Can a high school for international students succeed at graduating a majority of students who qualify for a New York Regents diploma? One such high school in Brooklyn is a model for the rest of the state.
In Buffalo, NY a class of immigrant high school students at Lafayette High School work in pairs. They are coloring a world map to show patterns of colonization for their European global history class. 400 miles away, at the International High School in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, immigrant students are using their limited Egglish language skills to debate the genocide in Rwanda.
Both schools have a lot in common. They are public schools with similar enrollments, no academic admission standards, and a diverse student population. They enroll many students who speak little or no English.
A quarter to a third of students in both schools had little formal education in their native countries and are often older than the traditional students for these grades. Some had never before picked up a pencil.
At the Buffalo school, 26 percent of the students graduate on time.
At the Brooklyn school, the graduation rate is 66 percent, rivaling many urban schools in the state and exceeding many Buffalo schools. The Brooklyn school’s six-year graduation rate climbs to 78 percent, compared with 37 percent at Lafayette.
The school at Prospect Heights answers a burning question for Buffalo: Can you fill a high school with immigrants and refugees – some illiterate in their own native language – and get a majority to graduate on time with a Regents diploma?
The answer is yes.
What’s happening in Brooklyn provides a road map for Buffalo schools as Erie County has welcomed more than 6,000 refugees over the past five years, many families coming as much for their children’s futures as for their own, experts say.