Research on Immigrant/Refugee Education
The Carleton-Faribault PAR project builds on many years of collaboration between Faribault School District and the two colleges in Northfield, MN: Carleton College and St. Olaf College. In Fall 2020, co-PI Anita Chikkatur taught a course entitled “Refugee and Immigrant Experiences in Faribault, MN,” a course that was co-designed by her and two faculty members at St. Olaf College (Professors Heather Campbell and Jill A Watson). While the course had to be adapted to a virtual environment because of COVID, the students had a chance to talk with members of the Latinx parent and Somali young adult PAR research teams in Faribault and to hear directly about their experiences in Faribault. One option for the final project for this course involved students conducting literature reviews and creating annotated bibliographies about topics related broadly to immigrant and refugee education in the U.S. These bibliographies provide a broader academic perspective on many of the issues being faced by school districts such as Faribault.
For each topic, the students provided a list of search teams and databases used in case people want to explore the topic further; a summary of their findings from the literature review; an annotated bibliography of the sources they found; and links when available to open source documents (which means that you do not need to pay for accessing the articles).
Issues in Special Education: Immigration and Parental Involvement
To conduct my research, I went into the Carleton Gould Library online database. This database allowed me to access thousands of peer-reviewed articles. To find relevant articles, I started by searching various combinations of the following keywords: “immigrant”, “immigration”, “special education”, “English Language Learners”, and “refugee.” After finding a few articles pertaining to these topics, I attempted to find articles relevant to specific immigrant populations in Faribault and Minnesota. To do this, I included “Somali”, “Latino”, “LatinX”, and “Hmong” to the search. Overall, there was a limited number of peer-reviewed articles. The scarcity of articles reflects that the disabled immigrant community is silenced and overlooked in academia and schools.
Identities are complex and cannot be readily summarized into a one-word description. Studies of Intersectionality address the compounding effects of identifying as part of multiple minority groups. Conversations about intersectionality often include issues of sexism, racism, and homophobia. However, there are other intersectional identities that are urgent to address. In this review of the literature, I emphasize the particular struggles that come from the intersectionality between disabled, immigrant, and student identities. The research identifies particular problems and potential means to better conduct special education for immigrant children with disabilities.
Although the individual studies are mentioned below, I would like to address two key themes found across the literature. One theme is the difficulty of immigrant parental involvement. Within the research on special education, the term, “good advocate mother” demonstrates the specific responsibility put on mothers to help their child navigate the special education system, and it cultivates an image of the special education mother who is white, English-speaking, and able to be deeply involved in their child’s education (Kibria & Becerra, 2020). Many immigrant mothers recognize the difficulties of understanding the special education system, their child’s disability, and the ways in which they might be involved (Kibria & Becerra, 2020). In other words, they struggle to embody the “good advocate mother” ideal. Besides a lack of knowledge of the American school system, certain immigrant populations (such as Hmong and Somali) may have their own cultural understandings of disabilities and parenting that conflict with American beliefs (Beatson 2013; Wathum-Ocama & Rose, 2002). For immigrant parents to play a productive role in their child’s special education, American school systems need to provide quality parental resources: frequent parent-teacher meetings, Individualized Education Plan (IEPs) documents in the home language, and information sessions to explain disabilities, special education, and IEPs to immigrant parents.
Another common theme throughout the literature is the intersections between English Language Learners and special education students. By using diagnosis systems and measurements designed for white, English-speaking children, special education teachers and child psychologists may fail to diagnose immigrant children with developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (Dickerson, 2020). However, special education teachers and psychologists may over-diagnose immigrant children with learning disabilities due to racial profiling (Hibel & Jasper, 2012). Racial and ethnic profiling, along with limited resources for immigrant parental involvement, create school environments where many immigrant students are not given the least restrictive environment (LRE) and free appropriate public education (FAPE) necessary to thrive. Special education teachers are aware of this issue, and they voice their own frustrations with the confusing policies and procedures to support immigrant children with disabilities (Migliarini & Stinson 2020). Based on these studies, future research and programs are needed to educate teachers about how to assist immigrant students with disabilities and properly assign immigrant students to the necessary resources.
Terminology used in the bibliography (find these terms and more related terms here):
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP) – For students with disabilities, this plan outlines their current functioning and academic achievements, academic and behavioral goals, and the means to achieve those goals.
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) – This requires schools to maximize the time that children with disabilities spend in general education classrooms and provide assistance to students with disabilities in these general education classrooms.
- Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) – Schools must provide students with a free, public school education that has the services necessary to comply with a student’s IEP.
Beatson, J. (2013). Supporting refugee Somali Bantu mothers with children with disabilities. Pediatric Nursing, 39(3), 142–145. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23926753/
To best address the needs of refugee children with disabilities and their families, researchers need to understand and use immigrant families’ perspectives. In this research, Jean Beatson interviewed Somali refugee mothers in Vermont and uncovered multiple common concerns. Particular to the Somali community is the use of native healing practices to treat the symptoms of their children’s disabilities. Mothers voiced their frustrations about the lack of funds and focus in the U.S. education system towards native healing and culturally relevant special education practices. Special education services may not account for or accept multicultural means to educate and assist children with disabilities. Due to the poor communication between these Somali mothers and special education teachers, Somali families were often unaware of how to best help their children and how the disability came about. Somali mothers believed that American practices and medicine, such as frequent shots, might be to blame for their children’s disabilities. This interview-based research illuminates struggles specific to the Somali community. Schools should be open to and support cultural means, such as native healing, to assist a child with a disability. These findings may be applicable to Somali immigrants in the Faribault area, but future interviews in Faribault should be conducted to ensure that the concerns and needs of the Somali community in Faribault are actually similar.
Dickerson, D. (2020). Brief Report: Texas School District Autism Prevalence in Children from Non-English-Speaking Homes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50(4), 1411–1417.
Immigrant children with developmental disabilities (such as Autism) may not be properly diagnosed and given necessary services. In a recent study, researchers used data from Texas public schools to identify the percentage of children, based on home language and race, that were receiving autism related services in public schools. Due to the large immigrant population and diversity of Texas public schools, the data could shine light on the inequality of diagnosis and resources offered to students with disabilities. The results, with regards to home language, were inconclusive; certain home languages were correlated with higher rates of diagnosis (compared to English speaking households), while other languages were correlated with lower rates of diagnosis. However, race was a significant factor, showing that white children were more likely than any other race to be diagnosed with autism. This experiment reveals the racist practices common at schools, in which people of color are less likely to be properly diagnosed and provided autism interventions. An important subset of the students, particularly Hispanic students, demonstrated the important intersection of home language and race. Hispanic children who spoke English at home were much more likely to receive proper autism diagnosis at school compared to Hispanic children who speak Spanish at home. This illuminates how English proficiency plays an important role in autism services at school, for Hispanic families who speak English might be better able to negotiate Individualized Education Plans and contest a questionable diagnosis. Schools and school districts should question their disability diagnosis services and treatment systems if there are disproportionate numbers of certain groups in special education. An issue with this literature is assuming that people with home languages other than English are immigrants. Future research should not make these assumptions.
Hibel, J., & Jasper, A. (2012). Delayed Special Education Placement for Learning Disabilities among Children of Immigrants. Social Forces, 91(2), 503-529.
While immigrant and racial minority children with autism may receive fewer severe disabilities (such as autism) special education services, minority students may be disproportionately receiving more learning disabilities services than their white, American counterparts. Researchers at Purdue and Georgia Southern universities investigated the risk of learning disability diagnosis and services based on race, parent’s country of origin, and placement in ELL (English Language Learner) programs. They used data that tracked children’s schooling experiences from kindergarten to fifth grade. Results showed that immigrant children were less likely to be in learning disabilities programs in the first years of elementary school compared to other students, but they were more likely to be in learning disabilities programs in the later elementary school years. The researchers found that this was due to ESL (English as Second Language) services, in which students leaving ELL in later elementary school were often moved directly into learning disabilities services. These results highlight how immigrant students with learning disabilities may be receiving ELL education in their early years without needed additional learning disabilities services. However, in later years of elementary school, immigrant children are sometimes unnecessarily placed into learning disabilities services due to racial and linguistic profiling. With this in mind, it is important for schools to do a detailed, culturally appropriate diagnosis so that immigrant children can be placed into learning disabilities services when needed and be put in general education classrooms when appropriate. If children are unnecessarily receiving learning disabilities services in later elementary school years, they are missing out on the more academically rigorous education that would be appropriate for their success. Future research should look past fifth grade to examine the rate of immigrant children in special education in later years.
Hurley, W., Warren, R., Habalow, R., Weber, L., & Tousignant, S. (2014). Early childhood special education in a refugee resettlement community: challenges and innovative practices. Early Child Development and Care, 184(1), 50–62.
It is important to pinpoint the specific issues pertaining to refugee children with disabilities and their families, for refugee experiences may vary compared to other immigrants. To generate specific future directions and plans for educating disabled immigrant students, it is useful to identify the specific challenges and strengths of the special education of refugees. Researchers interviewed twenty-eight people who provide early childhood special education services to diverse Asian and African refugee children. One common theme was the difficulty of diagnosing refugee children with disabilities. Schools were often slow and hesitant to provide screening services for refugee children compared to other students. Waiting long periods to be screened for various disabilities, refugee children are at risk of not getting the proper special education that they need to thrive. Additionally, there was a lack of screening processes conducted in languages such as Somali. Without translation services, the screening process could be inaccurate for certain refugee children. The last major challenge was cultural differences that make communication between special education providers and refugee parents difficult. Although language and culture are barriers to screening refugee children for disabilities, special education providers mentioned possible alternative means to get children the proper diagnosis and education. In particular, education providers can thoughtfully examine play and motor behaviors in order to determine if there are noticeable problem behaviors. In the future, screening and diagnosis options that do not require English proficiency should be further explored. Additionally, extra support should be provided to refugee families with children with disabilities, for these special education providers mentioned that parents often do not have the time and resources necessary to address their children’s special needs. A limitation of this study is how the education providers were predominantly white, so these common themes may not apply to racially and ethnically diverse teachers.
Kibria, B., & Becerra, W. (2020). Deserving Immigrants and Good Advocate Mothers: Immigrant Mothers’ Negotiations of Special Education Systems for Children with Disabilities. Social Problems (Berkeley, Calif.).
This research highlights the specific expectations, challenges, and discrimination that immigrant mothers of children with special needs face. The researchers conducted interviews with thirty immigrant mothers who have children with disabilities in the school system. One common theme was that language barriers prevented parents from advocating for the proper special education services for their children. When mothers could not speak English, they had difficulty getting quality interpreters for parent-teacher meetings. Knowing English was an act of resistance for immigrant parents, allowing for them to advocate for children even when the school was trying to deny services. However, mothers who knew English still felt that they were discriminated against and denied high quality special needs services due to their accent. A second common theme was working hard for disability services. Immigrant mothers, through “the cultivation of disability services advocacy” knowledge, were more effective in navigating meetings in which school staff might try to deny the proper services to their children. Lastly, there was the common theme of “the good advocate mother” who works tirelessly to support their children with autism. This image inspired immigrant mothers to work harder, but it also made immigrant mothers feel inadequate when they did not meet unrealistic expectations designed with white, wealthy mothers in mind. This research can help immigrant mothers feel validated in their experiences with the special education system and learn from other mothers what the barriers and resources are to navigate the system. Additionally, this research used mothers from various countries, so the results and themes may be applicable to many groups of immigrant mothers.
Migliarini, S. & Stinson, C. (2020). Inclusive education in the (new) era of anti-immigration policy: enacting equity for disabled English language learners. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 1–17.
While many immigrant students move from English Language Learners (ELL) to special education classrooms, education systems are in place to teach ELL students with disabilities. However, researchers found that the New York education policies were hazy and confusing regarding the instruction of ELL students with disabilities; and these policies may not match the reality of educating these students. After reviewing the education policies, these researchers interviewed ten teachers in New York who work with immigrant children with disabilities to see how the hazy policies impacted daily educational experiences. Many teachers mentioned how immigrant students with disabilities were either given special education or ESL (English as Second Language) education, but rarely both. Additionally, there was a lack of training in a “intersectional framework” that would equip teachers to educate immigrant students with disabilities (11). This qualitative study highlights the importance of teachers’ voices in making education policy decisions. With plenty of experience, these teachers were confident about the future directions and resources needed to better support immigrant students with disabilities. This research also emphasizes the need for teachers and educational spaces that can accommodate culturally diverse students with ESL and special education needs. Until more resources are included for these students, they are at risk of continuing to be one of the demographics with the lowest graduation rate. The limitations of this research include the urban, New York location (which limits the generalizability of the findings to Minnesota) and the fact that all ten teachers interviewed were white women. Teachers of color may have different experiences and opinions about teaching immigrant students with disabilities.
Rude, M. & Miller, K. (2018). Policy Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Special Education. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 37(1), 21–29.
Disabled immigrant students who are living in rural areas, such as Faribault, might be at the greatest risk of inadequate education. In this article, Rude and Miller reviewed policies and research pertaining to rural special education. Despite the implementation of various programs such as the Small, Rural School Achievement program and the Rural and Low-Income Schools program, there were still multiple barriers to inclusive education in rural areas. One of the greatest challenges was the lack of qualified, culturally competent special education and general education teachers. Special education teachers may be overwhelmed with students with a wide array of disabilities, making it hard to specialize and have the proper training needed to help the students flourish. With the growing population of students of color living in rural areas and entering special education and ELL programs, expanded teacher recruitment and ongoing teacher training was noted as necessary. These researchers proposed recruitment strategies that include empowering students in rural communities to pursue a career in education and give back to their community in the future (“grow your own” teacher programs). Additionally, they recommended the addition of culturally responsive rural education training so that teachers can address the growing diversity of rural areas. An additional teacher recruitment strategy entailed upping the salary and incentives for continuing education so that rural educators can be prepared to work with diverse populations. Currently, rural teaching positions often pay well below their urban counterparts. With this all being said, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to recruiting and continuously educating rural teachers. Future research should implement these ideas for improvement and measure their efficacy.
Wathum-Ocama, J. & Rose, C. (2002). Hmong Immigrants’ Views on the Education of Their Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. American Annals of the Deaf (Washington, D.C. 1886), 147(3), 44–53.
To address special education and immigration as it pertains to populations found in Minnesota, this research focused on Hmong immigrants. The researchers interviewed seven Hmong families in order to understand how parents perceive their child’s deafness and special education. One common theme was that parents were very satisfied with their child’s education at the St Paul public schools. Yet, these parents also had many complaints about the communication of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for their child. Parent involvement is a key component of an Individualized Education Program, but barriers to parent involvement included information being mailed and e-mailed in English (when parents only spoke Hmong language) and parent-teacher communication relying on scarce interpretation resources. Furthermore, parents had lower expectations of their children due to their children’s deafness; parents were not motivated by the school to hold high expectations for their children. However, parents were also eager to know how they can be more involved in their child’s education. With this research in mind, educators should consider the importance of involving parents and educating parents about their role in special education outside of the classroom. Additionally, the results of this research may not pertain to other disabilities (such as emotional and learning disabilities), for Hmong culture has been shown to have a less favorable view of these disabilities in comparison to deafness (which is more easily explainable). Looking at the implications of this research, teachers in Minnesota could recognize Hmong parents’ eagerness to participate in their child’s education and work to minimize the barriers keeping parents from participating.
No Child Left Behind and English Language Learners
In order to find the existing research conducted on this topic, I turned to a variety of databases. These included JStor, Google Scholar, ERIC Institute of Education Sciences, EBSCO, SAGE Journals, and Carleton Catalyst. I searched for articles and studies using keywords and phrases like “No Child Left Behind”, “English Language Learner”, “Immigrant”, “ESL”, and “NCLB”. I chose nine articles that analyze the passage of No Child Left Behind and its effects on immigrants and LEP students.
In 2001, the George Bush administration passed a sweeping educational reform bill called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This bill reshaped American schools for the next decade and a half. Its focus was on a new system of accountability, where schools were expected to improve on their performance year after year. The primary way the schools were measured was through high-stakes standardized tests given to the students. Schools that were found not to be performing at a high enough level were in danger of losing government funding. NCLB was controversial for its overwhelming focus on standardized tests (Klein, 2015). Although the law was replaced by the Obama administration’s Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, it had a great impact on school practices and policies in the years it was in place. Schools transformed themselves to ensure their students were passing these tests. However, this law did not affect all students in all schools equally. One group that was particularly harmed was students, generally first or second-generation immigrants, who had—to use the term preferred by the government—limited English proficiency (LEP). I will provide a summary of the existing research on the impacts of No Child Left Behind on English language learners (ELL).
The passage of No Child Left Behind came after a period of increased immigration and demographic change in schools, and higher numbers of LEP students than previously in the United States (Capps et al., 2005). Previously, the Bilingual Education Act was in place, and most ELL students received instruction in both their native language and English (Evans and Hornberger, 2005). There was some hope about the law before its passage because NCLB classified LEP students as a disadvantaged category, which meant that schools tracked and reported their results separately, and would potentially be more focused on those students (Evans and Hornberger 2005). Concerns were raised about new standards for teachers making it harder for schools to hire ELL teachers, already a speciality that was in short supply (Consentino et al., 2005).
Researchers began to study the effects of the law shortly after it was passed. As more research came out about the law, its negative effects on LEP students became clear. One major issue is with the high-stakes standardized tests that are a staple of the law. The tests that counted toward schools’ progress were required to be in English, and the goals that students needed to meet were out of line with what experts expect students who are not proficient in English to achieve (Arce et al., 2005). These tests were not accurate measures of how well students understood the content, and they reduced the quality of teaching as teachers spent time on memorization instead of trying to get their students to have a deeper understanding (Acosta et al., 2020). This focus on English-only testing and the pressure schools were under to deliver high test scores caused schools to end native-language instruction for LEP students and move to only teaching in English. Before NCLB in New York City, for example, a majority of LEP students received some native-language instruction. By 2011, 70% of LEP students had English-only instruction (Menken and Solerza, 2014). The importance placed on testing went so far as to change the way students in ELL classes thought about English as a language. The way that it was taught to the test meant that students thought of it as a list of steps instead of a natural way to express themselves (Turken and DaSilva, 2012). The research was clear that LEP students were struggling under NCLB.
While the law was changed in 2015, some researchers offered their own solutions for how the educational system could be improved for English language learners under NCLB. One suggestion was to encourage more social interaction so that LEP students could have equal status to their English proficient peers and develop stronger connections (Izlar, 2010). Another suggestion was that teachers should make more of an effort to connect with immigrant students, nurture their strengths, and support them in growing their identities (Reyes 2016). No Child Left Behind serves as an example of the United States trying to protect LEP students. However, the methods that they used, which ignored the reality of trying to learn a new language and the most successful practices, ultimately harmed the students that the law hoped to protect.
Acosta, S., Garza, T., Hsu, H.-Y., Goodson, P., Padrón, Y., Goltz, H. H., & Johnston, A. (2020). The Accountability Culture: A Systematic Review of High-Stakes Testing and English Learners in the United States During No Child Left Behind. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2), 327–352.
The authors review existing research on high-stakes testing and LEP students to see what the effects of these tests are on students learning English. They find that the performance of LEP students on standardized tests does not always reflect those students’ understanding of the content. They argue that the government should look into alternative testing methods to better capture what LEP students have learned. They also find that high-stakes tests encourage teachers to spend their time drilling students on basic facts and memorization, rather than encouraging deeper thinking and exploration with what they are learning about. These findings illustrate other research on the drawbacks of high-stakes testing in the ways it harms both the quality of the teaching that students get and how it can fail to fully capture what a student has learned. However, because the authors were reviewing existing research, they do not change the understanding of any of these issues. This article was accessed through the Carleton College Catalyst.
Arce, J., Luna, D., Borjian, A., & Conrad, M. (2005). No Child Left Behind: Who Wins? Who Loses? Social Justice, 32(3), 56-71.
The authors explore the passage of NCLB and what groups and individuals benefited from or were harmed by its implementation. They find that LEP students are disproportionately harmed by NCLB’s mandated English-language testing, as the testing goals that school districts are required to meet under NCLB are out of line with what many ELL students realistically can achieve. This leads to further problems when funds are withheld from those schools as a result of not meeting those goals. The authors point out that NCLB was able to be passed because many of those supporting the legislation were anti-immigrants. The English-Only Movement is one anti-immigrant group that supported the legislation. The bill was passed due to a coalition of conservative and moderate groups and pressure from organizations and companies that conduct standardized tests. There were no voices at the table advocating for ELL students, and the result is a bill that harms them. This article helps to provide background for the passage of the bill and who supported it that is useful when considering the negative effects of the law. This article was accessed through the ProQuest database.
Capps, R., Fix, M., Murray, J., Ost, J., Passel, J. S., & Herwantoro, S. (2005). The New Demography of America’s Schools: Immigration and the No Child Left Behind Act. Urban Institute. 1.
The authors, researchers at The Urban Institute and the Migration Policy Institute, examined the intersections of the major reforms that NCLB brought with it and the changes in school demographics due to increased immigration. There were sharp increases in the numbers of both immigrant students and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students between 1990 and 2000. At this time, school-aged immigrants were still concentrated in a few large states but were already beginning to move to states across the country. They found that most LEP children attended schools with high numbers of other LEP students. They also found that because NCLB requires schools to separate results for different protected groups and meet performance targets for each of those groups, and because immigrant students are likely to fall under multiple target groups (LEP, Hispanic, and low-income, for example), schools serving large immigrant populations were more likely to fail to meet NCLB performance targets. This article provides a good overview of the demographic state of schools at the time of NCLB and some of the challenges that high LEP schools faced meeting the standards of the law. This article was accessed through the ERIC Institute of Education Sciences.
Cosentino de Cohen, C., Deterding, N., & Clewell, B. C. (2005). Who’s Left Behind? Immigrant Children in High and Low LEP Schools. Urban Institute. 3
Researchers at The Urban Institute compare the resources available at schools with varying concentrations of LEP students and examine how the passage of NCLB may shape the experiences of LEP students. They found that high-LEP schools are more likely to offer native-language instruction than low-LEP schools. The researchers conclude that the clustering of LEP students in a few schools has allowed those schools to offer more services catered to that population, but has segregated LEP students away from English speaking classmates. They find that NCLB may incentivize high-LEP schools to focus on those students, but it is risky for LEP students in low-LEP schools, who may be overlooked as resources are diverted elsewhere. They also raise the concern that NCLB may exacerbate the existing shortage of ELL teachers, by increasing the qualifications that these teachers must have. This article is a helpful synthesis of the comparative status of high and low-LEP schools. However, the data they are using was collected before NCLB, which means they are unable to offer statistical evidence for some of their claims about the effects of the law. This article was accessed through the ERIC Institute of Education Sciences.
Evans, B. A., & Hornberger, N. H. (2005). No Child Left Behind: repealing and Unpeeling federal language education policy in the United States. Language Policy, 4(1), 87-106.
Evans and Hornberger discuss predictions of the effects of NCLB on how ELL is taught and how LEP students will perform while comparing the law to previous policies on ELL education. The previous policy, the Bilingual Education Act, had a focus on teaching in both English and the student’s native language. They find that despite the claims NCLB makes about greater flexibility when it comes to ELL classes, the strict requirements of the law—which are often different than what language teachers would support—could be harmful for LEP students. They see it as a positive step that language minority students were included in the accountability requirements that NCLB set, but that the law does not do enough to account for how these students are learning differently than students with English proficiency. The top-down approach of the law takes away agency from individual ELL teachers and students. This account accurately predicts the struggles that LEP students to meet the testing benchmarks established under NCLB. Their research falls in line with other authors who agree that NCLB marked a shift from bilingual education to English-only instruction. This article was accessed through the Carleton College Catalyst.
Menken, K., & Solorza, C. (2014). No Child Left Bilingual: Accountability and the Elimination of Bilingual Education Programs in New York City Schools. Educational Policy, 28(1), 96–125.
Menken and Solorza, Professors of Education in New York City, explore the disappearance of bilingual education programs in New York City schools. In 2002, over 50% of NYC students were enrolled in English-only programs and around 40% were in bilingual programs. By 2011, 70% were in English-only and only 20% were in bilingual programs. The decision of which type of ELL program to adopt is left to the individual school. The authors’ theory is that NCLB, which requires schools to prepare students for high-stakes tests given in English, means that schools have moved away from instruction in students’ native language as a way to try to meet the difficult benchmarks that NCLB sets. They find that a pattern emerged in the schools they looked at. LEP students would perform poorly on standardized tests and, looking for something to blame, administrators would point to bilingual education. Therefore, they claim that the implementation of NCLB is what caused the disappearance of bilingual education in NYC schools. NCLB caused schools to focus more on quickly getting students proficient in English, instead of a slower process that would allow them to be more comfortable with the language when they achieve proficiency. This article was accessed through the SAGE Journals for Education Policy.
Izlar, J. L. (2010). Globalizing No Child Left Behind: A Viable Catalyst in Implementing Progress for Social Integration Programs for Immigrant, English Language Learner, and Limited English Proficient Students. Journal of Law and Education, 39(4), 603-614.
In Globalizing No Child Left Behind, Izlar argues that the reason NCLB has failed LEP and ELL students is that the law did not include social integration provisions. Izlar argues that social integration works because it allows ELL students to have equal status alongside English-speaking peers. He proposes that social integration legislation could be supported through increased Title I and Title III funds. To defend this claim, Izlar compares the integration methods in the US to those used by school systems in other countries. Canada, for example, encourages immigrants to integrate and build a Canadian identity while also keeping their native language and culture. Many European countries require native language teaching for immigrant children, which builds confidence and strengthens identity. Izler’s work points to one compelling reason why ELL students are failing to meet NCLB standards. However, he does not back up the connection between social integration and academic success. His examples from other countries show how social integration leads to better well-being, but this might not translate into higher test scores, which is necessary for improvement under NCLB. This does not mean that social integration is not a worthy goal, but rather that it may not be the sole answer to solving the problem of low performance among LEP students. The issues with NCLB may be larger than just social integration. This article was found through the ProQuest database.
Reyes, R. (2016). In a World of Disposable Students: The Humanizing Elements of Border Pedagogy in Teacher Education. The High School Journal, 99(4), 337-350.
Reyes creates a new form of pedagogy, or a method of teaching, to combat the issues that stem from NCLB. He specifically focuses on an incident that took place over multiple years in the school system in El Paso where LEP students were targeted and encouraged to drop out of school or seek their GED so that they could be removed from the testing pool. Reyes sees this as an example of the broader way in which NCLB dehumanizes students and turns them into nothing more than a few numbers. While Reyes acknowledges that the larger problems of NCLB can only be solved on a structural level, he thinks that teachers can play a role in making sure students are not dehumanized. He discusses the concept of “border pedagogy,” where teachers see students as having complex identities, show care and trust, invest in their students’ success, and adapt the curriculum to students. This method can help teachers build the voices of students that might have been ignored. This article serves as an example of the ways in which researchers tried to decrease the harm of NCLB before a new policy could be passed. This article was accessed through JSTOR.
Turkan, S., & DaSilva Iddings, A. (2012). That Child Is a Yellow: New Immigrant Children’s Conceptions of English Language, Literacy, and Learners’ Identities in the NCLB Era. Theory into Practice, 51(4), 273-280.
Turken and DaSilva Iddings look at how the teaching of English under No Child Left Behind affected the way that children learning English understand the language. They did this by conducting interviews with three ELL elementary schoolers. They had three main findings from this research. The first was that the children linked the idea of success with being proficient in English. Even from a young age, they were being taught that English, and not their native language, was what would help them get jobs in the future. The second was that the children thought of writing in English as procedural. The children saw English as a set of steps (indenting at the start of a paragraph, adding punctuation, counting the length of sentences in a paragraph), instead of a natural form of communication. They also found that not only did the schools think of these students by their testing category, but the children referred to themselves by their test scores (saying “I am a 100”). This link demonstrates the importance of testing under NCLB and the reward system that the school put in place to incentivize the students to do well on their tests. This article is successful at showing the consequences that a test-based policy like NCLB can have in eliminating the joy and curiosity that should come from learning a new language. This article was accessed through JSTOR.
Klein, A. (2015, April 10). No Child Left Behind Overview: Definitions, Requirements, Criticisms, and More. Education Week.
Belonging in Schools: Supporting the Academic Potential of Immigrant and Refugee Students through Social Support
To research my articles, I used PsychINFO: an American Psychological Association approved subscription database that provides their users with academic journals, dissertations, and other types of literature on psychology. I used the search terms “immigrant and refugee”, “school belonging”, “school achievement”, “relationships”, and “social capital” in the PsychINFO search engine to try to match these search terms with articles key terms. I then scanned the titles that related to my topic and opened the full text in a PDF file to look over the abstract to ensure it related to my topic. Unfortunately, none of my articles are accessible through open access.
The topic I decided to research addresses the ways systems within schools can assist immigrant and refugee student populations in their adjustment, academic achievement, mental health, and overall sense of school belonging. These different levels of school involvement measures, such as academic achievement, mental health, and school belonging, have all been well researched in addressing dominant student populations, but there are only a few pieces of literature that address these issues in immigrant and refugee populations. Kia-Keating & Ellis (2007) suggest that this lack of research especially on Somali refugees is due to their relatively recent arrival in the U.S. Majority of the peer reviewed articles that I found addressed ways schools can improve immigrant and refugee students’ school experience by enhancing the student’s sense of school belonging. It was important for me to study immigrant and refugee experiences in school because more recently I realized that whenever teachers would address social or societal issues that affect their students’ lives, they tend to focus on more prominent American issues, such as race or class. Teachers often forget about their immigrant students who are also marginalized in the US.
During the search process, I first learned that there is not much research literature on immigrant and refugee experiences in schools as there are on dominant populations of students, especially in addressing school factors that influence students experiences in schools. As previously mentioned, in Kia-Keating & Ellis (2007) the authors claimed that this was due to a recent increase in Somali populations in the US since the 1991 civil war, but since the publication of that article in 2007, there has been 13 years with still little research done on immigrant and refugee populations. While looking into the literature pertaining to my topic, I found both the negative effects of students feeling like they do not belong in school and the positive effects of students feeling involved in their school. For example, in Kia-Keating & Ellis (2007) when students feel like they belong, they were less likely to experience detrimental mental health issues. In Dutton (2012), the lack of support for students of refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds were so apparent that there was a specific haven project created to better support these populations of students in school systems. Lastly, in Ham et al. (2017), the authors found students with immigrant backgrounds regularly feeling like they did not belong in schools, which led to lower levels of academic performance. From reading these articles, I have learned that a student’s sense of school belonging does more than just affect them socially, but can also limit their ability to perform to the best of their ability. Therefore, it is important for teachers and school personnel to be aware of these issues to better support all their students.
Borgonovi, F., & Ferrara, A. (2020). Academic achievement and sense of belonging among non-native-speaking immigrant students: The role of linguistic distance. Learning and Individual Differences, 81, 101911. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2020.101911
The authors studied immigrant-origin students 15 years of age who are not native speakers of the language of instruction in schools and their connection to three components: speaking a different language at home than the language that they are taught in their instructional settings, academic achievement (in reading, math, and science), and the students’ sense of membership in their schools. This study collected data for about 20 years from over 70 different countries. Within these countries, students took a low-stakes assessment test for two hours in their instruction language to test the students’ ability in reading, mathematics, and science. This was followed by 30 minutes of questionnaire to assess the students’ skills in pronouncing and using words in the language the students were typically instructed in. The authors found students with non-native speaking and immigrant-origin to suffer more academically than those that speak the same language at home and school. However, this study also found if students come into the country they were immigrating into at an early age, then they would be less disadvantaged in their academic achievement. The authors found students’ sense of school belonging to be negatively associated with their achievement in reading, math, and science.
Delgado, M. Y., Ettekal, A. V., Simpkins, S. D., & Schaefer, D. R. (2016). How do my Friends Matter? Examining Latino Adolescents’ Friendships, School Belonging, and Academic Achievement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(6), 1110-1125. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0341-x
Acknowledging that Latino students consistently drop out more often when compared to their white and black student peers, these authors wanted to investigate how friendships in Latino populations influence students’ school belonging and academic achievement. To guide their study, the authors tried to see if school belonging could accurately predict students’ academic outcomes and if students’ friends’ academic achievement and problematic behaviors would affect how they would view their friends and assess their overall school belonging. Lastly, the authors tried to see if their findings could be used for lower-achieving Latino groups, such as Mexicans and Central/South American. Students across the US from seventh to twelfth grade were given three surveys. The first survey asked students about their school-based friendships and how many close-knit friendships they had. The second survey asked the students to measure their level of school belongings, and the last survey asked students to report their GPA. Authors found students who were perceived as friends to many of their peers had higher levels of school belonging and higher academic achievement in all groups but Puerto Rico students. This study suggested that friendships could help students with marginalizing identities have higher levels of school belongings, thus better achieve academically.
Due, C., Riggs, D. W., & Augoustinos, M. (2016). Experiences of School Belonging for Young Children With Refugee Backgrounds. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 33(1), 33-53. https://doi.org/10.1017/edp.2016.9
The authors of this study knew that there was not enough research on students with refugee backgrounds and their levels of school belongings despite there being a lot of research indicating the positive benefits of students having a high sense of school belongings. The authors conducted a research project to explore the experiences of 15 children aged five-thirteen years old with refugee backgrounds living in Australia for less than a year; all these children were a part of an Intensive English Language Program. The conducted research allowed students to share their perspectives through interviews and through adding photos to a journal to better share their experiences and values in school to their audience. The researchers found that through the relationships the refugee students made with their peers and teachers, they created their own sense of school belonging. The students could share and see their own values and identities reflected in the relationships they created with their peers and teachers. Thus, the findings from this article suggest the importance in allowing students with refugee backgrounds to share their knowledge, values, and skills in their schools to further allow them to create their own identities and experiences.
Dutton, C. (2012). Creating a Safe Haven in Schools: Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Children’s and Young People’s Mental Health: School-based Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Child Abuse Review, 21(3), 219-226. https://doi.org/10.1002/car.1197
Dutton produced a short report on a haven project integrated in school systems in Liverpool, UK. The Haven Project is a program that is implemented into school systems to better support the mental health of refugee and asylum-seeking students. The goals of The Haven Project are to provide early intervention and specialist services for the mental health of refugee and asylum-seeking children. In The Haven Project, team members at participating schools survey the teachers about the students they are worried or concerned for in terms of social, learning, emotional, and behavioral needs. From there, the students enter a meeting with their parents, teachers, and The Haven Project team members to discuss how the student is adapting to school and their lives in Liverpool. The Haven Project team member then produces a narrative of the student’s experiences that they provide to the teacher to help them gain a better understanding of the student’s background so they can provide them with better support. Lastly, they allow these students in their program to see a therapist to help create an individualized plan to support the student.
Georgiades, K., Boyle, M.H., & Fife, K. A. (2013). Emotional and Behavioral Problems Among Adolescent Students: The Role of Immigrant, Racial/Ethnic Congruence and Belongingness in Schools. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(9), 1473-1492. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9868-2
As the population of immigrant and ethnically diverse students continues to increase in schools, the authors of this study want to examine the mental health functions and emotional and behavioral problems of students with varying immigrant, racial, and ethnic identities in schools. The goal of this study is to find how individual students’ perception of school belonging is different across the immigrant, racial, and ethnic identities students hold. This study used data collected from a 1994-1995 from students in seventh grade to twelfth grade participating in a Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States. Once the data was organized and analyzed, the researchers found school belonging to be negatively correlated with emotional and behavioral problems. From this study, the authors suggest that the perceptions that students have, regarding their sense of school belonging and emotional and behavioral problems, may be more important to address when considering interventions than the actual measures of these things.
Guerra, R., Rodrigues, R. B., Aguiar, C., Carmona, M., Alexandre, J., & Lopes, R. C. (2019). School achievement and well-being of immigrant children: The role of acculturation orientations and perceived discrimination. Journal of School Psychology, 75, 104-118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2019.07.004
In previous studies, it is well known that immigrant students tend to have lower levels of well-being and academic achievement in comparison to their native peers. These authors wanted to investigate this issue further by addressing the amount of discrimination immigrant students perceive and the assimilation immigrant students must go through to adapt to the dominate culture in schools (acculturation). This study was conducted in Portugal between 9 Portugal schools that totaled in 229 first generation immigrant students, 196 second generation immigrant students, and 168 Portuguese students from fourth to sixth grade. Students completed a questionnaire about perceived discrimination, acculturation, well-being, peer acceptance, and demographics. The study found first and second-generation immigrants to have lower academic achievement and be at higher risk for low levels of school membership. Only first-generation immigrant students tended to have poor adjustments in their schools, lower levels of well-being, and peer acceptance when compared to the second generation and Portuguese students. The authors found students that had strong levels of perceived discrimination were more likely to have poor academic achievement. Lastly, the authors found a strong correlation between negative well-being and acceptance, which tended to affect first- and second-generation students more than native students.
Ham, S.-H., Yang, K.-E., & Cha, Y.-K. (2017). Immigrant integration policy for future generations? A cross-national multilevel analysis of immigrant-background adolescents’ sense of belonging at school. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 60, 40-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2017.06.001
While searching through literature, the authors found students with immigrant backgrounds to academically perform at a disproportionately lower rate than students with non-immigrant backgrounds. The authors have found this difference to be caused by students of immigrant backgrounds having lower levels of social belonging in schools. To better understand this issue, the authors conducted a study to see if introducing a policy to better include all adolescence in education would improve non-immigrant background students’ sense of social belonging in school. This policy was tested among 52,446 students across 2,248 schools in 25 countries. To address the authors initial question, they found that the less students believed that they belong in their schools, the more they felt socially excluded—this was only exacerbated for students with immigrant backgrounds. From their findings, the authors believe that some type of government enforced policies regarding immigrant integration would positively affect students with immigrant backgrounds.
Kia-Keating, M., & Ellis, B. H. (2007). Belonging and Connection to School in Resettlement: Young Refugees, School Belonging, and Psychosocial Adjustment. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 12(1), 29-43. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359104507071052
The authors, both of whom are clinical psychologists that have worked with diverse children in refugee trauma programs, conducted a study based in Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine to analyze the connection between young refugee students’ sense of school belonging and their previous exposure to adversities from growing up during a war conflict in their home countries. After consulting a Somali advisory board to adjust their study to be culturally appropriate, students from the ages 12-19 years were recruited through flyers and recommendations. Participating students had to be born in Africa, living in the USA for at least one year, and they had to speak enough English to fully understand instructions and interview questions. Once recruited, students completed a total of five self-report surveys to assess each of the students’ amount of exposure to trauma from the civil war, sense of school belonging and membership, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, depressive disorder symptoms, and level of self-efficacy. The authors found school belonging, mental health, and self-efficacy to be linked together and that if a student had higher levels of school belonging, they also tended to have lower levels of depressive symptoms and higher levels of self-efficacy regardless of their past trauma.
Mental Health, Immigration, and Education
I started my research using databases geared towards Educational Studies, such as the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) as well as the ProQuest Education Database. Both of these databases specialized in education publications, and I was able to find information on the educational experience of certain immigrant populations, as well as the importance of creating “safe spaces” for marginalized groups on college campuses. I expanded my reach to psychology-based databases, including PsycInfo, the ProQuest Psychology Database. These databases allowed me to find information on emotional and behavioral effects of school mental health resources, as illustrated with the article on “narrative therapy” to assist college-age immigrants. Search terms that I used involved phrases like “immigrant mental health,” “immigrant, therapy” and “immigrant, academic performance.” I also scoured the references cited in previous journal articles I found in order to find ideas for other topics I wanted to explore, which led me to learn more about dropout rates among first, second, and third generation immigrants as well as the concept of grief work to address loss in the immigration experience.
I decided to focus my research on immigrant mental health, specifically within the context of immigrant students and their education. The sources I compiled focused on a variety of topics, including the historic marginalization of immigrants in the education system, disrupted identity as a result of immigration, modes of therapy for immigrant students, training of mental health professionals to assist immigrant students, immigrant students in special education, among others. I wanted to explore the intersection of immigration and mental health after learning about the constant struggles that immigrants experience while adapting to new communities, learning new languages, picking up new occupational skills, and attending new schools. That amount of drastic and intense change would affect anyone’s mental state, leading some to seek a myriad of solutions, which might include finding a therapist, licensed counselor, or other forms of mental health services.
However, immigrants may also be more limited in the mental health resources they are able to take advantage of in the community due to language or financial barriers, which would only exacerbate their conditions. Since immigrant students are under especially high levels of stress due to balancing their changing identities, family and school environments, and pressure to succeed, deteriorating mental health could lead to declining academic performance. I wanted to also focus my research on the types of resources available to immigrant students within schools, where they would be most accessible and supportive.
From my articles on immigration, education, and mental health, I learned that the school environment can be extremely valuable in supporting immigrant students’ development of identity, stability, and community. However, many adolescents, especially those who immigrated later on as a young adult or teenager, struggle with constructing a new identity based on what they learn about the culture and society of their new home. Some are struggling to come to terms with the losses of home and relationships they have experienced as a result of their immigration, grapple with the loss of their “old self,” and question their new place in a new society. Several studies have analyzed in depth the effect of several methods used in therapeutic practices specifically for immigrant students in the hopes of confronting the trauma and disruptions they’ve experienced in their life and offering support regarding their mental health, such as “narrative therapy” or therapy devoted specifically to grief work and loss. These types of therapy have been shown to be a step towards offering the necessary support to immigrant students who lack sufficient representation in school and are in need of resources that take into account their experiences and circumstances. Despite these strides, this is merely scratching the surface of advocating for immigrant students and their families to be fairly represented and supported by their surrounding communities. Hopefully, the following sources will provide more insight into the immigrant experience in conjunction with its effects on adolescent mental health.
Stromquist, N. (2012). The educational experience of Hispanic immigrants in the United States: Integration through marginalization. Race Ethnicity and Education, 15(2), 195–221.
In this journal article, Stromquist explores the intersection between education and Hispanic/Latinx immigration. Research indicates that 66% of Hispanic/Latinx children attend “minority schools” where “minority enrollment ranges from 90 to 100%” (Stromquist 2012, p. 197). This consistent educational segregation stems from the barriers immigration can place on child development and assimilation in education. Those who immigrate between the ages of 15-18 are especially affected, they “tend to achieve three years less of education than those arriving before four years of age” (Stromquist 2012, p. 199). Compared to other countries, U.S. standards for education are particularly high and this can create difficulties with the assimilation process as children are placed into unfamiliar ranked categories based on “giftedness” and ability, which places immigrants at a disadvantage if they are unfamiliar with the English language. This marginalization can create feelings of low self-esteem, alluding to one reason why Latinx students have lowest graduation and college completion rates of any ethnic minority. Stromquist also explores English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in schools as an appropriate learning mechanism for immigrant students. Findings indicated that ESL programs were not nearly as strong as imagined, as they created more limited opportunities for students to connect to the regular curriculum and did not produce as effective English language proficiency. Analysis of this source provides helpful information towards learning about some of the ways in which immigrant children are disadvantaged in the education system, and how these disadvantages contribute towards their mental health.
Miller, L. D. (2013). “I am not who I thought I was”: Use of grief work to address disrupted identity among Hispanic adolescent immigrants. Clinical Social Work Journal, 41(4), 316–323.
The author, a psychotherapist at a community mental health clinic, uses case studies and interviews to determine how Hispanic adolescent immigrants process grief in their adjustment to the United States and the challenges they may face during that time. One of the primary challenges that adolescent immigrants deal with is the loss of family members or other meaningful relationships left behind in their country of origin, as well as the loss of their “old identity.” Literature on grief and mourning in immigration cites that this type of trauma-inflicted grief can greatly impact the development of new relationships and can also influence parent-child attachment issues and parenting styles, as often times Hispanic immigrants will be separated from their family members for an extended period of time between migration movements. Through extensive case studies, Miller concluded that while many adolescent immigrants were deeply affected by their immigration to the U.S., this effect would not be mentioned without direct questioning. For the teenagers who followed a family member to the U.S., they described feeling a sense of isolation and disconnect from their family while attempting to construct a new identity. Miller assists the adolescents in a “therapeutic grieving process,” meant to facilitate acceptance towards what they have lost while promoting growth in what they will become. Grief, anger, and silencing were common themes. Both participants felt they had to “minimize their expression of grief in order to deal with losses experienced as a result of immigration” (Miller 2013, p. 321).
Farrell, I., & Gibbons, M. (2019). Using narrative therapy to assist college-age Latino immigrants. Journal of College Counseling, 22(1), 83–96.
Similar to Miller’s work regarding therapeutic practices on adolescent immigrants, Farrell and Gibbons explore the effect of narrative therapy on Latinx immigrants in college. Narrative therapy is a counseling technique meant to utilize one’s experiences in context with their past and present environmental circumstances, and how their cultural values and beliefs shape these perspectives. There is an emphasis on storytelling as the main mode of conversation, and the counselor asks questions to the client to encourage linking of stories to present day identity. Research shows that students of color are most likely to need counseling services in college, especially when they are experiencing high levels of anxiety or depression. Latinx immigrants may feel anxiety, depression, or other amounts of stress due to the pressure to acclimate to a new environment, as well as the pressure to create a new identity, as addressed by Miller. This is referred to as acculturative stress, which can be further intensified by the pressure to compromise between two emerging identities of past and present self. Additionally, Latinx students are underrepresented in the college student population. While there are current counseling models specifically for Latinx immigrant students, they do not take into account “sociocultural contexts” which narrative therapy provides (Farrell & Gibbons 2019, p. 86). The authors hope that the success and continuation of narrative therapy with Latinx immigrant students will encourage a higher retention rate of Latinx students at colleges, as well as provide necessary support for students undergoing particularly stressful transitions linked to immigration experiences.
Nájera, J. (2020). Creating Safe Space for Undocumented Students: Building on Politically Unstable Ground. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 51(3), 341–358.
Nájera is an Associate professor of Ethnic Studies at University of California, Riverside, where the research data were collected. The article explores how undocumented college students advocate for themselves and others in order to create safe spaces on college campuses. The concept of a “safe space,” especially for marginalized people in a community, has been shown to foster feelings of belonging and community. They act as a place of refuge where students can feel surrounded by people who share the same experiences. While colleges will almost always have inclusive statements about how they are welcoming to students of all backgrounds, these often exist in conjunction with instances of ethnic or racial microaggressions, making marginalized students feel isolated. In response, marginalized students are more likely to seek out other students of similar backgrounds to create “safe spaces” on campus. Collaboration between students is especially important since undocumented students may be skeptical of trusting college administrators with their undocumented status. This source gives more context into the struggles that immigrant students experience beyond K-12 schooling, and how they might rely on each other to alleviate their own mental health as opposed to other resources like counselors.
Baazova Fields, A. (2017). Exploring the Training and Experiences of School-Based Mental Health Professionals Who Work with Latino Immigrant Youth (Order No. 10280449). Available from Ethnic NewsWatch; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1899616615).
This source draws attention to the essential role that school counselors play in K-12 public school, and how their services could be improved to better suit the needs of immigrant children. Past findings indicated that nearly 77% of Latinx immigrant children with demonstrated mental health needs did not receive adequate services. Data was collected using extensive interviews from 6 healthcare professionals from 5 different schools in southern California. Much of the data put an emphasis on collaboration within the larger public school network (school staff, outside community members, and student families) in order to ensure the services are best delivered. However, a common obstacle was the language barrier between Latinx students, their families, and the school. In order to improve the services offered, mental health professionals heavily emphasized the need for more professional development and training surrounding concepts of cultural assimilation and immigration experiences so that they might better connect with the Latinx immigrant population and understand and empathize more with their previous experiences. Counseling services in public school are particularly significant as immigrant children are more likely to experience trauma or big upheavals of change at a young age, but their families might not have financial resources available to use mental health counseling resources outside of the public school community. Analyzing how counselors might adapt their practices to fit their community’s needs is also incredibly important, as it shows that one type of counseling practice will not suit the number of diverse narratives present in the immigrant community.
Rousseau, C., Mustafa, S., & Beauregard, C. (2015). Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties and Academic Achievement in Immigrant Adolescents in Special Education. World Journal of Education, 5(5), 21–29.
With the knowledge that the school environment can strongly influence a student’s mental state, Rousseau et al. set out to study difficulties surrounding emotions and behavior among immigrant students in special education classes. Data was collected from 464 middle and high school students who were at least two years behind their expected grade level. These students are enrolled in five schools with highly diverse student populations who serve majority marginalized students in Montreal, Canada. Students were distributed surveys to take in class. Surveys distributed included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Adolescent Friendship Inventory, and the “What is Happening in this Class?” survey. School performance was also evaluated using report cards. A number of factors were evaluated, but findings showed that students’ emotional and behavioral difficulties in the classroom could be affected by previous immigration experiences, family environment at home, and relationships with peers in the classroom. Additionally, the classroom environment was also found to be strongly correlated with academic achievement in the subjects studied, which were French and Math. This resource is significant as it can provide more context and resources for mental health professionals to help immigrant children who have learning disabilities or need special education. However, further research is needed, as there has been plenty of research on immigrants in the school system, but not as much about immigrant children in special education classes or those who have other learning disabilities and analyzing the role that the school environment plays in their adaptation.
Kia-Keating, M., & Ellis, B. H. (2007). Belonging and Connection to School in Resettlement: Young Refugees, School Belonging, and Psychosocial Adjustment. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 12(1), 29–43.
This source emphasizes the importance of developing mental health resources specifically for refugees. Kia-Keating and Ellis are clinical psychologists, and are interested in assessing the mental health of refugee students in the school environment. Nearly half of all refugees in the world are under 18 years old. While school is essential as a stable environment for refugees, their past traumatic experiences may have disrupted learning, putting them at a disadvantage. This is significant because immigrant experiences can easily be welded together into a single, homogenous narrative. Refugees are also immigrants but their needs and experiences may be different from those who immigrated by choice. In order to analyze the relationship between refugee students and their mental health at school, the authors interviewed 76 Somali refugee students, all between 12 and 19 in Massachusetts and Maine. Researchers used multiple methods to measure students’ mental health. Among them were the Psychological Sense of School Membership Scale in order to measure student feelings of belonging at school as well as the War Trauma Screening Scale to measure how affected students were by their past experiences in their country of origin. Findings indicated that school belonging was linked to belief in one’s capabilities to succeed academically and in the school environment as well as levels of depression. Students who felt more connected to their school community felt lower levels of depression. However, more exposure to war or other traumatic events was associated with lower connectedness to the school environment and higher levels of depression.
Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Dupéré, V., Brault, M.-C., & McAndrew, M. (n.d.). Individual, social, and family factors associated with high school dropout among low-SES youth: Differential effects as a function of immigrant status. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 456–477.
In this source, the authors assess the differences in dropout rates between first, second, and third generation immigrant students at school and analyzed it within “individual, social, and family factors” as well as within the context of the student’s immigration status. Data was collected from 2291 students attending 10 low socioeconomic status schools in Montreal, Canada. Over half of the students had an immigrant background. Previous literature shows that students are less likely to graduate from high school among those with low-income backgrounds, and immigrant children are increasingly enrolled in low-income high schools. If immigrant students drop out of high school, this would in turn affect their mental health as well as their integration and assimilation into society. Results indicated that third generation immigrant students dropped out at a higher rate than first and second generation immigrant students. First and second generation immigrant students were more likely to have better school performance, possibly due to high expectations set by their parents even if they came from worse socioeconomic conditions than their peers. However, first generation immigrants were still likely to undergo “academic delays” due to the need to adjust to the school culture in a new environment. This source is important because dropout rates among immigrants reflect how they are being supported in the school, as well as any underlying mental health indicators that would lead to poor school performance.
Latinx Parents’ Partnerships with Schools
Ana Pina Marcelino and Clarissa Guzman
This research was built on a paper done by a Carleton alumna, Sarah Newsham. Newsham researched Latinx parent engagement in K-12 schools by focusing on community partnerships. We started by reading her analysis and reading through essential research done on Latinx parents’ involvement in schools. We first started by taking a look at Auerbach’s research on authentic partnerships to further understand respectful alliances between parents and school administration. From there, our research dug deeper into parent school partnerships, the influence of immigration status on parent involvement, how Latinx parents come into leadership positions, what allows established organizations of Latinx parents to exist, and how language affects communication between parents and school authorities. In furthering our understanding on parent-school relationships, we searched up some keywords on Google Scholar and Carleton’s database, Catalyst. Some key phrases we used were Latinx parent involvement in schools, Latinx family-school partnerships rural, and parent-school partnerships. The search process also incorporated looking at articles and journals’ bibliography to further understand ideas and concepts brought up in the research papers’ introduction.
Our research focuses on the relationship between Latinx parents and the school administration to learn more about how parents can get involved with schools and vice versa. We wanted to see how language, culture, and immigration status impacted the way Latinx parents interacted with teachers and the school administration. This research also focused on ways that schools could support Latinx parents’ quality of life.
We have learned that the identity of the researcher can be a limitation when conducting research. If the researcher identifies as Latinx and/or is able to speak Spanish, there is a more trusting relationship between the researcher and the subjects. However, if the researcher did not hold these identities, the subjects may hold back on expressing their concerns fully.
There was also a question as to what does a Latinx parent being involved with their child’s education look like. In these articles, we have learned that parent involvement does not just involve attending parent-teacher conferences or assisting in a bake sale, it requires more engagement. A parent’s full immersion into the school community can benefit a child’s educational success in the long run.
We also learned that it is necessary to combine cultural aspects of the Latinx community such as familismo into the school’s culture. Similarly, parents’ funds of knowledge are essential in figuring out ways to better engage parents with the school. Latinx parents expressed their frustration with the discrimination they and their children faced and the lack of administration’s willingness to listen to parents’ concerns and feedback.
By focusing on ways in which schools can educate parents and engage them with their children’s learning, it would allow parents to be more involved in shaping school policies and systems. Furthermore, by centering parents and their cultural assets would allow parent organizations to communicate and navigate the school system. This would create authentic partnerships, where the school administration and parents hold the same power and knowledge. It is important to keep these in mind as schools try to open their doors to parent influence. There must also be focus on parents and educators being involved in more than just a child’s academic success but their mental success as well. The way parents interact with children at home affects how they interact with their educators and their comprehension of class curriculum.
Adams, Curt M., Patrick B. Forsyth, and Roxanne M. Mitchell. “The Formation of Parent-School Trust.” Educational Administration Quarterly 45, no. 1 (2009): 4–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161×08327550.
Adams et al. explore trust formation in 79 different schools. Their research defines trust as the “willingness to be vulnerable based on belief that the other party is open” (Adams et al, 2009, p. 8). They focus on the importance of parent involvement by analyzing the Model of Parent Trust. This model includes parents, teachers, and principals as the key influences of student learning and development. Parents should be seen as “partners” and equally responsible for their children’s academic success. Adams et al. conclude by making three propositions that could enable parents to trust the school: opportunities for parents to interact more with teachers and school administrators, collective affirmations of parents’ value, and a bridging of the relational gap. This research is helpful in emphasizing the need for schools to improve their relationships with parents and build a relationship of trust in order to work towards a similar goal, that being students’ success.
Auerbach, A. (2012b). Conceptualizing Leadership for Authentic Partnerships: A Continuum to Inspire Practice. In A. Auerbach (Ed.), School Leadership for Authentic Family and Community Partnerships: Research Perspectives for Transforming Practice (pp. 29-52). New York, NY: Routledge.
In this research, Auerbach argues that schools should shift towards using authentic partnerships, which are alliances between school administration, teachers, and students’ parents. They encompass respect, reciprocity, and the sharing of power. Auebarch also acknowledges that developing authentic partnerships is a long process, which includes four main stages. The first two stages—Leadership Preventing and Leadership for Nominal Partnerships—highlight unilateral power and the closed school system, where parents have little influence so school administration can stay in control. The third stage, Leadership of Traditional Partnerships, includes a mix of relational and unilateral power, and lastly in the fourth stage, Authentic Partnerships, there is equity and collaboration between parents and the school. This is a very useful resource in understanding partnerships between parents and schools, and it is the basis of the research to further understand Latinx parents’ school involvement. Auerbach’s research is very accessible since their work can be found on Google books, open to anyone. Auerbach is a very famous professor and known for her work in urban education and school-community relations.
Arriero, Elisabeth and Griffin, Dana. “¡Adelante! A Community Asset Mapping Approach to Increase College and Career Readiness for Rural Latinx High School Students.” Professional School Counseling 22, no. 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1177/2156759×18800279.
This research focused on family-school partnerships and how schools can better support parents to improve Latinx student school performance. Arriero and Griffin express the importance of family-school relationships in order to increase parents’ skills and trust in their own ability and knowledge. The research focused on community asset mapping through the career-readiness program, Adelante. Counselors and ESL teachers got together to start a list of available resources for Latinx families. They also contact new organizations and institutions around the area to create new partnerships that would release some burden from Latinx families. This form of asset mapping identified the needs of parents and allowed parents to feel welcomed both in the school and the community. This research was helpful in learning about ways schools can take initiative to support Latinx parents in accessing community resources. However, asset mapping felt like a one-time partnership rather than an ongoing one. It was a very transactional interaction that may not be helpful in the long run for developing school-parent partnerships.
Auerbach, Susan. “Beyond Coffee with the Principal: Toward Leadership for Authentic School–Family Partnerships.” Journal of School Leadership 20, no. 6 (2010): 728–57. https://doi.org/10.1177/105268461002000603.
This research focuses on the creation of low income, parents of color’s partnerships with their children’s schools. Auerbach, again, emphasizes the importance of authenticity and the sharing of leadership between schools and parents. Rather than seeing parents through a deficit lens, this research shifts the lens into acknowledging the contribution that Latinx parents bring with them. This lens would allow for more parent engagement and open dialogue to create more meaningful interactions. The research also highlights the need to educate parents and allow them to ask questions regarding the school system in order for them to gain agency and criticize the school if there are issues. Auerbach is an essential scholar that offers so much insight as to how to achieve authentic partnership between parents and school teachers and administration. This research would help in looking more in depth as to how schools can improve their interactions and parent relationships. This resource can be accessed through Google Scholar.
Carruba-Rogel, D. (2019). Latinx Parents’ Literacy Practices and Concientización in Petitioning Their Local School Board Regarding Funding Priorities. Peabody Journal of Education, 94(2), 240–254. https://doi.org/10.1080/0161956X.2019.1598131
This study used qualitative ethnographic methods to analyze the group activity of parents to uncover evidence of how parental political and civic engagement occurs in school engagement programs. School districts in California are required to develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) to illustrate in detail how funds would be used to support high needs students and this study explores how Latinx parents developed their collective power as participants of Padres Lideres to advocate for their children’s needs. The study found that the Padres Lideres’ coordinating team used guest speakers to tap into parents’ funds of knowledge, helped parents understand the importance of being involved in the LCAP, and learned that parents and educators should work as a team and that parents can gain new forms of capital to use as mediational tool. The study demonstrates how marginalized parents can move to becoming advocates for their children through educational policies. Limitations of this study is that it is one case study and findings may not apply to other parent programs. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Clarke, W. (2017). Supporting Latinx Student Success via Family–School Partnerships: Preliminary Effects of Conjoint Behavioral Consultation on Student and Parent Outcomes. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 27(3), 317–343. https://doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2017.1293543
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of Conjoint behavioral consultation (CBC) for a subsample of Latinx students enrolled in two efficacy trials from schools in Midwestern states. The CBC process involves the parents and the educators to serve as joint consultees and the process builds upon the family’s strength and values. All data was collected through two handwritten questionnaires, one filled before CBC and one after. The study found that the CBC process benefited both the Latinx students and their parents. Latinx parents and teachers found that CBC was acceptable for meeting the needs of Latinx students and that it may be culturally responsive to their needs. The limitations of this study are the small sample size used, the use of broad assessments of behavior, the sample came from one geographical area, and all consultants and teachers identified as white/non-Hispanic. The implications of CBC are that it can address gaps in behavioral and educational services for Latinx students. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Coady, M. R., T. J. Coady, and A. Nelson. “Assessing the Needs of Immigrant, Latino Families and Teachers in Rural Settings: Building Home-School Partnerships.” NABE Journal of Research and Practice 6, no. 1 (2015): 122–57. https://doi.org/10.1080/26390043.2015.12067786.
This research took place in a rural school in Northern Florida. This school partnered with faith-based organizations to help with the English learning programs made accessible to Latino parents. The school took on a reconceptualization of partnerships by offering language support and the use of paraprofessionals to center and support parents’ needs. A lot of the Latino parents wanted more open communication between them and the administration. This program supported parents with ELL classes, computerized language learning, providing translation/ interpretation, and even creating fotonovelas. These fotonovelas were comics that explained the school system and offered solutions as to how parents can help their children at home. Parents were also able to have follow ups with teachers and counselors to ensure that parents understood the information sent home. This research presented a lot of unique ways in which schools can support parents and their involvement in their children’s education. However, it is important to acknowledge the extra help and funding this school received, which is not the case for many schools.
Colegrove, K. (2019). “Gracias por escucharnos”: Listening and Learning from Latinx Immigrant Parents Through Video‐Cued Ethnography. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 50(3), 291–312. https://doi.org/10.1111/aeq.12299
This paper focuses on the voices of Latinx immigrant parents to describe their and their children’s experiences with schools in Texas and California. Using a video-cued ethnography method allowed for participants to discuss among themselves across different locations and time zones to explore issues regarding their power. Parents discussed their limited influence on their children’s educational learning. Parents expressed frustrations with schools as they felt that their voices were marginalized and given no power. Using film as a tool for interviews with Latinx immigrants’ parents proved useful as it gave the visualization of a classroom and what happens inside of them. Hosting the interviews in Spanish was beneficial in communicating with the Latinx immigrant parents as they are able to express themselves fully and clearly without a language barrier. These findings suggest that there should be spaces created where dialogue can take place between Latinx immigrant partners, teachers, schools, and policy makers to meet the needs of the Latinx community. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Durán, Richard P., Zuleyma Carruba-Rogel, and Bertin Solis. “Latinx Immigrant Parents’ Cultural Communicative Resources: Bridging the Worlds of Home, Community, and School Policy.” Equity & Excellence in Education 53, no. 1-2 (2020): 89–104. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2020.1756535.
Duran et al. focus their research on three theoretical frameworks to analyze how to build bridges between the home and school. This research draws on Latinx parents’ funds of knowledge so schools can get a better idea as to how to involve parents in school events and their children’s learning. One of the theoretical frameworks included Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), which uses parents’ funds of knowledge to analyze school’s practices and policies. This included the analysis of dichos and refranes used by Latinx parents in school parent meetings. Another framework was the Critical Pedagogy Theory, which focused on collective group leaders and how they made meaning through their platicas/ dialogues, leading to new forms of understanding to create change at their children’s schools. Last but not least, Duran et. Al. bring in Bridging Multiple Worlds theory to focus on bridging the home, community, and school by using cultural brokers. Cultural brokers are essentially school parent coordinators that teach parents how to turn their analysis and dialogue into formal language to make policy change. This is a very valuable research since it focuses on Latinx parents’ cultural assets and the knowledge that they carry. It provides techniques to allow parents to have more agency and knowledge of the school system.
Fernández, P. (2017). “Venimos Para Que se Oiga la Voz”: Activating Community Cultural Wealth as Parental Educational Leadership. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 13(1), 59–78. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942775117744011
This study helps disrupt traditional notions of who can be an educational leader as this article explores how Spanish speaking Latinx immigrant women were not considered educational leaders in the eyes of the administration. This study used critical qualitative research methodology to answer how community cultural wealth is being used within the Latinx parent group at the school and how the operation of community cultural wealth influences the growth of parent leaders. Data was collected through interviews, participant observations, and documents. The study found that community cultural wealth was not acknowledged by school officials but that it was valued within the Latinx Parent Organization (LPO) to develop parental educational leadership. The study also found that community cultural wealth was useful in negotiating tensions between Latinx parent leaders and school officials when a new parent organization was created. Implications for principal preparation programs include working with Latinx parents as leader collaborators, highlighting racial tensions within the school, and ensuring current practices support the growth of community culture wealth. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Flores, M. (2019). Latinx Family Engagement in Schools and Surrounding Communities: Assessing the Impact of Parent (and Other Family Member) Development on Improving Student Educational Outcomes at Gene Ward Elementary School. Education Sciences, 9(2), 149–. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9020149
The original study of this was conducted with 500 participants in the Clark County School District. The study sought to determine the relationship between parental engagement and student success. The original study looked at trends before, during, and after parental involvement to determine the impact on students’ academic outcomes. This article focuses on parental involvement and outcomes at Gene Ward Elementary School. The study found that parents who involve themselves whole in civic engagement with the school and not solely focus on their child’s performance in school increased the quality of life of the whole family. A range of topics explored as a result of parental involvement include: parent educational advocacy, continuing education, connecting education to entrepreneurship, and youth educational advocacy. The findings of this study suggest that in order to have the most beneficial impact, parents should approach involvement in their child’s educational learning by becoming a full community member of the school. One of the authors, Phyllis Morgan, has roots connected to Gene Ward Elementary through immigrant grandparents and wonders how access to the parent engagement established at the elementary school today would have changed the life of their grandparents, parents, and themselves. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Johnson, Cynthia E., and Ruben P. Viramontez Anguiano. “Latino Parents in the Rural Southeast: A Study of Family and School Partnerships.” Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 4, 96 (2004): 29–33.
This research interviewed Latino parents in rural schools. There was a focus on ecological factors, like culture, parenting, style, parental involvement, school participation, etc. There were barriers and strengths identified from the parent and school perspective in order to better understand how to support both parties. Some of the barriers that Latino parents identified were the language and cultural barriers, transportation, childcare, and not knowing how or where to access services. Some school barriers include language barrier as well, lack of resources/ funding, few interpreters, and lack of understanding of Latino family educational values. This research on barriers allows for schools to pinpoint factors that keep Latino parents out of parent-school partnerships, as well as provides parents the school perspective of partnerships. The research suggests that there is a need for more administrative support, cultural support, as well as family friendly school policies. This research can be helpful as a starting point for schools to center parents in their ongoing efforts to increase parent-school communication.
Noguerón-Liu, S. (2020). “Dime De Que Se Trató/Tell me what it was about”: Exploring emergent bilinguals’ linguistic resources in reading assessments with parent participation. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 20(2), 411–433. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798418770708
The purpose of this study is to observe how bilingual first graders use a variety of linguistic resources during reading assessments and the participation of their Spanish speaking parents. This study was grounded in sociopsychologist and holistic views of reading and assessment, and a critical procedure to family involvement. Both researchers and participants participated in a joint investigation to discuss equitable home-school partnerships. Nine families participated in the study where all parents were dominant Spanish speakers and their children received ESL services. Each child was evaluated individually through Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, where the child would read a story out loud and then they were asked comprehension questions about what they read. Children were allowed to retell what they read in Spanish. The study found that family practices of retelling stories had an effect on how children retold stories in front of the researcher versus how they retold stories in front of their parents. The implications of this study are that there is validity in oral reading assessments for bilingual children and should be considered when assessing for comprehension. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Scribner, Samantha M. Paredes, and Erica Fernández. “Organizational Politics of Parental Engagement: The Intersections of School Reform, Anti-Immigration Policies, and Latinx Parent Organizing.” Educational Policy 31, no. 6 (2017): 895–920. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904817719527.
Scribner and Fernandez bring up a very interesting focus point to explore Latinx parent involvement at schools. They use the LatCrit framework to understand how race, gender, class, and other forms of oppression affect immigrants and people of color, by focusing on Latinx parents’ experiences. This research takes place in an urban school, Martin Elementary School, after Trump’s election and focuses on Adelantando Families en la Comunidad (AFC), a parent association at the school. The research looks at how politics affect Latinx parents’ advocacy and engagement at school. For example, there was a disconnect between school leaders’ support and the students’ families’ needs. In order to volunteer at school, the administration required parents to go down to city hall and get their fingerprints taken. Due to immigration statuses, parents wanted the school to reconsider that policy. However, the school administration felt that immigration was not an issue that they should take on. This disconnect presented a barrier to parents’ ability to be involved with their children. This research emphasizes the importance of centralizing families’ needs and experiences to create better partnerships between the school and parents. Although immigration is not a part of all Latinx families, it does play a big role in some families which is a focus that could increase parent involvement.
Villalba, B. (2007). Experiences of Latino Children Attending Rural Elementary Schools in the Southeastern U.S.: Perspectives from Latino Parents in Burgeoning Latino Communities. Professional School Counseling, 10(5), 506–509. https://doi.org/10.5330/prsc.10.5.t727642203354538
This is a qualitative study that was conducted with nine Latinx parents of elementary children in the southeastern region. This study was conducted in the style of an interview where the questions were asked in Spanish. The responses that the parents provided were split into four general themes: (a) school and teachers as resources and obstacles, (b) school policies negatively impacting the academic success of Latino children, (c) family and cultural characteristics of Latinx children living in burgeoning, and (d) social factors impacting the development of Latino children living in rural communities. Implications for this study are for school counselors to conduct guidance for classroom tolerance with the assistance of Latino children and to make the effort to address the strengths and concerns of the Latino students and parents. Limitations of this study is that the experiences of the students are being extracted by the parents rather than the children themselves. A strength is that this study was conducted in Spanish by a Latino researcher which may have led to a more trusting relationship between the participants and the researcher. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
Witkowsky, O. (2020). Connecting Familismo and Higher Education: Influence of Spanish Language PFMO Programs on Latinx Family Involvement and Sense of Belonging. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 19(4), 354–368. https://doi.org/10.1177/1538192718810429
This study explores the experiences of family and parent participants of a Spanish language parent and family member orientation (PFMO) program at a Midwest university. Opened ended surveys with questions in Spanish were used to collect data. The research questions hoped to be answered are: how do Spanish language PFMO programs influence parents’ sense of belonging at their child’s institution and how do these programs influence the parent’s intentions to support their child? The study found that the use of Spanish language PFMO programs generated better trust in the institution as parents were able to connect to Spanish speaking staff and have information about the institution related to them in Spanish parents. These factors turned parents’ fear of the unknown of college into comfort. The implications of this study are that along with Spanish PFMO programs, institutions should foster a community that is closer to the concept of familismo from Latinx cultures. Limitations of this study is that the orientation program is based on language and not culture and that families were only on campus for a limited amount of time so in-depth individual interviews were not possible for this study. This resource was accessed through Carleton’s Catalyst.
An Overview of Trauma-Informed Education for Students with Refugee Backgrounds
While researching, I relied on three main resources: Carleton’s library webpage (Catalyst), JSTOR, and ERIC. Searching through Carleton Catalyst yields a variety of sources with access through many databases. Many of these can only be accessed with a current Carleton account; however, some are open-source and can be accessed by anyone. In order to receive solely these sources, one can check the “Open Access” box on the left sidebar after a search. Additionally, I narrowed my results to only “Scholarly Articles” (another box) so that only peer-reviewed articles would appear.
Secondly, I used JSTOR, a database that Carleton college students have access to. JSTOR features journal articles from a variety of disciplines. Though many of the articles are paid, JSTOR has a separate webpage that allows for searches of open content, linked here. I find JSTOR to be a helpful starting point for any kind of research, as it often has at least a few relevant articles on any given topic and gives a broad array of results.
The last database I used is ERIC, which I found and accessed through Carleton’s library website. Even without a Carleton sign-in, anyone can search databases that Carleton has access to by subject, here, which could be a useful way to decide which databases are most relevant to a research project. This seems worthwhile, as some have features that allow you to search for open-source content. I searched databases relevant to Educational Studies, and the top result was ERIC. Fortunately, the library also included a way to access this database for free through the U.S. Department of Education website. Here, too, there is a box that can be checked for peer-reviewed sources only, as well as one for articles that have full text available to anyone.
In both Carleton Catalyst and JSTOR, I often tried to include the three key words to my research: “refugee,” “trauma,” and “education.” Because these are broad databases, it was important to include the word education. Sometimes, using different combinations of these words, or two at a time would yield different results. In ERIC, I found that I only had to include “refugee” and “trauma” since the database was already education focused. This allowed for a wide array of education articles discussing the impact of trauma on refugees in education, solutions, etc. While I found Catalyst and JSTOR to be useful resources for broad information on my topic, using ERIC yielded me the most specific articles. For me, I think using a combination of broad and specific databases helped me get both a general overview and deeper insight on my topic.
The last tactic I used, outside of databases, was to always search the reference lists of useful articles, even if those first sources were not peer-reviewed. Often non-peer-reviewed papers will rely on peer-reviewed papers for evidence, and references are a good way to narrow in on your topic if the initial paper did not contain the exact information you were looking for. One last note that I have, in case it is helpful, is that “refereed” is another word for peer-reviewed, which I learned during this process.
I chose to research how trauma-informed teaching can (and ought to) be used in classrooms with refugee and immigrant students. I aimed to find resources both on trauma-informed teaching more generally, and then how this can be adapted in practice with refugee and immigrant students. As I researched, I found that there was a large diversity of useful articles, especially on putting trauma-informed teaching principles into practice with refugee students. Given the difference in experience between refugee and immigrant students, I decided to focus on refugee students, allowing me to gain a greater breadth of knowledge in that area, and create a clearer annotated bibliography.
Below, I will first share useful definitions of trauma as well as how it impacts students with refugee backgrounds, then outline how that trauma can manifest itself in educational settings, and lastly summarize teaching methods for mitigating that impact.
I encountered two especially useful definitions of trauma during my research. The first, cited in Sitler (2009, p. 119) from Herman (1997, p. 33) is based on a clinical definition, asserting that trauma is an “affliction of powerlessness” in which the victim is “helpless by overwhelming forces.” The second defines trauma as occurring due to “dangerous and shocking events which shatter one’s sense of security and overwhelm normal resilience to adversity” (Gordon, 2011, p. 1).
Many refugee students carry trauma following life in and escape from wartime regions, as well as time spent in refugee camps (Tweedie et al., 2017, p. 36). Upon arrival, this trauma interacts with resettlement stressors such as housing and job instability, loneliness, and the loss of social support (Gordon, 2011, p. 10; Bajwa et al., 2020, p. 78). Gordon (2011, p. 1) synthesized study results to find that 30 to 86 percent of refugees experience trauma-related symptoms.
This trauma can present with a variety of symptoms that affect educational experiences. Those carrying trauma can struggle with long-term thinking, concentration, problem-solving, and memory (Sitler, 2009, p. 120; Tweedie et al., 2017, p. 39). Because during the trauma, students may have been in “survival” mode, it can be difficult to focus on anything other than basic needs – when the brain is in fight-or-flight, it cannot process new information, such as that in school lessons (Sitler, 2009, p. 120; Gordon, 2011, p. 4, Tweedie et al, 2017, p. 39). Additionally, rightful mistrust of authority figures during trauma can make rebuilding trusting relationships especially challenging (Minahan, 2019; MacNevin, 2012, p. 50).
Trauma-informed teaching aims to teach with awareness of these impacts so that classes can prioritize the learning of all students, and hopefully alleviate trauma-related symptoms. Of top importance is restoring students’ sense of safety and trust in classrooms. Teachers can work towards this by creating intentionally supportive communities, prioritizing students’ human needs, using predictable and stable structures, and restoring students sense of control over their own outcomes (Sitler, 2009, pp. 121-122; Gordon, 2011, p. 2; Minahan, 2019; MacNevin, 2012, p. 52; Bajwa et al., 2020, pp. 78-79). Authors pointed to reflective writing, positive feedback, short and varied activities, opportunities for creative expression, fostering of peer support, and sensitivity to barriers and cultural context as methods of restoring students’ perceptions of their safety, value, and level of control (Sitler, 2009, pp. 121-122; Gordon, 2011, p. 9-11; Minahan, 2019; MacNevin, 2012, p. 52-53; Bajwa et al., 2020, pp. 79, 83, 86).
Some papers attempted to implement trauma-informed practices or mental health interventions in school for specific or broad refugee populations. Edwards (2017, p. 224) highlighted the Highline School District in Washington as an example of a professional development program that educates staff about the resettlement process with the inclusion of refugee student and parent voices. Bajwa et al. (2020, p. 75, 80-83) created a 14-week trauma-informed program for Canadian students with refugee backgrounds designed to combat the barriers to higher education that participants identified in interviews. Lastly, Cardeli et al. (2020) developed targeted group interventions for Bhutanese refugee students using the Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees framework to be adapted and taught by a clinician and trained member of the refugee community. These practices reached varying levels of success, and offered useful lessons for future attempts at trauma-informed education for students with refugee backgrounds.
Bajwa, J. K., Kidd, S., Abai, M., Knouzi, I., Couto, S., & McKenzie, K. (2020). Trauma-informed Education Support Program for Refugee Survivors. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 32(1). Retrieved from https://cjsae.library.dal.ca/index.php/cjsae/article/view/5452
The coordinators of this participatory action research project worked with community partners to first identify barriers to refugee participation in higher education, and then use the concept of trauma-informed care to develop a 14-week education support program for a group of refugees. Barriers identified in participant interviews included institutional ones and ongoing resettlement trauma, reducing refugees’ capacity to focus and pay attention, as well as lowering their confidence and raising their anxiety. Following participant interviews, the authors developed a program focused on restoring participants’ sense of power and control. Participants attended weekly 4-hour workshops on topics such as navigating the education system and self-care, all centered around directly combatting the barriers addressed in interviews. The authors emphasized the importance of safety, trustworthiness and transparency – often taking the form of predictably structured classes – peer support, and empowerment. Post-program measures and interviews found that participants had significantly higher self-esteem, resilience, and life satisfaction, and most by the end of the course had developed a clear vision of their educational goals.
This source provides a practical framework for implementing trauma-informed education with a group of refugees. Although the study is limited to older refugees who wish to enter higher education, it provides recommendations for types of training and collaborative teaching that could be extrapolated to a variety of settings. Additionally, the authors’ positioning as both academics and psychologists, as well as their work with community partners provides a more well-rounded discussion of trauma-informed education. A limitation of the study is that participants voluntarily joined the program, so the sample population may have included those with higher than average levels of confidence and social adjustment.
*This article is openly available through the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education website
Cardeli, E. Phan, J., Mulder, L., Benson, M., Adhikari, R., & Ellis, H. Bhutanese Refugee Youth: The Importance of Assessing and Addressing Psychosocial Needs in a School Setting. (2020). Journal of School Health 90(9), 731-742. doi: 10.1111/josh.12935
This article examines the impact of group support for Bhutanese refugees in a New England school, based on an empirically supported mental health intervention. The authors found that 49 percent of the middle school students taking part in their 12-week program met the criteria for PTSD and experienced low levels of school belonging. This program was presented as a potential way to aid the many refugees who never receive the mental health services they need. By embedding it into pre-existing school programs, the authors hope to reduce barriers to attendance and normalize services. A group of 35 middle school students met during an after-school program to support school readiness, promote the development of adaptive social skills, improve problem solving and coping skills, and provide a safe space for processing acculturative stress. A clinician and trained member of the refugee community collaborated to develop and facilitate the program. Unexpectedly, the authors did not find significant decreases in PTSD or depression, though these trended in the right direction and there was a significant decrease in avoidance symptoms. Though this study focused on Bhutanese youth, the authors shared that this type of programming has also been used with other groups, such as Somalis in the Boston area. This study represents a useful framework for others to try in larger groups, which may provide more conclusive results. Additionally, it provides a deeper look into how mental health services outside of the classroom could be promoted in school as well, from a group of authors with backgrounds in psychology.
Gordon, D. (2011). Trauma and Second Language Learning among Laotian Refugees. Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, 6(1), 13. doi: 10.7771/2153-8999.1029
Daryl Gordon, an associate dean at Adelphi University, focuses on adult Laotian refugees in ESL (English as Second Language) classes. She includes a useful definition of trauma from Herman (1997, p. 33) as “dangerous and shocking events which shatter one’s sense of security and overwhelm normal resilience to adversity.” In ESL classrooms, she argues that stability can help with reconnection to everyday life following trauma. Looking at a few studies of different refugee populations, she shows that second language acquisition can be especially difficult while experiencing PTSD symptoms because when the brain is in fight-or-flight, it is very challenging to process new information. To demonstrate how ESL classes can be trauma-informed, she engages in a three-year ethnographic research project focusing on a single ESL class. Students struggled with headaches and fatigue, issues with housing, shifting work schedules, memory issues, and depression. She stressed that educators should be familiar with the cultural background and circumstances that forced refugees to leave their community as well as cultural beliefs that may influence how students heal through trauma. Lastly, she found that it is much more important to create safe learning spaces for all students rather than identifying those who have trauma. This can be achieved through physical classroom location and set-up, varying creative activities to create accessibility for those with concentration difficulties, focusing on community resources for wellness and stress management, and encouraging learner reflection and monitoring of their own progress. Gordon has a background in education as opposed to psychology, which makes her research especially applicable in schools.
Edwards, T.K. (2017). From the Editorial Board: Refugees and Inclusive School Practices in the Face of Intolerance. The High School Journal, 100(4), 223-225.
In this article, Torrie Edwards examines both how the current political climate and negative rhetoric from a U.S. President can worsen refugee trauma and how schools can push back through inclusive education. She argues that inclusive education develops language and communication skills, offers psychological services, and fosters welcoming and supportive behaviors from the entire school community. In practice, this means creating networks of care that acknowledge the humanity, strengths, and communities of refugee students, advocating for them at all levels, and allowing students to feel comfortable sharing stories in class. Teachers, school districts, and policymakers must all collaborate in this effort. Helpfully, she includes the example of the Highline School District in Washington, wherein all staff receive a 3-part professional development on serving refugee students. The staff learn about the resettlement process, hear from refugee students and parents, and develop supportive classrooms with updated curriculum and teaching methods.
Edwards is a PhD candidate at the School of Education at UNC Chapel Hill, where she specializes in educational policy. Whereas many of these sources have focused on implementing trauma-informed strategies in particular classrooms, she gives us more holistic sense of how not only whole school communities, but also districts and policymakers must work towards this effort.
MacNevin, J. (2012). Learning the Way: Teaching and Learning with and for Youth from Refugee Backgrounds on Prince Edward Island. Canadian Journal of Education, 35(3), 48-63. Retrieved from https://journals.sfu.ca/cje/index.php/cje-rce/article/view/1074
This study by Joanne MacNevin, a teacher who has worked in diverse classrooms for many years, investigates methods of teaching refugee youth on Prince Edward Island (PEI) at the middle and high school levels. Between 2006 and 2009, immigrant students in PEI schools multiplied by four, and 14 percent of that increase represents refugee students. The article is intended to expose the lack of professional development opportunities educating teachers about teaching students with refugee backgrounds, the impact this has on these students, and what schools can do to improve. Currently, schools fail to meet the social and psychological needs of the students, which can lead to poor education outcomes and social isolation at school. To counter this, schools need to recognize barriers to refugee student success, including interrupted education from time in refugee camps. Teachers interviewed point out that they would like to receive training on trauma-informed teaching strategies, methods of ensuring inclusion of all students and teaching basic literacy to youth, and finding information about students’ educational backgrounds.
While this article advocates for increased professional development for teachers and supporting refugee students through trauma, both positive moves addressed in other articles, I found it odd that the author chose to include only certain sources of information. MacNevin asserted in the beginning that she interviewed teachers, observed classrooms, and encouraged refugee student journaling as multiple modes of gathering information; however, she solely focused on teacher interviews in this discussion, which excludes the voices of refugees themselves.
Minahan, J. (2019). Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies. Educational Leadership: Journal of the Department of Supervision and Curriculum Development, N.E.A., 77(2), 30-35.
The author of this article, Jessica Minahan, is a licensed board-certified behavior analyst, special educator, and consultant to schools internationally, and she brings these diverse experiences together to present a list of eight trauma-informed teaching strategies. Though it does not focus on refugee students, it lays out a useful and clear list of practical strategies for educators that could be applied in refugee-specific contexts. Many of the other sources lack clear steps for teachers to follow. Minahan first establishes that traumatized students can have difficulty in self-regulation and trusting adults, struggle with negative thinking, and be constantly on high alert. Teachers can respond and mitigate these impacts of trauma in the classroom by expecting unexpected responses, interacting thoughtfully with students and giving them a sense of control, sharing clear strategies for relationship building with other educators, being predictable, helping students with coping mechanisms, giving supportive feedback, reinforcing student competencies, and practicing inclusivity.
Sitler, H. (2009). Teaching with Awareness: The Hidden Effects of Trauma on Learning. The Clearing House, 82(3), 119–124. doi: 10.3200/TCHS.82.3.119-124
In this article, Helen Sitler, a now-retired educator in the English Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, examines the intersections between trauma and learning by focusing on the experiences of a fifth grader and first-year college student, using a clinical definition of trauma as an “affliction of powerlessness” in which the victim is “helpless by overwhelming forces.” She contrasts how students may be perceived by teachers when experiencing trauma – disengaged and unmotivated – with the trauma that causes these behaviors. During trauma, students’ brains tend to focus on survival in the short-term, making it difficult to focus on other cognitive activities occurring in school. Sitler explains trauma-caused behaviors, including lack of interest in long-term thinking, inability to concentrate, and lashing out. To counter this, educators ought to help build students’ self-worth by encouraging them on their progress, assigning reflective writing, giving students control over their education, and fostering a “climate of supportive cooperation.” She emphasizes prioritizing human needs over curriculum content when possible, and engaging students as people.
This article is a useful overview of student behaviors that can arise due to underlying trauma, as well as specific ideas for teaching with trauma in mind. Both the behavioral aspect and mitigation strategies build upon those written about in Tweedie et al. (2017) and Gordon (2011).
Tweedie, B., Belanger, C., Rezazadeh, K., & Vogel, K. (2017). Trauma-informed Teaching Practice and Refugee Children: A Hopeful Reflection on Welcoming Our New Neighbours to Canadian Schools. BC TEAL Journal, 2(1), 36–45. Retrieved from https://ojso.library.ubc.ca/index.php/BCTJ/article/view/268/301
The authors, composed of one instructor from the University of Calgary and three members of the Calgary Board of Education, discuss how increased refugee resettlement in Canada since 2015 has resulted in more students carrying trauma from living in regions with armed conflict. The inclusion of three members of the Calgary public school board is promising for potential implementation in schools of the frameworks they discuss. They explain how when resources are focused on survival, adolescents may struggle to think clearly, work through problems, or cope with normal levels of stress in schools. To combat these adverse effects, the authors propose that educators follow the ARC framework, adapted from Blaustein & Kinniburgh (2010). This means that first, teachers should emphasize safety and predictability in class structure and environment. Secondly, they will need to sometimes let go of lesson content to realize that students may struggle with regulation of emotions following trauma, and that daily stressors can be opportunities to help them work through naming and regulating these emotions. Lastly, because refugee adolescents carrying trauma may not feel control over their outcomes, it is important to emphasize the consequences of choices made, short and long-term planning, and goal formation. This broad framework is useful because it could easily be adapted to different contexts.
Blaustein, M. E., & Kinniburgh, K. M. (2010). Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents: How to foster resilience through attachment, self-regulation, and competency. New York: Guilford Press.
Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books.
Non Peer Reviewed Resources:
Duncan-Andrade, J. (2018, June 11). Equality or Equity – Which One Will We Feed? Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yln_4RVxpKg&t=2444s
Though this talk is not directly relevant to trauma-informed education, I include it as a resource for those who believe in serving students equally rather than equitably. While trauma-informed education can benefit all students, it is grounded in the belief that we must be equitable and serve each students’ needs where they are. This talk lays out how the pursuit of equality has failed us in the U.S., both because we have not achieved it and because the foundation that systems in the U.S. are built on is inherently unequal. He also addresses how equity cannot simply be written into policies or plans but must instead be understood and embodied by every individual at the institution. A lot of the ideas here echo how trauma-informed education must be embedded in all parts of schooling, and also help lay the groundwork of why shifts in our education system, such as the implementation of trauma-informed education, are necessary.
Imad, M. (2020, June 3). Leveraging the Neuroscience of Now. Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/06/03/seven-recommendations-helping-students-thrive-times-trauma
In this article, Dr. Mays Imad, the coordinator at the Pima Community College Teaching and Learning Center, looks at seven ways that professors can teach in trauma-informed ways in the context of COVID-19. She leverages her personal experience to share how this has impacted her and her students, and how she attempts to mitigate these effects. Though this source focuses on the trauma of COVID-19, like how resettlement stressors interacts with trauma from refugee camps, the pandemic will likely interact with previous traumas that students hold. To be truly trauma-informed, teachers must recognize the multiple traumas that students could be carrying currently.
Imad, M. (2020, April 13). Trauma Informed Teaching & Learning [Video file]. Retrieved October, 2020, from https://youtu.be/XqcTbipuFDQ
In this webinar, Dr. Imad discusses trauma’s impact on the brain, how this can impact student learning, and what professors can do to lessen this impact. She asserts that traumatic experiences result in chronic stress, the release of adrenals and cortisol, disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep disturbances, and eventual brain cell destruction. This results in brain fog, memory issues, and neurologic dysfunction. Students experiencing trauma may therefore struggle to keep track of changes to class, make decisions about learning, prioritize assignments, engage with classmates or the subject, manage time, and avoid freezing up when encountering stress or pressure. To mitigate this impact, she argues that professors should focus on four key areas: Informing, Connecting, Protecting, and Redirecting. Professors who Inform normalize fight or flight and other trauma responses, those who Connect focus on building peer-peer and peer-faculty relationships and communities, those who Protect encourage reflection and practice empathy, and those who Redirect return to previous materials and focus on skill-building. This webinar is a great introduction to trauma-informed teaching for those who prefer to listen to talks rather than read journal articles.
60 Resources for Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Communities (2020, April). Retrieved November 21, 2020, from https://www.onlinemswprograms.com/resources/social-issues/support-resources-immigrants-refugees/
A compilation of openly accessible resources to help guide individuals and organizations in supporting immigrant and refugee communities. There is an education tab, which contains a wide variety of articles and toolkits created by various advocacy organizations. Some of the resources within include “Access to Postsecondary Education Toolkit” by the National Immigration Law Center and “Mitigating the Effects of Trauma Among Young Children of Immigrants and Refugees: The Role of Early Childhood Programs.”
Somali Students’ Educational Discrepancies
The research topic I will be exploring is the educational discrepancies Somali students endure in public schools due to discrimination that manifests itself through Islamaphobia and cultural gaps between educators and Somali youth in U.S. schools. When I began my research, I typed in the terms “Somali youth education,” “Somali youth experiences in U.S. schools,” and “Somali Youth disciplinary discrepancies” into both Carleton’s Gould library and the Google Scholar databases. I found that when I entered in the search terms/phrase “Somali youth disciplinary discrepancies,” not many articles came up that were pertaining to my specific research question. As a result, I resorted to looking through some of the work cited pages and bibliography entries of the works the authors were citing in order to find additional sources that might best fit my research topic.
Overall, my research process was very extensive, and through reading the sources I found for my research, I was able to come away with a much larger breadth of knowledge about the experiences of Somali immigrant youth in U.S. schools. Much of the research I explored identified the trauma and adverse mental health effects that Somali refugee youth experience before their settlement into the U.S. It also discussed how the stress that Somali youth experience in their home countries and in their migration to the United States is coupled with the acculturative stress of assimilating into a new and different culture. The articles I have read also point to the cultural gap between educators and Somali students in their U.S. schools and they have assessed the othering of Somali youth because of their traditional and religious practices that are at odds with western, mainstream cultural and religious norms. The literature discusses how this othering results in discrimination against Somali youth, and the cultural gap that exists between Somali youth and educators makes U.S. school sites generally ill-equipped to meet the needs of Somali refugee youth. Similarly, many of the sources I have included have illustrated the perspectives of Somali youth so that their experiences could inform the research authors were conducting. Furthermore, the research I have explored has offered multiple assessments to help mitigate and address the educational disparities facing Somali Immigrant youth.
Allen, R., et al. (2016). They Just Respect You for Who You Are: Contributors to Educator Positive Youth Development Promotion for Somali, Latino, and Hmong Students. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 37(1), 71–86. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-015-0415-2
In this article, authors depict ways in which teachers and schools can mitigate the educational disparities that Somali, Latino, and Hmong youth. More specifically, the authors are seeking ways in which teachers can promote educational spaces that are conducive to the positive development of SLH youth and that fosters connectedness between Somali, Latino, and Hmong youth and teachers. In doing so, they analyze research that is conducted from a community based participatory approach in order to recognize and acknowledge the expertise that constituents at the community level have to offer. The results of the qualitative study found that stakeholders believed authoritative teaching and building trusting relationships would best facilitate the achievement and social development of SLH youth. In order for these themes to be integrated into the teaching styles that are used in schools accommodating immigrant youth, it is imperative that educators first seek to bridge the relationship gap between SLH students and educators. Additionally, this study was unique in how it directly gauges the experiences of immigrant youth and how it takes into account their perspectives of what would better their educational experiences. This insight allowed me to have a greater understanding of the educational equity work that could be done to help close the achievement gap and other educational disparities that SLH youth experience.
Basford, L. (2010). From Mainstream to East African Charter: Cultural and Religious Experiences of Somali Youth in U.S. Schools. Journal of School Choice, 4(4), 485–509. https://doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2010.526859
In this article, Basford examines the experiences of Somali youth in U.S. mainstream schools in comparison to the experiences of Somali youth in a culturally specific charter high school. Similarly, Basford discusses the discrimination that Muslim youth endure in U.S. schools. Basford highlights the reality that many Muslim immigrant groups find their identity in their religion, and their devotion to Islamic religious traditions tends to be in direct conflict with the cultural, hegemonic norms of western countries. Consequently, Muslim youth find themselves in a position in which conforming to dominant cultural norms challenges their religious and cultural values and following their religious traditions often ostracizes them from mainstream, western culture. In investigating Somali youth’s experiences, Basford draws upon assimilation theory to argue that United States mainstream schools are sites that promote full assimilation in order for immigrants to be considered Americanized. This results in the othering of immigrant populations in U.S. mainstream schools. Letitia Basford is an associate professor in the school of Education at Hamline University. Basford’s teaching and research interests include students’ equitable access to education, culturally responsive and reformed pedagogy. The research she has conducted on the experiences of Somali and Hmong immigrants have been published in several journals including the Review of Research in Education, Journal of School Choice, Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Asian Advancement. Basford’s work is foundational to understanding the experiences of refugee youth in the U.S. and it provides insight into the educational discrepancies plaguing SLH youth. This article can be accessed on Google Scholar without university credentials.
Bigelow, M. (2008). Somali Adolescents’ Negotiation of Religious and Racial Bias In and Out of School. Theory Into Practice, 47(1), 27-34.
In this source, Bigelow delineates the challenges Somali youth face due to the societal prejudices plaguing the Somali community in hegemonically white, Judeo-Christian societies. As Somali immigrants settle into the U.S., they are racialized and homogenized as Black even though they may not have readily claimed this racial identity in their home country. This racialization of Somali immigrants has material effects and significant implications as they navigate living in a systemically racist and societally inequitable place. Additionally, Bigelow also discusses Somali immigrant youth’s relationship to Blackness in this article. In doing so, Bigelow emphasizes how the racialization of Somali adolescents, without their consent, often places pressures on them to conform to aspects of Black culture including adopting African American Vernacular English with efforts to integrate into their school environments. Martha Bigelow is a professor at University of Minnesota and her research interests include Immigrant Education and Multicultural Education among a variety of others. This knowledge regarding Bigelow’s areas of expertise helps me situate this text within educational equity literature. This article can be accessed on Google Scholar without university credentials.
Lincoln, A., et al. (2016). The Impact of Acculturation Style and Acculturative Hassles on the Mental Health of Somali Adolescent Refugees. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 18(4), 771–778. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-015-0232-y
Here, the authors discuss the traumas and stress Somali adolescents endure upon settling and migrating to the U.S. Refugees and asylum seekers who arrive in the U.S. often have experiences with violence and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Additionally, the stress and PTSD levels of refugee populations heighten upon arriving to their host countries. Authors attribute much of the stressors refugees and asylum seekers face to acculturation. Acculturation is described as a process in which groups and individuals undergo cultural and psychological change. There is limited research available on the acculturative stress that adolescent refugees experience, and this source seeks to fill in this literature gap. This current study is being built on a previous study that looked at the relationships between acculturation, discriminatory experiences, and mental health outcomes. More specifically, in this study, authors assess the impacts of acculturative styles and issues on the mental health of Somali refugees. Alisa K. Lincoln is a professor at Northeastern University’s Department of Health Sciences, Faculty, Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research. Lincoln’s research interests include health disparities, marginalization, exclusion and health among other areas. Furthermore, some of Lincoln’s current work involves examining ways discrimination relate to issues of mental health vulnerability of Somali young adults. Lincoln’s expertise in these areas help readers situate this article as a reliable source. McBrien’s work is foundational to understanding the educational experience of Somali refugee youth and exploring ways to mitigate these issues.
McBrien, J. (2016). Educational Needs and Barriers for Refugee Students in the United States: A Review of the Literature. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 329–364. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543075003329
In this source, McBrien discusses the traumas faced by Somali refugee children following their resettlement in the United States. McBrien notes that there has not been substantial research done on the needs of Somali refugee children or on what is necessary to mitigate the psychological stressors that they face after settlement in their host countries. McBrien uses a large-scale longitudinal study of the children of immigrants and refugees—Portes and Zhou (1993—that suggests the theory of segmented assimilation in order to frame her research and explore ways to reduce the educational discrepancies of Somali refugee children. She finds that meeting the psychosocial needs and ensuring the well-being of stressed and traumatized children should be the top priority of United States school sites accommodating Somali youth. Ultimately, the article reviews multiple sources and research studies to identify ways to best meet the needs of Somali refugee children and help them acculturate successfully into the educational sites of their host countries. McBrien is a professor at College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the University of South Florida. Her educational background is in educational studies, interdisciplinary social sciences, and humanities as applied to education, and her research interests include refugees-resettled, multiculturalism, policy, and education amongst others. McBrien’s work is integral to assessing ways to reduce the barriers of Somali youth in U.S. schools.
Rong, B. (2002). Socialization, Culture, and Identities of Black Immigrant Children: What Educators Need to Know and Do. Education and Urban Society, 34(2), 247–273. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013124502342008
In this article, Rong discusses twenty years of research literature that examines the adverse realities of Caribbean and Black immigrants and their children, and she investigates ways to address these inequities. Rong also looks at the social, cultural, and economic changes in order to assess the identity shift of Black immigrant youth. Additionally, she also discusses the attitudes of Black immigrant youth towards issues of race, discrimination, their educational experiences and aspirations. This article provides key insight into the racial discrimination and educational inequities that Black immigrant youth experience and it also provides analysis on ways to fix these issues. Rong is a professor of Culture, Curriculum, and Teacher Education at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her areas of expertise are Transnational Migration and Education of Immigrant Children, Educational Demography & Mixed Research Methodologies, and Social and Cultural Foundations of Social Studies among many others. Furthermore, her research interests include the education of immigrant children of various ethnic groups; the education of Asian-American children and education in China, namely the education of migrant children in China’s urbanization movement. Furthermore, her research seeks to provide ways to understand and address the educational disparities of Somali Refugee youth, and this insight is very pertinent to my research topic.
Smith, C. (2015). Language, Racialized Identity, and Education: Somali Youth Diaspora in the U.S. Schools. Multicultural Perspectives (Mahwah, N.J.), 17(3), 163–164. https://doi.org/10.1080/15210960.2015.996390
In this book review, Smith assesses the experiences of Somali students in regards to the Somali youth diaspora in U.S. schools. The book review highlights the perspectives of Somali youth while it also depicts the reality that U.S. schools are not prepared to meet the psychological needs of Somali immigrant youth. This book review also lays out the historical analysis of Somali culture and history in an effort to unite the diaspora and outline the variety of push factors that have compelled so many Somali refugees to settle and seek asylum in the United States. Additionally, the book review discusses the challenges Somali asylum seekers have been met with upon their settlement in the U.S. Among the challenges they face are xenophobia, distrust, and racially targeted housing policies and discrimination. Ultimately, Smith’s book review illustrates the experiences of Somali youth in U.S. schools, and points to ways to mitigate the educational discrepancies that Somali refugee youth experience. Chelda Smith is an Associate Professor of Elementary & Special Education at Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro Campus. Her interests include Sociology of Education, Critical Pedagogy, Critical Literacy, Asset Based Pedagogy, and Teacher Education among others. While Smith is joining conversations and literature that already exists about this topic, her work is integral to my research topic and to exploring the educational experiences of Somali refugee youth and assessments of ways to mitigate the educational disparities that they experience.
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy with Refugee and Immigrant Youth through Place- and Art-based Approaches
Ooi Win Wen
My research process involved conducting searches on the ProQuest Education Database and Google Scholar using terms including “place-based education,” “art-based pedagogy,” “immigrant students OR youth,” “refugee students OR youth,” and their related variants. I constrained my searches to peer-reviewed articles only. In choosing which sources to include in the annotated bibliography, I prioritized case studies of culturally relevant pedagogical practices that are set in a cultural and geographical context similar to that of Faribault, Minnesota – rural town with a long-established predominantly white population and recent influxes of refugee and immigrant populations. I also prioritized studies that are on Somali and/or Latinx populations in similar contexts, as they are the two largest refugee and immigrant groups in Faribault.
The structures of formal education, reflecting the hierarchy of the American society at large, systematically marginalize students with refugee and immigrant backgrounds. From language barriers and biases subjected by teachers and administrators, to mismatches between the dominant Eurocentric, middle class cultural logic in schools and the various cultural frameworks that students from diverse groups bring with them, refugee and immigrant youth face numerous challenges in schools.
Culturally relevant pedagogy, which emphasizes connecting learning in school to the communities of students, is one way in which educators can create an environment conducive to refugee and immigrant students’ academic success and healthy identity development. In the following annotated bibliography, I focus in particular on the adoption of culturally relevant pedagogy with refugee and immigrant student populations, especially those in locations that are predominantly white, through place-based and arts-based approaches.
Through my research overall, I found that place-based pedagogy is shown to be highly effective in engaging immigrant and refugee youths because of the fluid and dynamic nature of their identity construction. As movement across border has been a significant part of these youth’s life experience or their family or community memory in order to arrive in the host society, place-based pedagogies can encourage the youth to critically reflect on and examine their relationship to the physical and social environment of their current community, bridging the gap between classroom learning and the real world. This building of critical consciousness is vital to strengthening the youths’ sense of connection to the place and thus improving their resilience and their capacity to enact social change. Meanwhile, studies on arts-based pedagogies demonstrate various ways in which artistic tools can be employed as powerful participatory tools for students to develop their academic skillsets and also a sense of ownership over their learning. Indeed, many studies combine place-based and arts-based approaches in empowering immigrant and refugee youths to develop a positive sense of their cultural identity, as well as their capacity and agency to challenge the status quo within their school as well as in their community.
Smith, R. (2016). Beyond Place: Diasporan Creative Placemaking. Journal of Art for Life, 8(12). https://journals.flvc.org/jafl/article/view/87260.
This article explores the case of an art-making initiative with young Somali American women in Columbus, Ohio conducted by the author, who is an independent arts education researcher. Based on a redefinition of refugee diaspora as a process of community-building instead of involuntary displacement, said initiative consists of two narrative participatory photography projects through which the young women share their individual experiences and views related to issues such as stereotypes of, or expectations within, the Somali community regarding dress, religion, women’s role, and so forth. The author argues that this process of sharing differences provides crucial ground for community-building as it allows the participants to interrupt common perceptions by actively claiming and redefining them, just as they constantly negotiate their diasporic identity and sense of place. This act of interrupting is an important aspect of participation and engagement in community that contributes to their sense of belonging.
As such, this study offers useful insights into how an artistic tool like narrative photography can be used to engage students in a participatory process of conceptualizing diasporic identity in ways that focus on agency and assets at both individual and group levels. For the Faribault community, these insights are especially pertinent to pedagogical practices with the Somali students.
Bruna, K. R. & Chamberlin, D. (2008). Illuminated by the Shadow: U.S.-Mexico Schooling and Pedagogies of Place. Multicultural Perspectives, 10(3), 123-132.
Through a participatory photography activity with the students and site visits to the school the students attended in Mexico and that in the US, this study explores multiple ways in which the physical environments of schools shape US-Mexican youths’ experiences in schools across the border. The authors find that building architecture, classroom space, and school signage all contribute to creating and highlighting social, economic, and cultural differences between the immigrant students’ realities in the US and Mexico. As such, the spatial contrast heightens the students’ sense of disconnect from the place – whether they are in the US or Mexico – with negative impact on their social relations within the school and academic outcomes. There are significant parallels between Faribault and the rural town in Iowa where this study is set in terms of demographic composition and dependence on low-wage Latinx labor.
The findings in this study are therefore particularly relevant in thinking about immigrant students’ sense of belonging and connectedness to the Faribault community in relation to the physical environment of the schools they attend.
Comber, B., & Nixon, H. (2013). Urban renewal, migration and memories: The affordances of place-based pedagogies for developing immigrant students’ literate repertoires. REMIE Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, 3(1), 42-68.
This article draws on an extended period of collaboration between the authors – both university academics – and a group of primary school teachers in enacting place-based pedagogy and critical literacy to engage students of refugee and immigrant backgrounds. In particular, the authors analyze the oral histories and autobiographical writings produced by students as part of a place-based project centered on the closing of schools as a result of urban renewal, which involves the students’ interviewing their family and community members about their views on the loss of the school buildings. The authors find that, through the project, the students’ literacy skills improved substantially and more importantly, the students forged a stronger sense of belonging to the place through understanding others’ views of the significance of the school buildings to their community. As such, the authors propose that individual memories of both children and adults, as well as the collective memory of a community, are rich resources for developing immigrant and refugee students’ critical literacy skills. Despite being a case study in an Australian context, the authors’ general discussion of the potential of place-based pedagogy – with its specific focus on a site of local significance – in engaging and empowering immigrant and refugee students can be applied across various societal contexts, including the US.
Harper, S. G. (2017). Engaging Karen refugee students in science learning through a cross-cultural learning community. International Journal of Science Education, 39(3), 358-376.
The author, a researcher from the Department of Math and Science at the University of Georgia, collaborates with a Karen parent to design and carry out an after-school science program that centers Karen cultural knowledge, to explore the effects of such a cross-cultural environment on fourth- and fifth-grade Karen students’ science learning. The incorporation of cultural discourses from the Karen, a non-dominant social group, challenges the distinct divide between nature and culture that is embedded in mainstream science education in the US and also more broadly power dynamics in the classroom and school. As such, the author finds that this transformed space for science learning empowers the Karen students to enact greater agency academically and also in their social interactions with other students and teachers, as they connect their cultural knowledge to scientific inquiry. Not only does this greater sense of ownership over their learning help develop a more complex understanding of scientific knowledge within the students, it also enables them to better appreciate the culture of their community.
Set in a predominantly white elementary school in a rural town, this source is relevant to Faribault as a case study of how an ethnic minority group’s culture can be effectively integrated into teaching practices. The cultural context of the Karen is different from the Somali despite their common refugee background, therefore the integration of unique cultural elements into scientific concepts will most likely look different for the two groups. Nevertheless, the principle of empowering students to leverage their own cultural knowledge to engage more deeply with subject content remains pertinent.
Garcia, L. (2015). Empowering Students through Creative Resistance: Art-based Critical Pedagogy in the Immigrant Experience. Diálogo 18(2), 139-149.
Currently an Assistant Professor of Art Education at California State University Sacramento but a former high school art teacher in Los Angeles, Garcia illustrates in this article the impact of art-based critical pedagogy on immigrant youth through his own personal ongoing relationship with a former undocumented student, Pintor. Tracing Pintor’s academic trajectory since Pintor began taking art classes with him, the author argues that art-based critical pedagogy can develop immigrant youths’ critical consciousness regarding their social status and the systemic factors shaping their lived realities, develop a positive sense of identity, and grow their capacity and agency to resist the marginalizing process of formal schooling. The author further suggests the importance for educators to sustain an ethic of caring towards marginalized students, providing support over the long term. These findings echo other studies that similarly employ art-based critical pedagogy with students holding marginalized identities (Lozenski & Smith, 2012; Sepúlveda III, 2011).
Sepúlveda III, E. (2011). Toward a Pedagogy of Acompañamiento: Mexican Migrant Youth Writing from the Underside of Modernity. Harvard Educational Review, 81 (3): 550–573.
As a teacher-researcher at a northern California high school, the author proposes an innovative pedagogy of acompañamiento that centers the unique experiences and needs of transmigrant youth. The article discusses the author’s work with a group of students who are mostly undocumented Mexican youth, whereby he combines critical literary, poetry, and storytelling to encourage students to dialogue, reflect, and write about their experiences across the US-Mexican border. The students are encouraged to both critically analyze and speak up against existing social hierarchy and the oppressive schooling system. For migrant students, especially those of recent arrivals, who typically experience severe social dislocation at their high school and in the community, the author argues that this process of acompañamiento is particularly powerful in building deep relationships and a strong sense of community, which are crucial elements of a holistic approach to improving marginalized students’ wellbeing that goes beyond concerns regarding academic achievements.
Although, as mentioned, the findings of this study align with other studies on art-based critical pedagogy, the author’s explicit focus is on first generation Mexican migrant students who are physically (at a California high school) and mentally closer to the borderlands compared to most Mexican students in Faribault. Therefore, the author’s use of critical literary, poetry, and storytelling may need to be adapted to the unique experiences of the immigrant student population in Faribault.
Brown, L., O’Keeffe, L. & Paige, K. (2017). The Colour of Velvet: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Connecting Students from a Refugee Background to the Natural World. Teaching Science, 63(4), 20-32.
With the goal of helping refugee students connect to the natural world and thus develop a connection to place and a sense of cultural belonging, the project discussed in this article is based on a newly established school garden. The project, unlike the previous study which focuses on science (Harper, 2017), spans four subjects, namely science, mathematics, English, and visual arts, and involves an English as Second Language (ESL) teacher, a gardener, a volunteer community artist, as well as three academics who are the authors of this article. The authors find that the transdisciplinary, out-of-classroom experience creates authentic learning opportunities for refugee students to link classroom learning to the real world; they are able to engage meaningfully with the scientific and mathematical concepts, while developing their language skills and their artistic skills for communicating ideas and expressing themselves.
Compared to the study by Harper which centers a minority group’s own culture, this study emphasizes refugee students’ sense of connectedness with the broader community. In particular, the wider range of adults involved in the design and execution of this project, who are meant to provide the students with “an expanded and complementary pool of resources” (Brown, O’Keeffe & Paige, 2017, 30), seems to point to a more expansive view of “community cultural wealth” (Yosso, 2005) that extends beyond the students’ own ethnic group, which the students can draw from in developing their sense of place identity. It is, however, important to note that this study is set in Australia, although refugee students generally experience a greater degree of disconnect to a place where they live than their native-born peers.
Jocson, K. M. (2016). ‘Put Us on the Map’: place-based media production and critical inquiry in CTE, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29(10), 1269-1286
To understand how notions of place can influence students’ learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, as well as how place-based media production can engage students’ interest in arts and technology, the author acts in the dual role of researcher and collaborator in a high school multimedia communications classroom. The author primarily observes and analyzes the students’ work in creating a television broadcast about an educational or social issue they perceive as significant in their lives. The author finds that the students gradually develop a stronger sense of place and greater awareness of how various factors shape their identity, as they build on their existing cultural knowledge in producing the broadcast.
Lozenski, B., & Smith, C. (2012). Pen 2 Paper 2 Power: Lessons from an Arts-Based Literacy Program Serving Somali Immigrant Youth. In Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(4), 596-611.
Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race ethnicity and education, 8(1), 69-91.