The Newcomer Program in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) is a well-researched ESL programming approach specifically designed with the goal to effectively accommodate and educate the newly arrived population of non-English speaking immigrant students. Newcomer programming assists immigrant students adapt to their new country, language, and school. In planning for newcomer programming, HISD has taken great measures to adhere to federal guidelines and the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) policies regarding the education of immigrant English language learners.
The Newcomer program provides linguistically accommodated instructional support to students based on their level of English language proficiency through English Language Development courses, sheltered content courses using ESL methodology, and ESL reading courses. The goals of the newcomer program are to:
• Provide a smaller, inclusive learning environment to support the affective needs of immigrant students: social, cultural, and linguistic.
• Develop academic language and core subject knowledge through ESL methodology.
• Acquire and develop English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
• Implement scheduling that ensures equity and access to graduation, meeting the varied language development and academic needs of immigrant students at different levels of schooling.
• Utilize community resources to support immigrant students.
• Mainstream into a general-education setting.
Due to the increase in immigrant population and the largest concentration of this population in the Southwest, geographical location of campuses, and construction projects, HISD Newcomer “school-within-a school” programming have been implemented at the following seven high school sites, some serving other nearby campuses:
• Austin High School-east central
• Chavez High School-southeast
• Houston MSTC High School-north
• Lee High School-southwest; serves Lee, Bellaire, and Sharpstown first year newcomer immigrant students
• Liberty High School-southwest
• Westbury High School-southwest; serves Madison, Westbury and first year newcomer immigrant students
• Westside High School- west
• Las Americas-southwest; serves as a facility for first year newcomer immigrant students and is an optional placement for district middle school and 4th and 5th grade elementary students
The newcomer school-within-a-school program will provide:
• orientation to school, community, and society.
• intensive English language development.
• staff that is trained in the specific methodologies in the affective and academic needs particular to first year immigrant ELLs.
• curriculum and scheduling that meets the needs of first year immigrant ELLs.
• support services that includes counseling, tutoring, career education, transportation, and health services.
• parent resources and parent education.
The newcomer center is based on the premise that given the basics of caring administrators, caring and trained teachers, a curriculum, a safe environment, a schedule that includes social and academic supports, first year immigrant ELLs will overcome obstacles that they alone cannot overcome.
(Friedlander, M. 1991).
The MPD has taken significant measures to support the Newcomer program by developing a Newcomer-specific division, hiring program specialists to support programming at the impacted campuses as well as tutors to help students who are struggling most academically. Newcomer teachers have and will continue to receive specialized training with leading experts in quality teaching of ELLs so that they acquire a better understanding on how to better facilitate second-language acquisition. For more information about HISD’s Newcomer Program, please contact the Multilingual Programs Department at multilingual@HoustonISD.org or 713-556-6961.