Language policies' impact on immigrant students' lived experiences in New York City public schools

Diosdado Galan Gica, Fordham University


Language policies' impact is evident in how most immigrant children become English monolinguals by the third generation. Yet a large percentage continues to underperform in public schools. Formative and summative evaluations draw from a narrow methodology, thus this study strived to tell the stories of immigrant students' lived experiences in New York City (NYC) public schools. This study selected participants who attended NYC public schools from 1994–2011, between ages18 and 23. Participants included first, 1.5 and second-generation immigrants, from the four major ethnic groups in NYC. Data collected from 22 interviews with 11 participants were audiotaped, transcribed, and coded. Three major conclusions were drawn from the findings: (a) immigrant students' public school experiences were significantly determined by their early or late start in English language learning; (b) human capital was significantly determined by immigrant parents' language ability to provide support in their children's education; and (c) immigrant students' response, especially the late starters, to the challenge of language learning sometimes created an adversarial stance to English. Additionally, there were overarching linkages in immigrant students' descriptions of speech and behavior about language and power, centering on their English fluency and belief that socioeconomics is tied to language skills. This study proposes major recommendations for policymakers and school administrators/leaders to more effectively manage immigrant students' language learning and to ensure that monitoring is part of assessment. A primary recommendation for future research should be to conduct future research with an eye towards incorporating the centrality of the perspectives of immigrant students.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Educational leadership|Education Policy|School administration|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Gica, Diosdado Galan, "Language policies' impact on immigrant students' lived experiences in New York City public schools" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3517894.