With Start of School, Immigrant Parents & Education Advocates Lay Out Hopes and Demands for Successful Academic Year

New York, NY—Today, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Education Collaborative, advocates, and immigrant parents held a media briefing demanding the Department of Education (DOE) immediately adopt recommendations outlined in the Education Collaborative’s 2021 ELL Roadmap, which provides a blueprint for how the DOE can develop and implement a comprehensive plan for catching up ELLs, ELLs with disabilities, and students with Limited English Proficient parents and improve communications with immigrant families.

Prior to the pandemic in 2020, ELLs had the highest dropout rate of any subgroup in New York City (at 23%). The pandemic only exacerbated this pattern and deepened the communication gaps between schools and families, the majority of whom did not receive any communications, let alone in language communications from schools regarding their student’s progress.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified and exacerbated inequities faced by New York’s immigrant students and families,” said Andrea Ortiz, Senior Manager of Education Policy, New York Immigration Coalition. “For over a year, immigrant families and students struggled in isolation due to the lack of timely and linguistically appropriate communications from schools. Additionally, too many immigrant students were robbed of programs such as English as a New Language or bilingual services necessary for them to succeed in school. This year, the Department of Education finally has the means to ensure our English Language Learners are provided equitable access to the academic recovery programs they need, as well as the funding necessary to improve language access and communications with immigrant families. Yet, the DOE has not announced any plan of action to meet the needs of ELL students. Each day of delay is another day immigrant students are deprived of needed learning opportunities to recover and thrive.”

"From COVID-19 to Ida, our immigrant community, including our undocumented students and mixed status family members, inside and outside of our schools continue to be left out of clear supports in the plan for recovery. This has a detrimental impact on not only their well being but also their ability to access educational support and resources they rightfully deserve as students and family members in our schools. From enrollment challenges for our newcomer parents to lack of translation and interpretation support to limited resources on post-secondary options for our undocumented students, our immigrant community continue to experience unique systemic challenges that have been overlooked for too long. As we begin this school year, there is an opportunity to increase transparency in what targeted programs and supports will be offered to rebuild and reimagine schools as spaces that are welcoming and supportive of the unique strengths found in each and everyone of our immigrant, multilingual and undocumented students,” said Vanessa Luna, Co-founder, Chief Program Officer, ImmSchools,  an immigrant-led nonprofit ensuring schools are safe and inclusive spaces for undocumented students and mixed status families. 

"Currently, we are facing many long-term challenges as schools haven't been the same since the pandemic and immigrant students and families are struggling to figure it all out,” said Darnell Benoit, Executive Director, Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project. “There is a lot of confusion regarding learning. Students are facing learning loss yet schools are not fully equipped to respond to the needs of English Language Learners (ELLs), immigrant students, and their families. Community-based organizations are on the ground filling the gaps but are in urgent need of funding support. I hope this new school year is an opportunity for the DOE to finally address the needs of ELLs and immigrant newcomer students that have been neglected for years. We want equity, access, and opportunity for all students to thrive.”

“Our students from immigrant families and English Language Learners, including those with disabilities, have been impacted immensely by the pandemic. They need additional services and programs in school, intentionally designed to meet their unique language and academic needs,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, Director of Immigrant Students’ Rights Project, Advocates for Children of New York.  “This new school year is an opportunity for the New York City Department of Education to finally invest in improving the quality of education and services our ELLs and immigrant students receive.”

“This past year has been extremely challenging for many but especially for immigrant families, parents who are limited English proficient, students with disabilities and English Language Learners," said Aracelis Lucero, Executive Director of Masa. “Historically, these students and families have not received the proper support, resources or education that they deserve, and the pandemic has only highlighted just how vulnerable (and resilient) they are and the urgency in which we need to act. That is why we are here today, calling on the Mayor and the Chancellor to make a clear commitment to investing the resources needed to properly support students’ learning and to improve family engagement and communication. As we start the school year, we look forward to hearing and seeing how this is made a priority amongst school leaders within the New York City Department of Education. We look forward to continuing to engage in planning and conversations that will ensure the needs of immigrant families are met so that they can succeed.”

With over 30 years of experience reforming New York’s educational systems, the New York Immigration Coalition’s Education Collaborative is composed of more than 30 multi-ethnic groups and leaders representing the diversity of New York’s immigrant communities. Members also include advocates from legal, policy, immigration and education organizations, including experts in ELL education. Through the Collaborative’s regular meetings, members discuss issues that ELLs and immigrant students and families are facing and coordinate advocacy to improve outcomes for our students and better engage immigrant parents. We work together to identify solutions and engage officials to improve educational outcomes for our youth.