A recent New York Times article points out that as the U.S. attempts to respond to the crisis in Syria by accepting more refugees, the majority are going to mid-sized cities like Boise, Idaho, and Worcester, Massachusetts, rather than the nation’s largest cities. These smaller cities and towns are being called on to rise to the occasion because "jobs are more plentiful and the cost of housing is low." However, these advantages do not necessarily mean that the cities’ school districts are well prepared to deal with the unique challenges of educating refugee children.
With this in mind, we wanted to share some resources from previous issues of our journal Voices in Urban Education (VUE) that might be helpful to districts preparing to serve this new influx of refugee students. Many of these approaches involve partnering with community organizations to provide services that go well beyond language instruction and address the social, economic, and psychological stresses of the refugee experience.
Two articles from VUE #41 (Beautiful Accents: Empowering and Supporting English Learners through School and Community Partnerships) might be particularly useful:
- “Meeting the Needs of Refugee and Immigrant Students and Families in a Culturally Responsive Way,” by Dahvy Tran and Barbara Roberts Hodgson, describes out-of-school-time programs for refugee youth and their families in Lowell (MA) as part of the district’s partnership with the International Institute of Lowell; and
- “Serving Refugee Students and Unaccompanied Minors: More Than Just Learning English" is an interview with Nakachi Clark-Kasimu, sharing lessons from her work at Refugee Transitions and illustrating that refugee students need support far beyond academics.
In VUE #37 (English Language Learners: Shifting to an Asset-Based Paradigm), Claire Sylvan highlights the international school model tailored to the needs of immigrant students in her article, “Newcomer High School Students as an Asset: The Internationals Approach.”