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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Secondary Newcomer Programs: Helping Recent Immigrants Prepare for School Success


Many school districts are facing increasing numbers of secondary immigrant students who have low level English or native language skills and, in many cases, have had limited formal education in heir native countries. These students must learn English, take the required content courses, and catch up to heir native-English-speaking peers before high school graduation. How are schools meeting the needs of these students, many of whom are placed below the expected grade level for their age?

Some districts have developed newcomer programs that serve these students through a program of intensive language development and academic and cultural orientation, for a limited period of time (usually from 6-18 months), before placing them in the regular school language support and academic programs. The rationale for establishing these programs differs across sites, but many programs were set up for one or more of the following reasons:

• Students were at risk of educational failure or of dropping out of school.

• Students were over age for their grade level placement, because of weak academic skills and limited formal education.

• Students' needs surpassed the instructional design of the regular ESL or bilingual program that was in place in the district.

• Students had low or no English or native language literacy skills.

This digest reports on data collected through a study of secondary newcomer programs, sponsored by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S.Department of Education as part of he Center for Education, Diversity & Excellence. It introduces the common factors and range of practices found in secondary newcomer programs across the United States. The information is drawn from program profiles found in Secondary Newcomer Programs in the United States:1996-97 Directory (Short & Boyson,1997).

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