Thomas Jefferson High School, in collaboration with the Dual Language ESL Department, will launch a Newcomer Academy during the 2022-2023 school year to provide additional support to students who are recent immigrants and English language learners.
The Newcomer Academy will serve 9th and 10th grade Jefferson High scholars who are new to the country – approximately 240 students – by placing teachers who are ESL-certified and content-certified and who will be trained to provide instruction that promotes simultaneous mastery of content and language.
“The goal is for the students to be learning English and getting content knowledge, like math, science, social studies, at the same time,” said Amanda Clymer, director of Dallas ISD’s Dual Language ESL Department. “Research shows us that that’s the best way for students to be successful academically, if they have that simultaneous mastery of content and language together and not separately. What we’re striving to do is ensure that our newcomer students are able to gain content and language simultaneously, so that they’re able to be successful while in high school and beyond.”
On May 24, Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Jefferson High School Principal Benjamin Jones, and Dallas ISD District 1 Trustee Edwin Flores, along with representatives from the Dallas ISD Dual Language ESL Department, announced the launch of the Newcomer Academy to parents and students.
“We have 140,000 students, we have 72% Latino, 20% African-American and 48% English learners in Dallas ISD,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “We have more English learners than San Antonio ISD has students, than El Paso ISD has students, than Frisco ISD has students, than San Francisco has students. We now have a Newcomer Academy. Thank you for what you’ve done, thank you for what you’re going to do. I look to the future with hope and aspiration, and I won’t be far away.”
For decades, the Dallas ISD schools in Northwest Dallas have been known as educational havens for new immigrants. Dallas ISD uses the term “Newcomer Student” to refer to someone who has been in the country for less than three years. For the last several years, Thomas Jefferson High has been one of the campuses with the highest Newcomer Student population in the state.
“If you just look at our freshman newcomers, brand new to the school and brand new to the U.S., there are more than 150 students this year,” Principal Jones said. “The campus has an enrollment of 1,500 and almost 50% of our students were at one point in the last four years classified as a Newcomer Student. If you include the number of students that were in ESL programs in elementary or middle school, we get to approximately 75% of our student population that, at some point in their education career, has been a newcomer. That’s why this program is vital for our students’ success.”
The Newcomer Academy at Thomas Jefferson High will be a-school-within-a-school – a concept similar to the already-existing Dallas ISD P-TECH and Early College High School/Collegiate Academies. The program will be housed in an area of the campus with additional resources, additional teachers, additional instructional materials and support, dedicated to accelerating student’s mastering of English language and content proficiency.
“I was born and raised in Mexico City and had the great opportunity to study in the United States,” Trustee Flores said. “I was able to get my Ph.D. and study law. That’s the type of opportunities that exist in this great country for our people. This academy is to provide support to our students and to open doors for this community.”
Besides helping emergent bilingual students accelerate their learning, the Newcomer Academy at Thomas Jefferson High will also dedicate resources to support students with college and career readiness.
“The integration of foreign-born residents is critical to the social, cultural and economic future of Dallas,” Judge Jenkins said. “As of 2017, there were 300,000 immigrant homeowners in North Texas, and that accounts for over $70 billion of property value. We have over 100,000 immigrant entrepreneurs who are generating almost $3 billion of business income.”