A case study of a migrant school responses to the needs of transient students
Ekeze, Tobias E.
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Transient migrant students are at great risk of dropping out of school due to their frequent mobility and limited English proficiency. This population of students faces severe discontinuity in their education, as well as social isolation, as they accompany their parents from one state to another in search of seasonal farm work. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' perceptions and understandings of the social adjustment and academic needs of migrant students and the strategies they use for addressing these needs. The study utilized a qualitative case study methodology. The researcher visited with teachers and the principal of Rockwell Migrant School and engaged them in one-on-one interviews that focused on their experiences in working with migrant students. The primary data for this study was generated from these interviews and classroom observations. The strategies reported by teachers and their perceptions of their success were first analyzed using the critical elements identified by Wehlage et al. (1989) for serving at-risk students. Lack of trust, frequent mobility, language barriers and cultural conflicts emerged from teachers' responses as factors that negatively impact social adjustment needs of transient migrant students. Additional themes that emerged through open coding were: (a) building relationships with students and families, (b) making connections to students' life experiences, (c) engaging in culturally responsive teaching, and (d) engaging parents in the educational process. The study also revealed the importance of teachers' bilingual capabilities and their regular visit to the homes of their students. Analysis of these findings indicated that home visits contribute to teachers building a relationship with the students and their families, and developing "funds of knowledge" which help them make pedagogical connections to students' life experiences and culture and engage in two of Ladson-Billings (1995) three precepts of culturally responsive teaching. Therefore, the findings of this study add an important dimension to the framework of Wehlage and his colleagues by identifying the importance of teachers' cultural knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy in making connections to their lives in order to create school membership and foster educational engagement. The author recommends that schools serving a migrant student population should consider implementing a home visitation program, increase the number of teachers certified in bilingual education, and use culturally relevant teaching to help address the social adjustment and academic needs of their students.