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Attending to the wellbeing of newcomer immigrant students through strategic partnerships: Lessons from seven schools

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Immigration is one of the most stressful events a family can undergo, removing family members from predictable contexts (before, during, or after the “crossing”). A convergence of contextual factors can challenge or facilitate the life trajectories of immigrant-origin youth—the social context of reception (e.g., immigration policies, racism, and the social mirror), family capital (e.g., poverty, parental education, and authorization status), and the kinds of schools that immigrant students encounter. These “intersecting sources of inequality” (Suárez-Orozco, Yoshikawa, & Tseng, 2015), can undermine students’ healthy development. Despite these challenges, many newcomer children demonstrate extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness as they navigate their developmental journey. This poster provides findings from an examination of schools who utilize employ rich innovations and “work arounds” within the confines of restrictive district, state and national policies of immigration, standardization, and unequal funding formulas to attend to the wellbeing of their newcomer students.
This research is informed by Spencer’s (1997) Phenomenological Variant of Ecological System Theory (PVEST), which situates adolescent development within an identity focused cultural-ecological perspective, framing normative development through the interaction of identity, experience, and context. Particularly important for the study of diverse populations of immigrant youth, PVEST provides for a culturally sensitive developmental model that does not grant privilege to one perspective of development over another as normative. Within the model, this study focused on the kinds of supports schools provided to mitigate students’ net vulnerability.
The study followed a qualitative multiple-case study approach examining seven schools in the US and Sweden with exemplary reputations for serving diverse newcomer immigrant students (see Table 1). Using multiple cases allowed for comparison of the kinds of strategic partnerships they participated in to serve the specific needs of the youth enrolled in their schools. The data sources of the study consisted of (1) semi-structured interviews and focus groups with school administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and service providers; (2) ethnographic interviews and focus groups with students; and (3) document review of official materials related to services provided. Within- and cross-case analyses were conducted to generate codes and identify the similarities and differences across the cases as well as common themes
Findings indicated that the schools strategically sought out a broad spectrum of partnerships aimed to support students’ wellbeing (see table 2). To provide specialized, the schools sought out a broad spectrum of partnerships, often diversifying funding sources to sustain programs by forming locally-based community partnerships where resources could be shared. Community school models were particularly well positioned to provide social and family supports, strengthening the trust between schools and families. Furthermore, findings indicated that success relied upon administrative leaders who had a deep understanding of the needs of immigrant students, and that could successfully cultivate strong relationships between service providers, faculty and families. Too often, partnerships have been undervalued because it is difficult to make causal claims that these supports directly influence narrow measures of student achievement. Findings from this study suggest partnerships are an integral part of a coherent strategy for schools serving immigrant students and their families.

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