05 SES 02, Migrants' Experiences and Trajectories
The experience presented here is part of a doctoral dissertation, whose main goals were (a) to understand in what ways institutional agents and students relationships influence the academic achievement and persistence of immigrant-origin high school youth; (b) understand how adolescents engage in behaviors to build personal networks and seek support to successfully navigate the educational system; and (c) explore how teachers and school administrators collaborate in structuring these relationships to promote the academic achievement of these students and open-up their chances to access higher education (if they want to).
Using this dissertation as a framework, the aim of this paper is to present the main results of the qualitative phase (a multi-case study) that was conducted as a follow up to the quantitative results of a mixed-method design study.
Despite the official policy of inclusion and education for all expressed in public education policies, underachievement and drop-outs are today unsolved problems for the majority of the European countries (Commission of the European Communities, 2008). In Spain disparities between native middle-class students and immigrant students in terms of academic achievement are shown as follows: i) dropout rates in the last year of high school are much lower for native students than for immigrant students (Serra & Palaudàries, 2007)-; ii) there are indications that the rate of university attendance is far lower among immigrant-origin students than native students; iii) more immigrant students than native students repeat a grade during their high school education, or are tracked into “adapted” classes which in most of the cases prevent them from continuing their studies after compulsory secondary education.
However, some children manage to do well academically, although they are the minority. In this regard, a vast range of literature (Epstein & Karweit, 1983; Smyth, MacBride, Paton & Sheridan, 2010; Stanton-Salazar, 2001; 2003; 2005; 2010; Suárez-Orozco, Pimentel & Martin, 2009; Swenson, Nordstrom & Hiester, 2008; Wolley, Kol & Bowen, 2008) notes that relationships are an important predictor of school success, apart from relationships being essential for migration processes and social integration analysis. They are closely related to the social capital and therefore determine the resources, goods and types of support individuals can access. So, they are influential elements in the configuration and development of academic trajectories of immigrant students.
The dissertation uses an explanatory sequential mixed methods design (quan -> QUAL) with two stages of data collection and analysis: quantitative and qualitative. We collected quantitative data first and, afterwards, a follow-up multi-case study with qualitative data. The quantitative stage was narrowly connected to a R & D longitudinal study (R&D EDU2011-25960) funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (2012-2014) which allowed us to track the path of all immigrant students of three public high schools through the first and second year of Post-16 Education. Such research generated a great deal of quantifiable data, much of it subjected to statistical analysis. However, in the course of the first two years, and the close contact with the students to gather their networks through personal interviews, we also captured rich textured information, much of it not systematically transcribed or documented because of our survey design and time constrains. In the second and third year, we decided to return to the same field to conduct another study with modified research questions and a mixed research design. Specifically, we decided to focus the study in the institutional support of the students. We investigated the institutional support from high- to low-achieving students. Of all those who already had managed to overcome the high-at-risk transition from compulsory to non-compulsory education and successfully completed the first year and now were enrolled in the last year of non-compulsory and were thinking (or not) in continuing their studies. In the first, quantitative phase of the study, data was collected through one-to-one structured interviews and several questionnaires and scales. The second, qualitative phase was conducted as a follow up to the quantitative results. In this exploratory follow-up, the plan was to explore the central phenomenon through a multi-case study approach, so we conducted interviews with school administrators and teachers. This first phase of the research, the quantitative one, allowed us to develop the interviews of the second phase, and select the students that would take part in the follow-up.
Knowing the reasons why someone decides to drop out of school is not the same as knowing what reasons might explain his or her success. We are therefore faced with two phenomena that have points of convergence but do not lead to the same result. This means that the emphasis on dropout strategies can lead to prevention; whereas the emphasis on success promotes academic progress and, ultimately, graduation. Thus, students’ success or academic achievement goes further than preventing them from abandoning their studies, and this means that grasping why many students, some of them in the most difficult circumstances, are able to meet all the demands of the curriculum and graduate is of utter importance. Although at the present time we are still working on the results of the study presented here, while some teachers seem to feel relatively powerless to help address their most challenging students’ paths, others succeed in doing so. For example, teachers’ understandings of the educational paths of their students and their views of success for their students are potential factors of their achievement. At the same time, the way relationships are understood both from teachers’ and students’ perspective lead to more positive outcomes and foster educational persistence. When those relationships are seen as dynamic processes funded on reciprocal investments, obligations and expectations, trust, etc., opportunities to school success increase. Such is the case that many students label their most supportive relationships as family-like. In this regard, we will advance conditions that make possible this kind of relations from both the perspective of students and their teachers.
Commission of the European Communities (2008). Migration & mobility: challenges and opportunities for EU education systems. Epstein, J., & Karweit, N. (Eds.). (1983). Friends in school: Patterns of selection and influence in secondary schools. New York: Academic Press. Serra, C., & Palaudàries, J. M. (2007). L’alumnat de nacionalitat estrangera en els estudis postobligatoris. In Larios, J.; Nadal, M. (eds.) L’estat de la immigració a Catalunya. Anuari 2006 (pp. 301-334). Barcelona: Mediterrània. Smyth, G., MacBride, G., Paton, G., & Sheridan, N. (2010). Social capital and refugee children : does it help their integration and education in Scottish schools? Diskurs Kindheits- Und Jugendforschung, 5(2), 145–157. Retrieved from http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/35465/ssoar-disk-2010-2-smyth_et_al-Social_capital_and_refugee_children.pdf?sequence=1 Stanton-Salazar, R. D. (2005). Adolescent Peer Networks as a Context for Social and Emotional Support. Youth Society, 36(4), 379–417. doi:10.1177/0044118X04267814 Stanton-Salazar, R. S. (2010). A Social Capital Framework for the Study of Institutional Agents and Their Role in the Empowerment of Low-Status Students and Youth. Youth Society, 43(3), 1066–1109. doi:10.1177/0044118X10382877 Stanton-Salazar, R., & Spina, S. U. (2003). Informational Mentors and Role Models in the Lives of Urban Mexican-Origin Adolescents. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 34(3), 231–254. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/detail?accno=EJ679329 Suárez-Orozco, C., Pimentel, A., & Martin, M. (2009). The Significance of Relationships : Academic Engagement and Achievement Among Newcomer Immigrant Youth. Teachers College Record, 111(3), 712–749. Retrieved from http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/immigration.olde/pdf/2009/EngagementTCR.pdf Woolley, M. E., Kol, K. L., & Bowen, G. L. (2008). The Social Context of School Success for Latino Middle School Students: Direct and Indirect Influences of Teachers, Family, and Friends. The Journal of Early Adolescence.
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