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America’s Promise Alliance: “I Came Here To Learn” Research Findings

Hispanic Heritage Foundation

America’s Promise Alliance newest research findings offer a new perspective on Youth whose First Language is not English (FLNE) youth based on stories and insights in its new report. “I Came Here to Learn: The Achievement and Experience of Massachusetts Students Whose First Language Is Not English.”

Summary of Findings:

Overall, the results offer a story that challenges the traditional narrative about FLNE youth in the United States. For instance, the research team found that:

• There are highs and lows. Some FLNE groups graduate at rates on par or even substantially higher than their native English-speaking peers. Others lag far behind. (Please see the full report for the full Quantitative Results and Qualitative Findings.)

• The journey is complicated. All young people are navigating a complex, multi-layered ecology in their daily lives. Qualitative analyses revealed how young people whose first language is not English navigate these day-to-day experiences. For example, among Latinx FLNE youth who took part in the group interviews:

• Language proficiency is often a barrier, rather than a bridge, to connection to supportive adults and resources.

• Families may provide essential emotional support, but for those who have immigrated to the U.S. without one or both parents, this support is weakened, therefore creating stress for the young person.

• Competing priorities, such as the need to work or care for family members, combined with lack of support and resources, often deter students from staying on the path to graduation.

• They came here to learn. All the young people with whom the authors spoke expressed motivation to better themselves and were seeking supports that would enable them to reach their full potential, in school and in life.
Understanding the complexity of young people’s experiences, including the factors that appear to drive differences in academic performance for FLNE students, can aid policymakers and practitioners in designing, implementing, and dedicating resources to interventions and supports to help all FLNE students graduate.

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