Trajectories of Immigrant Performance Over Time

September 01, 2006

Funding: Spencer Foundation

Summary: Despite the difficulties of learning a new language and new customs, prior research suggests that young immigrant children fare relatively well in U.S. public schools. Yet, very little research has carefully studied how immigrant children fare over time in school and how their performance trajectories are shaped by the schools they attend, the age upon which they enter the U.S., and other family and student attributes. This study carefully examines the performance trajectories of immigrant children in New York City public schools. Specifically, we are tracking several cohorts of immigrant and native-born students and comparing changes in their relative performance from elementary through high school.  In addition to determining how their performance changes over time, we are exploring the effect of age upon entry—separately from the effect of length of residency—on children’s performance upon immigration and their trajectories over time.  Finally, we distinguish among the foreign-born, identifying the multiple pathways that they take and the factors that determine those pathways.  With this final analysis, we seek to identify the various peer groups that immigrant children assimilate to as they age and how their demographic and educational characteristics along with their schools influence these trajectories.  Our research is aimed at informing New York City educators and educators across the nation facing growing immigrant populations.