California's future success depends on its ability to integrate immigrants and their children into colleges and the workforce, according to a report released Wednesday.
One-quarter of the country's immigrants live in the state, including more than one-third of the nation's students who are English language learners, according to the study, called "Critical Choices in Post-Recession California: Investing in the Educational and Career Success of Immigrant Youth." Yet many educational services for these students were slashed during budget cuts of past years, said Sarah Hooker, co-author of the report by the Migration Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.
"The state's responses to the recession undercut its performance in educating immigrant youth," she said. "Whether this record improves will remain in doubt unless the needs of these youth are made a more central focus of reform and accountability efforts."
California's new K-12 funding formula provides more money to districts with a greater percentage of English language learners, which provides an opportunity to bolster services for those students. Some districts -- including Oakland, San Francisco and several in Southern California -- have begun implementing programs that could serve as models for others.
For example, the report recommends increasing professional development to improve instruction for English learners. Since 2011, Oakland has used the Quality Teaching for English Learners program for high school math, science and English language arts teachers.
The report also recommends that districts partner with other agencies to offer out-of-school services to help English learners stay on track to graduate. The Oakland district partners with the East Bay Asian Youth Center, which provides bilingual and cultural services for immigrants and their families.
Extra time in school is critical for students who immigrate as teens, according to the report. It praised Oakland International High, which provides a fifth-year program for immigrants who are unable to graduate in the usual four years. Additional adult education programs for young adults without high school diplomas or who don't speak English fluently are essential to prepare them for college or work.
And at the community college level, the report recommends additional counseling. It cited the Puente Program -- which means "Bridge" and serves a large number of Latino students in California's community colleges and high schools -- as a good example.
Eight community colleges and eight high schools in the East Bay offer the program, including Chabot College in Hayward, where each student is assigned a counselor and students take a pre-transfer English course that includes books written by Latino authors. Reading material covers themes such as immigration, race, culture and economic issues facing immigrant communities, said Sandra Genera, Puente counselor and coordinator at Chabot.
"In the Puente Program, we help each other out," she said. "It helps the students feel like they belong on campus."
The majority of jobs created over the next several years will require a postsecondary credential or degree, so California will need to increase its number of college graduates significantly, said Michael Fix, the policy institute's CEO and director of studies.
"The state's demographic reality makes clear that immigrants and their children will play a decisive role in shaping California's future economic prosperity," he said.
The complete Migration Policy Institute report is available at http://migrationpolicy.org. Click on "Critical Choices in Post-Recession California: Investing in the Educational and Career Success of Immigrant Youth."