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Open Access Publications from the University of California

School/Community Partnerships to Support Language Minority Student Success


On their own, schools and families may not be able to support the academic success of every student (Kirst, 1991). In particular, language minority students, including immigrants and the U.S. born children of immigrants, may not receive appropriate educational services due to a mismatch between the languages and cultures of the schools and those of their communities. To enhance support for these students, many schools have partnered with community-based organizations (CBOs) groups committed to helping people obtain health, education, and other basic human services (Dryfoos, 1998). The programs they operate promise to assist students in ways that lie beyond the schools' traditional methods (Dryfoos, 1998; Heath & McLaughlin, 1991; Melaville, 1998). This research brief will provide some findings of a national study of school/CBO partnerships.

Researchers from the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE) collected descriptive data on partnerships that promote the academic achievement of language minority students. After a nomination process, 62 of 100 identified partnerships were selected to study. Thirty-one completed a survey and 17 of these partnerships were visited. Survey and site visit data indicate that the majority serve clients who are all or nearly all English language learners. One third of the 31 serve only Spanish speakers. The others serve multilingual populations in which speakers of Spanish are most numerous, followed by Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, Chinese languages, Lao, and Tongan. Typically, students are referred to the programs based on teachers' concerns, grade point average, testing results, limited English proficiency, attendance, or personal and family problems—but students also enroll voluntarily.

Three types of CBOs join with schools to support language minority students:

• Ethnic organizations. For example, the Filipino Community of Seattle partners with the Seattle Public Schools to operate the Filipino Youth Empowerment Project.

• CBOs whose only function is a school partnership. The Vaughn Family Center in Pacoima, CA was established to partner with one elementary school.

• Multi-purpose service organizations. The Chinatown Service Center operates the Castelar Healthy Start program at a Los Angeles elementary school with tutoring for students as well as health and other family services.

Most of these CBOs are nonprofit organizations.

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