Addressing the needs of Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) is critical to raising English Language Learner (ELL) achievement and graduation rates overall. SIFE, along with other high needs ELLs and newcomer ELLs, make up the majority of ELLs in New York City middle and high schools. SIFE also represent a subpopulation of ELLs who have some of the biggest obstacles to acquiring the English language skills and content knowledge necessary to graduate from high school.
Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project (Flanbwayan), Sauti Yetu Center for African Women (Sauti Yetu), YWCA of Queens Youth Center and other community-based organizations have worked with a number of SIFE, some of whom are profiled in this paper. These students' experiences in the New York City public schools present a more nuanced picture of SIFE, their needs and the challenges they face than does currently available data on SIFE. Their stories illustrate how far behind their peers these students often are when they enter the City's schools and their complex and sometimes intensive need for psychological and social support. Due to their low literacy skills, many end up in the special education system, and many struggle for years, fail to make progress, become overage and ultimately drop out.