The growth of immigrants over the last two decades has changed the face of American K-12 classrooms. Immigrants come to America in search of better life for their children and therefore they care greatly about education and have high aspirations for their children. Kugler (2009) indicated that demographers estimate that children from immigrant families may constitute 30% of American students by 2015. When immigrant children enter K-12 school, they are optimistic about their future and therefore work hard. Disconnect between family and the educational process in K-12 schools results to immigrant students falling behind with decreasing academic success over the years.
Educators in K-12 schools should not overlook that many immigrant students face unique emotional and behavioral health issues which on the other hand act as barriers to their K-12 educational process. Kugler (2009) noted that “teachers and administrators, held accountable for student achievement, focus on teaching strategies and educational performance, and therefore end up missing emotional or behavioral issues that impact student achievement” (p. 2). There is a great need to recognize the needs of immigrant students and also involve the whole family in addressing all the issues to build a crucial home-school partnership that is integral to student success (Kugler, 2009). It is however vital to note that supporting the academic success of immigrant and refugee students often focuses on improving their knowledge of English.
Since children often learn English before their parents, many children take on adult roles, thus serving as interpreter and negotiator for family business from finances to health care. Kugler (2009) established that immigrant students who escape countries at war are most likely to have experienced repeated violence in their tender life span. This leads to post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and behavioral problems. Kugler (2009) found out that “these symptoms have been linked to lower academic achievement as well as dropping out of school before graduation” (p. 4). It is important to engage families to support their child’s academic success. Kugler (2009) says that one factor is that students whose families are engaged in the school have better social skills and shoe improved behavior while adopting to the K-12 educational process.
Moreover, Kugler (2009) argues that when families are engaged, the students do better in school and their mental health outcomes are improved. He also noted that such students are less depressed, less angry, and less anxious and therefore are more able to focus and stay on task. Kugler (2009) also found out that “although many immigrant parents are supportive of United States education and have high aspirations for their children, many immigrant and refugee families find it challenging to connect with K-12 schools” (p. 4). This is because many bring with them attitudes and beliefs that influence their relationship with schools as well as mental health programs.
Research shows that immigrants tend to be very involved in all aspects of their children’s lives, even as their children grow older. Kugler (2009) says that this protectiveness may result in cultural clash with American state laws that offer varying degrees of protection to adolescents to seek their own medical or mental health care not always with parental consent. Another challenge is that families may feel isolated as they navigate life in a new country, with limited financial resources and institutional supports. This is also likely to influence negatively their children education process in K-12 schools. Some families go to an extend of avoiding connecting with official institutions, including schools, because they fear risking exposure and potential deportation that would separate the family and also affect their children’s education process.
Immigrant families should be aware of their children emotional well being. Kugler (2009) says that “families should be able to provide fundamental insights on their children to the schools” (p. 4). Principals of K-12 schools should make decisions over everything that takes place in the school in collaboration with school staff, including teachers, school counselors, social workers, and family liaisons. This will determine how much a student spends outside the classroom and how space is used within the building to improve the immigrant students performance.
Immigrants are faced with less economic or social capital and those whose histories, experiences and individual l needs do not match traditional school profiles may be marginalized. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) says that there are several descriptions of immigrant population which include first and second generation immigrants. The first generation immigrants are those who grow up in cultural and linguistic contexts outside the United States while the second generation immigrants are the United States born children of immigrant parents. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) says that the second generations are the children who grow up solely in a United States cultural contexts are more particularly bilingual or multilingual communities. Immigrants consist of young children and those who have life experiences that span two or more countries, cultures, and languages. These create differences in educational and economic opportunity for students arriving at different ages.
K-12 schools should be fast to broaden and deepen their understandings of the possible histories, experiences, and individual educational needs that immigrant students bring to the K-12 schools. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) says that K-12 schools should develop knowledge of the social political, historical, and institutional factors that will shape immigrant student lives. Through this the schools are capable of broadening their pedagogical repertories in all classroom contexts. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) indicated that K-12 schools should focus “to broaden and deepen the understanding of students, and therefore they should first look at the social, political, economic, and historical context of immigration.
There should be equitable distribution of visas to applicants throughout the world, established family unification rather than nationality as a favored selection criterion, and increased the overall number of visas issued by the K-12 schools in the United States. According to Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) there are about one million immigrants who arrive in the United States each year which is almost one third of the children in the United States history. This implies that the statistics and the new demographics challenge the educators in the K-12 schools and therefore they should change their paradigms about who are their students.
Immigrant children normally confront more disruptions and discontinuities along their education process from kindergarten to college than those United States born children. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) says that it has been noted that immigrants who arrive before first grade experience a disruption when they enter U.S. schools. The students also encounter encounter an English-dominant culture, and are forced to navigate mainly or solely in English. It has also been noted that immigrants who arrive during elementary school or high school may experience a disruption when they face a new schooling system, a curriculum that may not align with the curriculum of their home countries, a new language of instruction, and a new school culture within the K-12 schools.
Students immigrants are more disrupted to a larger extent when they have never received little or no schooling in their home countries when they enter the United States. It is even more complicated for refugee children who have missed years of schooling during their migratory process (Roberge, Siegal & Harklau, 2010). Another challenge is that new immigrants who want to enter the schools relocate several times before finding a permanent place to live. This means that their children also experience additional interruptions as they switch between schools that have differing placement policies, programs, and instructional practices.
The majority of K-12 schools assess incoming immigrant students to establish if they require specialized language support. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) noted that the level of assessment differs between states and between school systems within a given state. It is however a big challenge because the younger grade levels, assessment tools can mistake minimal oral fluency for English proficiency, thus denying students access to special instructional support. Despite the presence of effective assessment mechanisms, placement options and services for immigrant students may be limited. K-12 schools have one of the most commonly favored options known as newcomer school in which recently arrived immigrant children may be placed while at the same time adjusting to United States school life and learning English.
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One the cultural concerns of such programs in these schools are based on the fact that they promote segregation which also acts as another disruption to students. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) debated that “the new programs act as another source of disruption to students long term schooling path and even delay students entry into mainstream school life in the K-12 schools” (p. 13). Another major concern is on the basis that immigrant students in K-12 schools may in addition face two equally problematic English placements, resulting to premature mainstreaming on the one hand and on the other long term ESL tracking. Students receive little or no instructional support because of the demands that there should be high stakes accountability and schools are being pursued to mainstream students long before the students are fully equipped to deal with the language and literacy demands of mainstream classes.
Immigrant students who are tracked into ESL classes for years on end may have little contact with native English speakers and may receive an education consisting only of mechanical grammar drills, worksheet pedagogy, and seatwork. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) also noted that children from immigrant families tend to have a success orientation toward school because their families come to U.S voluntarily to seek out economic opportunities and better living conditions. Children from non-immigrant minority groups tend to have an oppositional orientation toward school because these children are part of groups that have been colonized, oppressed, or brought to the United States involuntarily.
It has been noted that since voluntary minorities tend to accept the power structures of school and society as legitimate, involuntary minorities tend to resist these structures because they are well aware of the oppressive nature of such structures (Roberge, Siegal & Harklau, 2010). Studies show that the experiences the immigrant students face due to racial, ethnic and linguistic discrimination may lead them to identify themselves with the other United States born minority groups and therefore they may develop a general attitude of resistance toward schooling especially in K-12 schools and end up viewing school as an instrument of social oppression (Roberge, Siegal & Harklau, 2010).
There is the presence of home-school mismatch which explains the success and failure of immigrant children in K-12 schools. These problems are rooted in the notion of different socio-economic and socio-cultural groups that belong to different discourse communities. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) therefore indicated that K-12 school structure and instructional practices generally fit closely with the values, norms, and behaviors of middle-class white families. This gives their children a potential advantage when they enter school.
Students who come from other linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds may have more difficulty negotiating the academic environment because school discourse practices do not affirm and build upon the discourse practices that students bring from their home communities. However, acculturation is a determinant of success in K-12 schools. These are fundamentally determined by both school personnel and scholars in the field of education. Scholars assume that immigrant children educational successes were correlated with their level of cultural and linguistic assimilation into United States society. Notably, strong home culture identity is positively correlated with motivation and academic performance.
Quick cultural and linguistic assimilation has for long been linked to immigrant student educational failure in K-12 schools instead of success especially among the Hispanic segments of immigrant population. Roberge, Siegal & Harklau (2010) say this is articulated to students who give up their home language or home culture identity cut themselves off from valuable support and funds of knowledge in their home communities. Brown & Hunter (2006) indicated that addressing the educational needs of the large immigrant group will have enormous implications for their children and subsequent generations of immigrant students.
Brown & Hunter (2006) in their research noted that most immigrants remain in low skilled positions. The most important feature to note is that if if the employment picture among the immigrants does not change, the economic implications of an uneducated work force among the immigrants will strain the education process of their children. Brown & Hunter (2006) also noted that teachers and parents expectations have a long term pervasive influence on children. To gain high standards of education among the immigrant student in K-12 schools, all the parties should apply these three standards.
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The first is to gain an understanding that learning begins in the family. Brown & Hunter (2006) says that immigrant families should show involvement in a child’s education to act as a predicator of educational success than family income or parent’s educational level. Brown & Hunter (2006) further argued that parents who encourage their children to pursue academic interests or who inspire them to further their own education have a powerful, positive influence on their children in their K-12 education process.
There are however problems when immigrant parents think and believe that they are incapable of meeting their child’s educational needs or when parents believe that their involvement is not welcome at their child’s schools. Brown & Hunter (2006) says that for majority of immigrants, these problems can be complicated by language and cultural differences and by unfamiliarity with the educational process. Immigrant parents should however notice that they can overcome these challenges only they are willing to try and ensure that K-12 schools make a concerted effort to establish a climate where parents feel welcome.
The K-12 schools should encourage immigrant parents to participate in activities and programs that will further their understanding of the different elements of their children’s education. Brown & Hunter (2006) says that to enable increased interaction between schools and parents, there should be encouragement of corporate and community organizations to create academics for immigrant students that will on the other increase parental knowledge of effective methods for the educational engagement of their children in K-12 schools. Also parental involvement increases as students and their families are provided options such that disadvantaged children in schools needing improvement will be allowed to transfer to a different public school.
K-12 schools should realize the need for inclusionary programming. These should be made available for immigrants and also those students with special needs and others with varying educational needs. Providing a solid education should be the goal and therefore it should remain central to changes taking place in American education system from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Statistics indicate that more than one third of the total enrollment of students in the public schools, K-12 is from Southeast Asia. Also the modern transportation and communication systems and infrastructure in place allow immigrant families to keep up contacts and thus their languages and culture.
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Estimated 17% of k-12 students are African American and about 1% is Native American. Brown & Hunter (2006) says that the families of many of those listed as Hispanic, or Latino can trace their heritage to ancestors living in the areas that become the United States Southwest. Olivos (2006) noted that the power of parents should be implied in the K-12 schools so that teachers and school administrators are not viewed as the disseminators of knowledge. The oppressive premise to a schooling process which views formal education as superior to traditional forms of knowledge demeans the immigrant student’s capability to adapt quickly to the K-12 education process.
School personnel may at the same time view themselves as the ones who have the rights to knowledge may participate in devaluing the life knowledge of immigrants, bicultural, and immigrant parents and their children which as a result creates tension. Olivos (2006) noted that schools which immigrant students attend may view bicultural parents as not being their intellectual equals and therefore incapable of becoming authentic education associates. The education process of such students is highly affected and therefore K-12 schools should educate bicultural parents and invite them to workshops where they can pick up important parenting tips so as to improve their home condition and education processes of their children.
K-12 school personnel have held the view that the knowledge bicultural parents possess is inferior or non-existent in relation to their knowledge. Olivos (2006) as a result says that the problem of academic underachievement of bicultural immigrant students is situated in the families and the communities’ deficiencies. Olivos (2006) also says that “parent involvement policies in K-12 schools that deal with large groups of linguistically and ethnically diverse parents take on a paternalistic quality whereby the effort is placed on changing or educating the parents instead of reforming the inequalities found in the school” (p. 69).
Immigrant students remain drastically disadvantaged in terms of receiving a high quality education when compared to their White and Asian American counterparts. Huber (2010) noted that “as the immigrant population increases, more students fall through the cracks in the educational pipeline and the disparity in attainment continues to increase” (p. 3). For example in California compose almost half the entire K-12 student population. The future of immigrant students in the United States will be determined by the efforts made to improve educational conditions for these students (Allport & Ferguson, 2009).
The educational inequities and disparate accessibility to a college preparatory curriculum are problems at many K-12 schools with a high concentration of immigrants hence making education in elusive goal. Huber (2010) noted that immigrants in the K-12 pipeline merits attention because high school graduation rates are disproportionately lower for immigrant students. Immigrant students represent a large and growing proportion of the student population in public schools in the United States. K-12 schools should create an environment that is conducive for rigorous learning of the immigrant students because overcrowding negatively impacts student success. The classroom experience plays a key role in student achievement in all segments of K-12 educational process (Huber, 2010).
Cultural deficit framework have shown that families are at fault for the poor academic performance of minority children, reinforce teacher practices that negatively affect student teacher relations and the same time produce low expectations for immigrant students. Huber (2010) further says that the array of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are possessed and utilized by socially marginalized immigrants has articulated theoretically informed strategies that challenge cultural deficit perspectives on students in the classroom and beyond.
Fortuny, Hernandez & Chaudry (2010) argued that children of immigrants have lower rates of preschool enrollment at ages 3 and 4 than children of natives in K-12 schools. 31% of 3 year old children of immigrants are enrolled in pre-school versus 37% of children of natives. It has been noted that under enrollment among children of some origin groups can be accounted for by limited socioeconomic resources and lack of availability of the required programs in the neighborhoods of these immigrants (Fortuny, Hernandez & Chaudry, 2010). Unfortunately research shows that 34% of young children of immigrants live in linguistically isolated households in which no person age 14 or older is English proficient.
In K-12 schools, the vast majority that is 93% of young children of immigrants are United States citizens. This according to Fortuny, Hernandez, & Chaudry (2010) implies that the citizen share is highest for the youngest children, because they are more likely to have been born in the United States. Fortuny, Hernandez & Chaudry (2010) further says that virtually all young children of natives have parents with at least 9th grade educations, 12% of children of immigrants have parents who have finished 9th grade. Also in terms of family influence up to 13% of young children of immigrants have parents with some high school education. This implies that at the higher end of the education distribution, young children of immigrants are in a way less likely than children of natives.
Parental education is fundamental and varies widely by region of origin. Fortuny, Hernandez & Chaudry (2010) found out that 44% of K-12 school children of Mexican origin have parents who have not completed high school and this affects or influence in K-12 education process. In K-12 schools statistics have indicated that young children of Caribbean origin are the most likely to have parents who have high school degrees but not college educations.
The socioeconomic status of the majority of student immigrants in K-12 schools is of low-income. Fortuny, Hernandez & Chaudry (2010) in this context noted that 29% of poor children and 30% of these children in K-12 schools are low income families compared with 38% of children of natives. Fortuny, Hernandez & Chaudry (2010) noted that the poverty rate for children of immigrants affects their educational process in K-12 schools. The socioeconomic status portray that the differences in education, language skills, reflects differences in education in the K-12 schools (Allport & Ferguson, 2009).
Immigrant students face many challenges that help to explain the discrepancy between their dreams and actual expectations. Some of the challenges faced by such students and pupils in K-12 schools is that poverty impacts students’ preparation for school. NWLC & MALDEF (2009) says that too few immigrants attend early childhood education programs, for a good number of reasons. In many K-12 schools such students attend receive limited resources which in several ways restrict their learning opportunities. Familial influence is based on the fact that those pupil whose parents move to find work are forced to change schools frequently hence having inadequate community supports for example after school programs can adversely affect immigrant students ability to succeed in school (Allport & Ferguson, 2009).
According to the journal by NWLC & MALDEF (2009) students who are undocumented or who have family members who are undocumented experience anxiety and uncertainty about their futures, and face added financial barriers to their K-12 education process. Also immigrant students who have limited English proficiency can mostly fall behind the whole process and at the same time increase the risk of dropout (NWLC & MALDEF, 2009). A caring relationship should be established with parents and at the end they feel that the school is a place they can trust, and steers their children in the right direction.
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In the social context parental involvement plays an integral part in the educational process of these types of students. NWLC & MALDEF (2009) indicated that “parental involvement has been associated with better engagement in school and therefore can greatly increase the chances of them doing well in school” (p. 2). The parent’s level of formal education, lack of familiarity with the U. S. school system, and feeling unwelcome at their children’s schools can also hinder the immigrant student level of concentration in class.
Immigrant students face physical challenges such as concerns about their safety, attendance problems, disciplinary issues, and poor academic performance, which tend to limit student commitment in school and raise the risk of dropout (NWLC & MALDEF, 2009). In addition research shows that may immigrants are influenced by family and societal expectations. NWLC & MALDEF (2009) in this case established that “when these stereotypes are internalized, they may cause immigrant students to be uncertain about their chances for academic and career success” (p. 3). On the other hand this hurts their self esteem, affects their motivation and commitment to school. Also some immigrant students lack educational and career role models among their family members and peers to assist them set goals and envision themselves throughout their learning process.
Immigrant students face discrimination based on ethnicity and gender. NWLC & MALDEF (2009) says that this creates emotional imbalance in their home and school life. According to NWLC & MALDEF (2009) some student immigrants in K-12 schools still find that their teachers and classmates treat them differently in equally subtle and blatant ways or they have different expectations because they are immigrants. This treatment makes them feel unwelcome at school and therefore affects their academic performance in K-12 schools. Some feel emotionally unwelcomed at school as non-native English speakers, others face sexual harassment while others do not even gain access to motivation in career and technical education programs for fields that are traditionally male (NWLC & MALDEF, 2009).