New Data Shows Drop-Out Crisis Among Newcomer Immigrants in NYC Schools

New York, NY—Today, immigrant advocates released new data from the Migration Policy Institute revealing that 4,200 newcomer immigrant youth, ages 14-21, are not enrolled in school. Multilingual Learners/English Language Learners (MLLs/ELLs) have the highest dropout rate, 26%, of any population in the city.

The data also indicated that of the thousands of immigrant youth not currently enrolled in school, 90% are between the ages of 16-21 years. While most unenrolled immigrant youth live in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, the five transfer schools well-suited to address their complex educational needs are all located in Manhattan, except for one, located in the Bronx.

To address this crisis, the New York Immigration Coalition’s Education Collaborative unveiled a comprehensive $6 million pilot program designed with input from stakeholders at every level. The pilot is a 3-year grant-based program aimed at increasing older newcomer immigrant youth’s access to transfer schools based in communities near where they live. This grant-based program will provide a best practices model for other schools struggling to meet the needs of this student population.

“The new data on the unenrollment rate of newcomer immigrant youth uncovers a real crisis of equity and opportunity in our education system,” said Andrea Ortiz, Manager of Education Policy, New York Immigration Coalition. “Unless programs are designed to meet the unique challenges faced by newcomer immigrant youth, thousands of young people will never unlock their full potential. New York City must invest in quality options in the communities where immigrant youth live and work because every student deserves equal access to education and an opportunity to thrive.”

“Advocates for Children of NY hears often from newly-arrived, immigrant youth who need our help to enroll in high school,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, Director, Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, Advocates for Children of New York. “They want to be in school, but have been turned away at the time of enrollment, being told incorrectly that they were too old, or referred to high schools or equivalency programs that could not support them. We continue to struggle with identifying schools that are willing to accept newcomer students ages 16-21 who require intensive English instruction, academic remediation and socio-emotional support in order to graduate high school before aging out of the public school system. Oftentimes, the only school options for this population of students are ‘ELL transfer schools,’ but of the five that exist, only one is located outside of Manhattan. By creating programs to support this population of students at existing transfer schools in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, the NYC DOE will serve students otherwise left behind.”

“Across the five boroughs, thousands of older newcomer immigrants struggle to find appropriate schools that can support their unique educational needs,” said Darnell Benoit, Executive Director of Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project. “Not only do these older students typically bear the burden of supporting their families economically and taking care of younger siblings and aging relatives while going to school full-time, they often have to travel long distances simply to access suitable curriculum and supports. Transfer schools that adequately serve older newcomer immigrant students are almost exclusively located in Manhattan—we need to expand access to transfer schools in each and every borough to serve students where they live.”

"As a city that prides itself to be a welcoming, diverse and inclusive city to all, especially to immigrants, we must ensure that we live out our values and the first step to that is ensuring that everyone has access to a quality education," said Aracelis Lucero, Executive Director of Masa. "We cannot truly call ourselves a sanctuary city if the basic human right to an education is denied to recently arrived immigrant youth seeking out a better life for themselves and their families. We can and must do better. We are proud to work alongside the New York Immigration Coalition, Advocates for Children, Flanbwayan, and the Education Collaborative to address the critical need to expand the number of seats available for older and recently arrived immigrant youth to pursue their educational goals with the proper support. We look forward to partnering with the New York City Department of Education to address the current lack of opportunities available to immigrant youth."

“It’s vital that we have localized comprehensive programming and culturally responsive wrap around services for our MLL/ELL students to ensure that they have the supports they need to excel in the classroom,” said NYC Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education. “I commend NYIC for their efforts working to address the achievement gap of our MLL/ELL youth populations so that all students have an equal opportunity to graduate from high school and improve their career prospects.”

“Multilingual learners (MLLs) are an integral part of our school communities, and helping them achieve their full potential as students should be at the core of our mission as the nation’s largest public school system” said Daryl Hornick-Becker, Policy Associate at the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC). “Older and/or newcomer MLLs are most at risk and yet lack the options and resources they need to succeed. CCC is proud to partner with the Education Collaborative to advocate for more programs and supports in the outer boroughs for these students, and we look forward to working with the Administration, the Dept. of Education, City Council and our partners in the Collaborative to address those needs and fulfill the potential of all multilingual students.”

The New York Immigration Coalition’s (NYIC’s) Education Collaborative works to improve the quality of education for New York City’s Multilingual Learner (MLL)/English Language Learner (ELL) and immigrant student population and to ensure that parents have opportunities to meaningfully engage in their children’s education. The Education Collaborative comprises more than 30 groups and is multi-ethnic, bringing together leadership from grassroots immigrant organizations representing the diversity of New York’s immigrant communities. Members also include advocates from legal, policy and education organizations, including experts in MLL/ELL education. Through the Collaborative’s regular meetings, members discuss issues that MLLs/ELLs and immigrant students and families are facing and coordinate advocacy to improve outcomes for our students and better engage immigrant parents.