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Newcomer Centers Offer Much More Than Beginning English

Increasingly, school newcomer centers, which educate ELLs who have just arrived in the country, are teaching academic content along with English skills, according to a survey conducted by Deborah J. Short, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Linguistics. The 63 newcomer centers for middle or high school students that have completed CAL's survey are tending to provide "more than just ESL 1," said Short in a presentation of her findings at a conference this month hosted by the National Center for Research on the Educational Achievement and Teaching of English-Language Learners, or CREATE. For example, Short said, many of the centers teach pre-algebra courses.

She said educators at newcomer centers are advocating for their students to get high school credits for some of their classes in the centers. For example, she said, some school districts are offering high-school credit for a pre-algebra course, if the students also are eventually successful in passing an algebra class. Educators are also more carefully reviewing students' transcripts from their home countries and awarding high school credits for some of that work. (See my Jan. article at Education Week about high school credits for ELLs.)

Short is still gathering information for her study, which is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and invites any newcomer centers that haven't completed the survey to do so.

The survey aims to update a study of newcomer centers conducted by the Center for Applied Linguistics in the 1999-2000 school year. In that study, 115 newcomer programs provided information. Then, 76 percent of the newcomer centers were located in urban areas, 17 percent were in suburban areas, and 7 percent were in rural areas.

Since 2000, newcomer centers have popped up more in suburban areas. Short reports that 52 percent are now in urban areas, 30 percent in suburban areas, and 16 percent in rural areas.

At the CREATE conference, Short noted that every single state has newcomer students and that "many of our newcomer students are the most engaged students in schools."

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