Webinar spotlights federal resources to support newcomer and immigrant youth

The U.S. Department of Education hosted a webinar Sept. 6 to provide local educational agencies with examples of best practices, partnerships, tools, lessons learned and more in supporting newcomer students at the local level.

That same day, the department issued a Dear Colleague Letter on Serving Immigrant Students, which affirmed school districts’ responsibilities to serve immigrant students, detailed various funding streams that could be used to provide wraparound supports, and reminded LEAs of the department’s Newcomer Toolkit released in June.

These documents were among the many tools highlighted during the Sept. 6 webinar, a recording of which can be viewed here.

“The Dear Colleague Letter is a reminder that all children in the U.S. have an equal right to enroll and participate in elementary and secondary schools without regard to their parents’ immigration status,” said Brenda Calderon, senior advisor in the department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. “It’s very important to make sure that students cannot be denied access to an education because of their immigration status or perceived immigration status. Further, [the] letter outlines a number of programs that could be used to support immigrant students.”

Education officials are encouraged to look at the specific eligibility criteria for each program to understand how they may be used to support different groups of students in grades preK-12.

Federal resources

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s letter cites several programs that may support immigrant students, including Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the English Language Acquisition Program, Education for Homeless Children and Youth, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and various discretionary grants.

Burbio, a data service for K-12 spending and operations which tracks school board activity in over 1,500 districts covering over 50 percent of the K-12 population, found several hundred mentions of newcomer, immigrant, migrant students and other related terms in a search of spring 2023 school board meeting documents performed at the request of K-12 Dive.

The updated toolkit can help LEAs meet the academic, social-emotional and mental health needs of newcomer students. It provides resources for engaging newcomer families, professional development activities and more — all of which are sorely needed as hundreds of thousands of immigrant students enroll in U.S. schools annually.

In the 2021–22 school year alone, Los Angeles Unified School District enrolled more than 13,000 international newcomer students.

California schools

Nearly 152,000 newcomer students enrolled in California schools statewide in the 2021–22 academic year, according to a report released in May by Policy Analysis for California Education. One in 40 students in the state was a newcomer.

The report offers several suggestions to better support this population:

  • Offering newcomer-specific instruction
  • Providing dedicated state funding
  • improving newcomer student data collection
  • Granting additional planning time for teachers
  • Ensuring a comprehensive enrollment process that includes language assessments and screenings for housing, food, legal aid and mental health needs

Assembly Bill 714 would require the California Department of Education to develop guidance regarding requirements, best practices and available state and federally funded programs for newcomer students. The bill would also require the state to annually publish a report on the number of newcomer students.

These types of supports are crucial to ensuring newcomer and immigrant students can achieve academic success, officials said during the Sept. 6 webinar.

“It’s important to focus all the discussions about newcomers on the processes that need to be in place to support them and to make them feel welcome. And because newcomers are diverse academically, economically, linguistically and socially, we must engage educators from all the roles and the responsibilities in engineering in the school environment that meets these diverse needs,” said Montserrat Garibay, Assistant Deputy Secretary & Director for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. “Newcomers have incredible potential and they can reach the same ambitious roles that are in place for all our students, and it is our job as educators to develop that potential as we design more responsive learning environments.”

Additional resources:

Tools for engagement: