate and stayed at the camp during the day to care for their young children. On that particular day, Juliana was more interested in talking with the outreach workers about the need for clothing for her family than schooling.

It probably won’t work for educators to reach some of the youths in this “little-noticed” and “hidden” group through traditional classrooms, the researchers observe.

I remember that the Hillsboro school district offered evening classes in English during the summers for youths who worked in the fields during the day. That struck me as a creative way to reach out-of-school youths who were motivated to learn.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.