Literacy group seeks better deal for immigrant students

Students pose with a ‘Your School, Your Choice’ guidebook created by the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project. The book is part of the campaign the organization launched to assist immigrant parents and students, navigating their way through the city’s school enrollment process.
Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project

A Brooklyn-based Haitian-American literacy group is urging the Department of Education to create better initiatives assisting immigrant students and parents in the high school enrollment process. The agency’s registration process into city high schools is failing to properly educate immigrant families on their school options, said a representative from the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project. After a new report showed that only 30 percent of English-language learning students were graduating, the center is launching a campaign demanding the department correct the disparity and support their mission.

The Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy project recently launched their “Your School, Your Choice” campaign, a multilingual helpful guidebook advising parents and students on enrolling. A representative from the center Darnell Benoit said immigrant families are falling between the cracks due to poor information available to them.

“We are proposing a series of things — and that is making sure that students are matched with adequate school choices when they go to the enrollment center,” said Benoit, founding director at Flanbwayan. “Matching is number one because sometimes they choose low performing schools, or schools that are closing, and we need appropriate placement for families when they enter. They need to know the best school to match the student.”

Schools that English language learners end up registering for lack the suitable programs to aid their educational needs, and because of the language barrier parents and students are not aware they are entitled more options and are finding themselves in undesirable schools, said Benoit.

“A lot of schools are super crowded and the spots that are left are usually left because no one wants them,” she said. “The department of education knows that many students enter every year and they know there needs to be space, and they need schools that can support them and are school immigrant friendly.”

Flanbwayan hopes to bridge the gap between what they say the agency is failing to do, said Benoit.

“Our campaign is to help the Department of Education to improve student needs to be and match immigrant students with a school that meets their needs,” she said. “Parents need information on English-second language programs, they need to know all their options like all students have because they are not given the choices.”

A representative from Department of Education said despite the low graduation rate for this year, there has been a notable improvement.

“We are seeing real improvements for our English Language Learner students — our graduation rate for former English Language Learners has increased to 84 percent, we have added nearly 100 new bilingual programs and are opening 67 more in the fall, and we are providing more translation services and information on programs for newcomers than ever,” said a spokesman for the department.

“We’ll continue our work to ensure that all our students receive a high-quality education, and have the support they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

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