Understanding and Supporting the Educational Needs of Recently Arrived Immigrant English Learner Students

Lessons for State and Local Education Agencies

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The foreign-born population in the United States is larger than it has ever been with over 40 million immigrants living in the country. U.S. classrooms are increasingly diverse, with well over two million foreign-born children ages 5 through 17 enrolled in school, roughly 4.1 percent of the total student population. Not only are there a record number of immigrant youth, but changing migration patterns have resulted in immigrant families and communities throughout the U.S., not just in traditional immigrant destinations. These arriving immigrants bring tremendous assets and strengths to U.S. classrooms and communities, yet it remains important to build understanding of how existing structures can best support these students’ success in U.S. schools.

Recently arrived immigrant English learners (RAIELs) are a highly diverse group, encompassing important subgroups such as students with refugee status, unaccompanied minors, and students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFEs). RAIELs arrive in the U.S. filtering into all grade levels, with varied initial English proficiency levels, educational backgrounds, and home language literacy levels. These students bring unique and valued strengths to the classrooms, but also frequently face shared challenges. While RAIELs share with other English Learners (ELs) a common need to acquire English proficiency, they also often have needs that non-recently arrived EL students do not typically have. These include mental, physical, and social needs that are shaped by dislocation and trauma exposure; academic needs that pertain to limited or interrupted prior formal schooling; and adjustment to the norms and characteristics of a new country, community, and school setting. Given this wide range of challenges, it is no surprise that education agencies struggle to develop policies and practices that adequately address RAIELs' needs. 

This report was initiated by the Council of Chief State School Officers' (CCSSO) English Learner State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (EL SCASS). This group, made up of leaders of English learner education from state departments of education across the country, identified a need to understand and improve their work supporting the education of immigrant students who had recently arrived in the U.S. 

This report explores answers to three critical questions: (1) Who are recently arrived immigrant EL students? (2) What are their educational needs? and (3) What school, district, and state-level policies and practices are being implemented to support them? Our hope is that the report offers information, support, and guidance for the work of both state departments of education and local education agencies as they design, implement, adapt, and evaluate their programs, policies, and services for this important group of students. 

Please click here for the Understanding and Supporting the Educational Needs of Recently Arrived Immigrant English Learner Students webinar

Please click here for the Understanding and Supporting the Educational Needs of Recently Arrived Immigrant English Learner Students webinar slides


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