How Schools Are Helping Immigrant Children and Families Communicate

First and second-generation immigrant children make up the “fastest growing group of American children.” According to Child Trends, this group grew by 51 percent between 1995 and 2014, to 18.7 million, or one-quarter of all U.S. children. Eighteen million is no small number, and school districts are struggling to keep up with the students and their families, many of whom speak little or no English. Let’s take a look at what some of these districts are doing to help.

A recent article in the Huffington Post highlights the Syracuse City School District, a very poor district in Syracuse, New York where half of the children, many from refugee families, live in poverty. The district has been working hard to help these immigrant students as well as ensure clear and open communication between schools, parents and communities. They have held events to help parents understand how U.S. schools work and explain concepts like ‘parent-teacher conferences’, they’ve contracted interpreters to help with communication and they’ve even created a “nationality workers” position to work directly with immigrant parents.

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in Indiana is trying something a bit different; they’ve created a newcomer program. According to the IndyStar, the IPS newcomer program “allows students who know little to no English to attend classes catered to their limited English language knowledge, every day for their first year in America.”  In addition, the program provides resources to the parents so they can also communicate with the school.

Schools are also turning to GrapeSEED to help their immigrant students learn to speak, read and write English.

  • Berrien Springs Public Schools in Michigan has English as a Second Language (ESL) students who speak 22 different languages. It was a challenge for educators there to find a program or material that would fit more than one or two children at a time. In 2012, they piloted GrapeSEED and they have been using it ever since. Independent research shows that the Berrien Springs ESL students receiving GrapeSEED in Grades K, 1 and 2 reached reading proficiency in only 2-3 years, which is half the time of the national average of 6-8 years!
  • Buckeye Elementary School, part of Salem City School District in Ohio, is using GrapeSEED as part of their English Language Learner (ELL) Pull-out program. One of the school’s challenges is that many of the immigrant students have never even attended school before. According to ELL Pullout Teacher Alison Haynes, the students have made significant growth. “While working with my ELL students during their hour block of time with me, I had significant growth with the students learning sight words pulled from the GrapeSEED material.”
  • School City of Hammond in Indiana is using GrapeSEED as part of the ‘Summer Bootcamp’ for its Language Development Program students and parents.

GrapeSEED is being used in a variety of settings, including early childhood and Pre-K classrooms, Tier 1 and 2 Response-to-Intervention (RTI) initiatives, Title programs for struggling learners, ESL/ELL classrooms or English immersion programs, pull-out, push-in or whole classroom environments. If you are interested in learning more about how GrapeSEED can help immigrant students in your district, contact us!