Access to quality educational opportunities for immigrant children and children of immigrants–from preschool to higher education–represents one of the most critical tools for promoting the succesful social, economic and civic integration of immigrants and refugees. It is also one of the most critical priorities for bridging the achievement and opportunity gap confronting immigrant and ethnic minority children in Massachusetts.

The Institute will pursue efforts on both ends of this continuum, including training on program models and best practices for working with immigrant children and families in Early Education and Care (EEC) settings, and assisting high school students in accessing affordable and meaningful pathways to higher education and career  training. In addition to working with teachers, student advisory staff, and administrators at the school, district, and state level, our higher education initiative aims to provide tools for immigrant students themselves to navigate the complex passage from high school to college and career.

Early Education and Care

More than one in four Massachusetts children under 6 lives in a household that speaks a language other than English. Yet data suggest that English language learners and children of immigrants are far less likely than other children to participate in early education programs.  A focus on early learning for these children is essential to address equity issues, close the opportunity gap, and improve long-term outcomes.

With support from a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant, and in collaboration with the state EEC office, the Office for Refugees and Immigrants, the Multilingual Action Council, and practitioner experts from Tufts University and Wheelock College, the Institute in 2012-2015 will offer trainings for EEC providers, social service agencies, and other stakeholders in 5 state regions, to increase awareness of the needs of immigrant and refugee children and bridge gaps in school readiness.

Higher Education

Conducting outreach and engaging the education community is key to integration, with so many immigrant students, especially those in low-income communities, facing all too common and complex obstacles as they make their way through the educational system. These include the inability of parents with limited English to interact with the teachers and administrators and play a role their children’s success, and widespread misinformation about immigrant access to higher education. The Institute will provide trainings for parents, students, guidance counselors and community groups in Chelsea, Boston, Lynn and other cities to help equip youth and their allies to overcome barriers to higher education. It will also conduct outreach and provide training to college guidance and admissions counselors to engage them as allies, and diffuse possible prejudices or false assumptions regarding youth in immigrant families.

To assist students, parents, and guidance counselors, the Institute will also compile a manual of information on policies at private and public colleges as they impact immigrant students of all statuses, as well as information on federal and state policies that affect immigrants’ access to higher education, and relevant scholarship and loan information.