Jacqueline Perlow

  • Hosted by Education Law Center
  • Sponsored by PNC Bank, Reed Smith LLP
  • Service location Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Jackie used a combination of direct representation, systemic advocacy, and community engagement to improve academic achievement and reduce educational barriers for immigrant and refugee students.

In 2015, there were over 50,000 students designated as English Learners (ELs) in Pennsylvania. Unlike many cities where ELs tend to share a common language and culture, Pittsburgh is home to a highly diverse immigrant population, including large populations from East Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. This diverse immigrant landscape poses unique challenges for local school, which must communicate with families in dozens of languages and ensure staff are familiar with many cultural backgrounds. Unfortunately, prior to Jackie’s fellowship project many districts in the area were not meetings these challenges. In 2015, only 8% of ELs in the Pittsburgh Public Schools were proficient in Math and only 5% were proficient in English. Less than 50% of ELs in the District graduated high school in 4 years. Districts were also regularly failing to meet the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) parents, including providing families with translation services so that they could actively engage in their child’s education.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two year, Jackie has:

  • Provided advice and representation to 161 immigrant students on disciplinary, academic, and special education matters, and in criminal proceedings arising from incidents at school
  • Trained 1200 parents, teachers, administrators, case workers, and advocates on the educational rights of ELs. Co-founded the Education Justice Network for Immigrants and Refugees, a group of community partners dedicated to promoting education justice for English Learns and their families
  • Developed 8 resources for LEP families and providers to use in addressing educational obstacles, including a comprehensive toolkit on the educational rights of immigrant and refugee students
  • Worked with 30 community partners to advocate for new policies to promote effective communication with LEP families, which were adopted by the Pittsburgh Public Schools in December 2018

What’s Next

Jackie will be traveling extensively over the next few months. Following her return in the spring of 2020, she plans to join the Education Law Center as a full-time staff attorney.

What’s At Stake When There’s A Language Barrier Between Families And Schools?

A crossroads of languages: How Pittsburgh schools respond to a growing immigrant population.

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