A study designed to assess the needs of unaccompanied minors living in the New York City metropolitan area found that students, many of whom are English-langauge learners, face an array of obstacles to enrolling in school and receiving an education free of discrimination.
“Struggle for Identity and Inclusion: Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth in New York City,” a report from the Vera Institute of Justice and the Fordham University Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice explored the experiences of 23 youths who migrated to the United States without parents or guardians and had arrived between three months and five years prior to the study.
School-age participants reported difficulty when trying to register at local schools, including instances when they were “redirected to other schools, such as international schools in other boroughs, because there was not enough support available for [English-as-a-second-language and English-language-learner] students,” the study authors wrote.
“This reportedly makes youth participants feel as if they were not allowed choices, adding to their feelings of discrimination,” the authors added.
New York City has had an uneven record when it comes to educating English-langauge learners. The district plans to add or expand dual-language programs at 40 campuses this school year, but leaders are still working to resolve issues identified in a 2011 state education department report that outlined the district’s shortcomings on ELL education. Roughly one in seven students in the 1.1-million student system is an English-learner.
Study participants also reported that the need to work full- or part-time jobs to support themselves financially often made it difficult to devote enough time and energy to school work.
The study findings are “intended to spur consideration of state and local level program reforms and help provide a first step to building more coherent policies ... to support the inclusion of unaccompanied immigrant children and youth,” the authors wrote.
Two peer researchers who came to the United States as unaccompanied minors conducted focus groups and interviewed the participants. The researchers found the participants at community-based organizations.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.