6 ways to improve to outcomes for immigrant students

First step is for administrators to ensure communications with families are culturally relevant
By: | August 21, 2020
Immigrant-origin students are more likely to succeed in distance learning when assignments draw on students’ own experiences but do not require home computers or broadband. (GettyImages/tapasbiswasphotography)Immigrant-origin students are more likely to succeed in distance learning when assignments draw on students’ own experiences but do not require home computers or broadband. (GettyImages/tapasbiswasphotography)

Immigrant-origin children, whose communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, represent the fastest-growing segment of the country’s school-age population, a new report says.

Immigrant communities have been more likely to lose employment, work frontline and essential jobs, and fall ill. The children are also less likely to have access to learning resources at home, according to “Supports for Students in Immigrant Families,” a report released by the EdResearch for Recovery Project at The Annenberg Institute at Brown University.

The first step in improving outcomes for immigrant-origin children is for administrators to ensure communications with families are culturally relevant, the report says.

Communications delivered in multiple languages and formats are more likely to increase family involvement and student engagement.


More from DA: 5 steps for improving school climate for girls of color


Larger districts use interpretation hotlines to connect with families while smaller systems have partnered with community organizations.

For example, the Sioux Falls School District teamed up with SD Voices for Peace to translate COVID-19-related materials into multiple languages, the report says.

Districts can also use translation apps such as Talking Points, which doesn’t require families to even download the app.

Here are four more strategies the report recommends for improving outcomes for immigrant-origin students:

1. Offer extracurricular assistance: Immigrant-origin students make greater academic progress when they receive extracurricular support such as homework help sessions and programs at public libraries.

These students are more likely to succeed when assignments do not exclusively require home computers or broadband; do not anticipate high levels of parental assistance; and draw on students’ own experiences, the report says.

 2. Provide legal guidance: Sharing information about immigrants’ legal and educational rights, and available public services, can increase chances for student success.

Boston Public Schools created, We Dream Together, a website that details resources for undocumented students. Administrators can encourage teachers to use resources such as Teaching Tolerance’s Guide for Educators and Know Your Rights materials.

3. Embrace and incorporate diversity: In daily routines such as morning meetings—whether in-person or remote—teachers can emphasize the value of diversity. They should also display messages of inclusion in the hallways and other public spaces.

Educators should also teach about immigrant-origin students’ histories and cultures, allow these students to tell their own stories.

4. Acknowledge discrimination and address trauma: A majority of principals surveyed said federal immigration enforcement policies and surrounding political rhetoric have harmed students.


More from DA: 3 concepts for improving school climate with data


Administrators should take trauma-informed teaching approaches to support students who have experienced an ordeal immigrating to the U.S. and who continued to suffer anxiety.

5. Ensure digital privacy: Families may have significant concerns about maintaining online privacy due to their immigration status. Administrators should, therefore, provide clear information about how student privacy is being protected.

Limiting bureaucratic hurdles related to school enrollment, or accessing materials textbooks and digital devices, may increase participation among children in undocumented families.

Administrators should consider waiving requirements for families to provide IDs or submit documents in person.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.