Tennessee’s growing immigrant population has spawned a network for educators, parents and advocates of students who are learning to speak English.
And the timing couldn’t be better, say its organizers, citing heightened concern for immigrant communities under President-elect Donald Trump, who campaigned on the promise of curbing immigration.
The Tennessee English Learner Network launched last week and had 130 members as of Tuesday, said Gini Pupo-Walker, senior director of education policy and strategic growth for Conexión Américas, a nonprofit organization that serves the state’s immigrant community. The Nashville-based group is partnering with Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research center, to coordinate the network.
The network will serve as a clearinghouse of policy and research related to English learners, which comprise 5 percent of Tennessee’s student population.
Although the network has been in the works for months, organizers say Trump’s election makes it more necessary than ever.
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“I think post-election people are really hungry for an opportunity to connect and be part something bigger than their own classroom, so they can amplify their voice … on behalf of immigrant students,” Pupo-Walker said.
The initiative is funded by a grant from the Migration Policy Institute to educate community members about the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law that replaces No Child Left Behind. The network’s launch coincided with a webinar about provisions of the new law that could impact English learners, like how their standardized test scores might count in the state’s accountability system.
Earlier this year, Conexión Américas helped to found the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, a group of civil rights organizations and education-related groups seeking more educational opportunities for students of color.
Tennesseans can register here to be part of the network.