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Two High Schools for English-Learners to Open in Prince George's County, Md.

School officials in the Prince George's County, Md., school system just outside Washington announced on Tuesday that they will open two new high schools for their growing population of immigrant students and English-language learners.

The 125,000 student district—along with CASA de Maryland, a Latino and immigrant advocacy group and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a group of 17 high schools across the country that serve ELLs—won a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to help pay for the new schools that will open in the fall of 2015. (Carnegie also helps support coverage of entrepreneurship and innovation in education and school design in Education Week.)

One school—to serve recently-arrived immigrant students who are English-learners—will be located within an existing Prince George's County high school. The second school will be a new, neighborhood high school in the immigrant-rich community of Langley Park. Each school would open with about 100 9th graders.

About 14 percent of Prince George's students are English-learners, according to school district data. Langley Park—home to a large Central American immigrant community—has been a particular focus area for improvement by Prince George's schools chief Kevin Maxwell (no relation) and the district. A recent report done jointly by CASA de Maryland, the Urban Institute, and the school district, found that children in Langley Park face steep barriers to educational success. For example, 37 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds in Langley Park are working and do not attend school, a rate that is more than four times the national average, according to the Urban Institute.

The district has also seen a recent uptick in the numbers of unaccompanied minors entering its schools, with some 200 such students enrolled at the end of the 2013-14 school year. In previous years, unaccompanied minors numbered about 75 in the school system. A district official told me a few weeks ago that they are preparing for those numbers to continue to rise as the wave of Central American migrant children and youth detained at the U.S.-Mexico border begin to be reunited with family members who live in Prince George's County.

That the county is partnering with both CASA de Maryland and  the Internationals Network sends a strong message about its committment to serving recently arrived immigrants and ELLs.

The New York City-based network—which currently includes 17 high schools in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Alexandria, Va.,—specializes in the instruction of second-langauge learners, as well as providing the social supports and other services that many recently arrived immigrant students and their families need. 

 

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