Families & the Community

Georgia’s Education Reforms Fall Short for Immigrants and ELLs, Report Says

By Lesli A. Maxwell — March 20, 2014 2 min read
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Despite explosive growth in Georgia’s immigrant population since the 1990s, education reform efforts in the state—where immigrants or their children now account for one in five residents between the ages of 16 and 26—have not homed in on the specific needs of this population, a new study concludes.

The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute today released the report which takes a close look at the high school achievement records, along with adult education and postsecondary participation and completion among Georgia’s immigrant youths. The state experienced some of the most dramatic growth in immigrant populations in the nation in the late 1990s and 2000s.

The findings show stark gaps between immigrant and/or English-learners and other students in Georgia:

  • English-language learners had a four-year high school graduation rate of 44 percent in 2012—the state’s overall rate was 70 percent;
  • Twenty-nine percent of high school students who are English-learners have been so for six years or more—making them long-term ELLS;
  • Nearly one-third of Georgia’s immigrant youth ages 21-26 have no high school diploma or GED, compared to the statewide rate of 13 percent; and
  • Hispanic students—who comprise 10 percent of statewide high school enrollment—accounted for just 4 percent of technical college enrollment and 5 percent of students in the state university system in 2012.

The analysis draws on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as the state education agency. Researchers also conducted site visits and interviews in public schools and postsecondary institutions in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, two suburban Atlanta counties with the largest populations of immigrant youth in the state.

The report also highlights state policies in Georgia that limit the participation of immigrant youth in adult education and in its public colleges and universities. State law, for example, requires individuals to prove they are in the United States legally before they can enroll in public adult education classes—traditionally, the easiest way for immigrants to access English-as-a-second-language courses. That restriction caused adult ESL participation in Georgia to take a one-year dive of 60 percent, according to the report. Undocumented immigrants must also pay out-of-state tuition rates for public colleges and universities.

This is the second report in a five-state series that the Migration Policy Institute is doing on the educational experiences and success rates of immigrant youth. The first report, on Washington state, was released last year. Reports on California, Florida, and New York will be published later this year.

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