Thomas Jefferson High School Implements New Program for ESL Students

Thomas Jefferson High School is opening a Newcomer Academy during the upcoming school year to provide additional support for students who recently immigrated and are learning English. 

The academy, created in partnership with the Dual Language ESD Department, will serve freshmen and sophomores who are new to the United States (about 240 students) by placing ESL-certified and content-certified teachers who will be trained to provide instruction that promotes 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. 

DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Jefferson High School Principal Benjamin Jones, and DISD District One Trustee Edwin Flores were joined by DISD Dual Language ESL Department representatives to announce the program to parents and students on May 24. Out of the district’s 140,000 students, 48% are English learners. 

“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,” Hinojosa said. “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.”

DISD schools use the term “Newcomer Student” to refer to students who have been in the country for less than three years. Thomas Jefferson High School has been a campus with one of the highest Newcomer Student populations in Texas. During the most recent school year, there were 150 Newcomer Students, and out of the campus’ 1,500 student enrollment, 50% of them were classified as newcomers at some point in the last four years. 

The Newcomer Academy will be a school-within-a-school, similar to the Dallas ISD P-TECH and Early College High School/Collegiate Academies. The program will be housed in an area of campus with more teachers, instructional materials and support to help students master English and content. 

“I was born and raised in Mexico City and had the great opportunity to study in the United States,” 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.”

The Newcomer Academy will also provide resources for students to be better equipped to pursue higher education and careers.

“The integration of foreign-born residents is critical to the social, cultural and economic future of Dallas,” 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.”

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