Nationwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers, students, and parents to adapt to a new educational landscape. But for the one-quarter of children who had an immigrant parent in 2019, the challenges of distance, hybrid, and even in-person learning can be compounded by xenophobia, cultural and language barriers, and technology gaps.

Immigrant families are forced to navigate an unfamiliar education system that lacks sufficient resources and supports. We spoke with Urban Institute education policy experts Tomás Monarrez and Matt Chingos to understand how children of immigrants are currently served in education policy, how they’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the Biden administration can help alleviate the barriers they face. Monarrez and Chingos offered four takeaways:

  1. Immigrant families are less likely to have cultural knowledge of school assignment and school choice.  These systems can be hard to understand for people born into them, much less a family new to the country.
  2. Neighborhood segregation often pushes immigrant families toward lower-quality, segregated schools.  Research shows segregated educational experiences can have long-term consequences on children’s health, education, and job prospects.
  3. Remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate language barriers. Many schools only provide information to parents in English, making it difficult for parents who primarily speak another language to stay on top of what’s happening in their child’s education.
  4. The Biden administration can open educational pathways by “lifting the cloud” of xenophobia. Changing the direction of immigration policy could also change how children of immigrants think about their future.

With children of immigrants being such a large share of the next generation, opening pathways to improve their well-being is critical. But more targeted data and research are needed to understand how schools and policymakers can address existing education disparities, unlocking the potential of our next generation.

Read the full article about immigrant children and education by Erica Greenberg, Cary Lou, and Wesley Jenkins at Urban Institute.