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ESL Classes: A Contemporary form of Segregation?

ESL Classes: A Contemporary form of Segregation?

A series of articles on immigration continues on the front page of today’s New York Times. The article focuses on how classrooms have become the front lines of America’s battles over whether and how to assimilate new immigrants and their children.

Interesting article – here are a few highlights and interesting stats:

Education officials classify some 5.1 million students in the United States – 1 in 10 of all those enrolled in public schools – as English language learners, a 60 percent increase from 1995 to 2005.

  • The silence and separation fueled an us-versus-them dynamic. The president of Hylton’s parent-teacher-student organization recalled her daughter complaining about an immigrant student wearing a T-shirt that said, “They Can’t Deport Us All.” A Peruvian mother remembered her son coming home and asking, “Are we legal?”
  • Education experts estimate that it takes the average learner of English at least two years of study to hold conversations, and five to seven years to write essays, understand a novel or explain scientific processes at the level of their English-speaking peers.
  • Amalia’s classes are all in English. Still, Amalia, 19, worries that because she spends most of her school day speaking Spanish with other students, and then with her parents at home, it could be years before she is able to speak, read and write English fluently enough to compete for college.
  • “If I am going to end up cleaning houses with my mother,” Amalia said to explain why she almost quit Hylton, “why go to high school?”
  • But Amy Weiler, an assistant principal, worried whether the program had turned high school into more of an end than a beginning. “If you ask whether our program is successful at getting our students to pass tests, the data would indicate that it is,” Ms. Weiler said. “But if you ask whether we are helping our students to assimilate, there’s no data to answer that question.”
  • Some students, of course, successfully climb into the middle class and beyond, as generations of immigrants before them have. But Hispanic college graduation rates – 16 percent of 25- to 29-year-old Hispanics born in the United States hold a college degree, compared with 34 percent of whites and 62 percent of Asian-Americans – suggest that many recent immigrants and their children are not going to college.
  • Select a foreign-born group to see how they settled across the United States.
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