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Separate High Schools For Immigrants?


Both Mary Ann Zehr and the San Francisco Chronicle have recently written about a new high school starting in San Francisco for recent immigrant youth.

It sounds like they have a wonderful program there, but I wonder if having separate high schools for immigrants is really the way to go?

Do they provide an excuse for comprehensive high schools to not take responsibility and respond to the needs of English Language Learners? Does this sort of segregation limit the opportunities for immigrant young people to connect with young people from other cultures and develop relationships?

At our high school, we certainly have specific classes for newcomers — throughout the school, not just limited to one physical area. But they are immediately integrated into some mainstream classes immediately, even if it’s just Physical Education or Art.  And we constantly look for opportunities to place them in more mainstream classes as their English improves. Few, if any other schools in the state have have a track record of higher test scores for ELL’s (though, obviously, test scores are not necessarily the best evaluative tool of effectiveness).

And do the other comprehensive high schools lose out, too? The principal of our school and I co-wrote an article titled The Positive Impact Of English Language Learners At An Urban School, which shares how the whole school has benefited by our large number of ELL’s (including hundreds of newcomers).

What do you think?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. What do you think of a situation where only the newest immigrants are located at a school, which is focused almost primarily on reading and writing (and practical items such as reading a schedule, telling time) for a finite period of time, then transistioned into the mainstream (with support of ESL courses) as they are ready?

    • JR,

      Good question. The key question is: How long is that finite period of time? I’d still say that I think it would be best to start off at a comprehensive high school, but if the school district has a small number of newcomers something like that could make sense.

      At the same time, I’m open to hearing contrary reasons.


  2. Pingback: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Thirteenth Edition ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnivals « Ellclassroom

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