Building College and Career Pathways for EL Students

Blog Post
May 12, 2017

Kyle Halle-Erby is a teacher at San Francisco International High School, a public school exclusively serving newcomer immigrants who are also learning English. His work at SF International focuses on building supported pathways to and through college and career with an innovative three-pronged approach: layered support for success in higher education; scaffolded college and career pathways; and, language development and career exploration.  He is a 2017 California Fellow at New America

Q: Tell us about your work at San Francisco International High School.

I have been a teacher at SF International since 2011 and teach English classes that target extra high need populations of students within our school (such as students with interrupted formal education, unaccompanied minors and students at risk of not graduating). A large part of my role is also to build out programs to support college and career pathways for students using a three-pronged approach. This includes coordinating internship experiences for students, early college opportunities and a college retention program.

Q: How does the internship program work and what kinds of organizations do your students work for? And are these internships paid?

The internship program allows students to apply their English skills in a real world setting. Our goal is to have a huge variety of internships so that students can be placed in a field they are interested in. We do a lot of hustling to get these placements! Students have worked in production at local NPR stations, community based health organizations, advocacy organizations, farmer’s markets, and after school programs. Some of our internship partnerships include paid stipends, which are an excellent way to increase the benefit of internship in a way that is accessible to students with and without documents. And all of our students receive course credit for their internships.

Internships are also linked to the work we do on early college and in trying to address the problem of losing a lot of our 11th and 12th grade students to work when they turn 18. Often, they didn’t come to this country thinking that they would go to college and once they get the English skills they need they go to work. Many of my students are self-supporting and sending money to family back home. Often, students are devastated that they cannot continue studying, but simply cannot afford to stay in school.

Q: Tell us more about your early college program.

We partner with City College of San Francisco to offer this opportunity to 11th and 12th grade students. We identified four departments that offer certificates in areas that pay living wages in the city and that offer courses that are transferrable to a four-year institution. Students take classes at City College so that they can choose from a more diverse range of courses, although we might bring some instructors directly to SF International once the program is scaled down to 9th and 10th grade.

We are very particular about the pathways we choose so that we can serve students going straight to work or straight to college.

Q:  What supports do you offer students who go straight into college?

We have a retention program for students who are in their first year of college. Many of our students attend City College and so I teach a once-a-week class there focused on providing supports on academics, working through struggles and navigating the bureaucracy of higher education. I bring in experts in different key areas of the college such as financial aid and the registrar’s office to give students information about different resources on campus. It also provides them with a direct contact in those offices, which can make asking questions easier. Some students still need English language development and so I do ongoing work with them to strengthen their English skills.

Q: Is any of this work aligned to apprenticeship? How do apprenticeship models work (or not work) for English learner students?

I think apprenticeship models are fantastic and make so much sense for English learners. Developing our college and career pathways so that internships lead to apprenticeships that are part of recognized university or industry credentialing is the dream. We're still a few years out from making that happen and I would love to learn from other models that are doing that work well and including English learners in it.

Q: What will you be focusing on during your fellowship with New America California?

My goals in the short term are to pull together community partners and stakeholders to develop materials and technical writings to share with other places who are seeking to do similar work with English learners. I would also like to do some reflective writing with students and their families to showcase the human story around this work.

You can expect to hear more from Kyle over the coming year as he embarks on sharing best practices and personal narratives around ensuring ELs have the tools to be college and career ready.


This post comes from New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group. Click here for more information on this team’s work. To subscribe to the biweekly newsletter, click here, enter your contact information, and select “DLL National Work Group Newsletter.”