American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting
Theme: Leveraging Educational Research in a “Post-Truth” Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence
April 5-9, 2019
Title: Encouraging Collective Responsibility for Immigrant Students: How Professional Context Matters (Paper)
Session: Examining Truths about Immigrant Student Success: Studying the Internationals Network for Public Schools
Authors: Reva Jaffe-Walter, Adriana Villavicencio
Abstract: Drawing on emerging findings from qualitative case study research in schools serving recently arrived immigrant students and data from New York City School Learning Environment Survey data, this paper considers how the professional contexts of schools support teachers’ capacities to support immigrant students who are English Language Learners (ELs).
Teachers of ELs are often located on the margins of schools, having lower status and physically separated from other teachers. Ernst-Slavit, and Wenger, K. J. (2006) found that they “become marginalized ‘hidden teachers’ working with students who are overlooked by an educational system filled with inequitable practices” (p. 63). Liggett (2010) documented the obstacles that EL teachers experience when they attempted to collaborate with other teachers to provide supports for their students. Educational research reveals how leaders can disrupt patterns of inequality by developing supportive professional contexts (Kraft & Papay, 2014) that encourage institutional trust (Bryk at al., 2010), the sharing of resources and expertise and the professionalization of teachers (Ingersoll & Merrill, 2011; Firestone & Pennell, 1993).
This paper draws from qualitative case study data from a three-year study of two schools exclusively serving recently arrived immigrant students and two comparative schools serving this same population of students. Qualitative case study research includes ethnographic observations of classrooms and professional meetings and focus groups and interviews with school leaders, teachers and students. To triangulate and complement the case study research, we will also draw on NYC's Learning Environment Survey--the largest education census in the US distributed annually to teachers, parents, and students across the city's 1800 schools. In particular, we will compare how teachers from these two study sites responded to survey measures related to professional context (i.e., professional development, teacher relationships, and teacher collaboration) compared to teachers in other NYC public schools with similar student populations in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and percentage of ELs. This analysis will help further illustrate how the professional context of the study sites are uniquely positioned to help develop teacher capacity towards supporting the growth of immigrant students.
Our findings reveal how the professional contexts of the schools informed collective responsibility for the outcomes of immigrant youth. In particular, we explore how collaboration, teacher learning practices, and teacher autonomy influenced teachers’ capacity and commitment. In contrast to patterns of inequality in many schools where immigrant ELs and their teachers are isolated and cut off from institutional resources, the schools in our study offer insight into the educational possibilities of schools where teachers and leaders share the work of understanding and creatively addressing the varied needs of immigrant EL students.