An increase in the number of immigrants during the last two decades has resulted in significant changes with regard to the state of classrooms in the United States. Immigrants usually come to the US with the aim of making their lives better; as a result, immigrant families place a lot of emphasis on the education and aspirations of their children. In addition, immigrant children have exhibited optimism as regards their future and are more likely to work hard. Despite the academic potential of immigrant students, American educators have raised concerns that these students are neither attentive nor active in classroom activities, and that their families fail to support the school. It is evident that, whereas immigrant students are likely to enroll with high hopes, many of these students tend to fall behind and report declining academic achievement in the course of their education years (Baum & Flores, 2011). Teachers are usually responsible for the academic achievement of their students; as a result, they place significant emphasis on teaching strategies and academic success and are more likely to overlook other issues that are likely to be affecting the academic achievement of their students such as family support. In light of this, this grant proposal devises a strategy that will be used to support immigrant students and families with respect to classroom activities (Kanno & Varghese, 2010). Therefore, the main objective of this grant proposal is to partner with parents representing diverse cultures or immigrant status in order to help improve students’ academic achievement.
Needs of All Students Regardless of How Many Generations They are Away From their Native Culture or Cultural Heritage
The first learning need for immigrant students relates to language proficiency. The United States has reported a significant increase in the number of immigrant learners having limited English proficiency. Several content area educators have given emphasis to English proficiency being a core requirement for their classes, and that English proficiency must be included as a requirement for immigration (Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011). Nevertheless, expecting that all immigrants were enrolled in the United States classrooms will be proficient in English is somewhat unrealistic. Most of the immigrant students tend to be extremely frustrated owing to the fact that language barriers result in their learning needs not being met. In addition, this English proficiency expectations are more likely to increase the anxiety levels, which can be used to explain the increase in the number of immigrant dropout cases and constant declining academic achievement among immigrant students. To this end, a significant need that has to be addressed in the classroom is diverse language backgrounds. For immigrant students, language barriers hamper their communicative ability with other students and teachers, hampers their ability to understand classroom routine, and poses a significant challenge for teachers with respect to classroom behavioral control (Li, 2012).
The second need for immigrant students relates to the challenge of adapting to a new dominant culture. It is a common occurrence for immigrant students to struggle in hallways, classrooms among other academic settings. Immigrant students are incapable of concealing their diverse language and cultural backgrounds, and may at times be mocked owing to these differences. These occurrences tend to heighten anxiety levels among immigrant students. As a result, they are likely to refrain from speaking using their native language. The cultural circumstances may force immigrant students to develop a strong sense of cultural identity. For instance, if an immigrant student is constantly mocked because of the fact that he/she is from a non-dominant culture, he/she is more likely to restrict his/her social activities to peers from the same cultural background. Such a situation may create a perception that the immigrant student is an outsider at school. Shields & Behrman (2004) used the term “cultural load” to describe this pedagogical problem. The cultural load is mainly characterized by immigrant students struggling to adapt to the new dominant culture including their experiences.
Another challenge, which is a need for immigrant students, is that they are not familiar with the teaching styles used by the schools in the United States (Suarez-Orozco & Martin, 2009). As a result, immigrant students fail to appreciate the differences brought about cultural diversity in American society. It can be inferred that immigrant children are not the ones failing; instead, failure can be observed on the part of adults involved the lives of the immigrant students, mainly teachers and parents, and school administrators. In this regard, there is the need to create an educational environment that is both conducive and safe to facilitate learning, empower students, and build a school climate that is capable of fostering academic achievement. Classrooms settings ought to have a welcome feeling characterized by teachers encouraging and assisting learners to feel better about themselves. Having identified the challenges that immigrant students face including their needs, the following section outlines the ways that can be used to engage families and partner with them in terms of the child’s academic performance (Baum & Flores, 2011).
Ways to Engage Families and Truly Partner with them in Terms of the Child’s Academic Success
Empirical studies have established a strong correlation exists between school involvement and families; specifically, higher school involvement has been correlated to higher academic performance (Kanno & Varghese, 2010). In addition, family involvement has also been linked to post-school success; however, many parental school involvements is based on the deficit model whereby either parent take part in the ways that are school-sanctioned, or the education growth of their children is likely to suffer. Immigrant families have a strong influence on the lives of their children (Su?rez-Orozco & Martin, 2009). Despite the fact that immigrant families are supportive of the American education and hold high hopes for the education of their children, a significant fraction of the immigrant families face challenges with regard to connecting with American schools, especially with respect to the academic performance of their students. Many immigrant families carry with them beliefs and attitudes that are likely to affect the manner in which they relate with schools and the academic performance of their children. Regardless of the uniqueness of each immigrant community, commonalities exist. For instance, immigrant families often exhibit respect for schools by distancing themselves from schools. In most countries apart from the US, the norm is that the teacher has the responsibility of educating the student, and that parent involvement is considered disrespectful of the capability of the teacher. Immigrant parents are usually of the view that the school has the responsibility and authority of educating the child; as a result, they ought not to be involved except in cases involving serious issues (Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011).
In order to schools and teachers to successfully connect with the families of their students, such involvement must not be based on American culture since this creates a perception that other cultures are subordinate cultures of the school. Instead, family involvement has to be looked at in terms of an ecological perspective, whereby all aspects relating to a family’s relationship to the school setting such as beliefs, activities, and roles are taken into consideration. Most families from diverse cultural backgrounds are not aware of the importance of school collaboration and communication; as a result, they are not sure of the specific ways through which they can engage with the school or teachers. As Li (2012) explains, in order for family involvement to be considered effective, teachers and schools have to first deal with the physical, economic and social needs of the students’ families. This poses the need for schools and teachers to be informed of any businesses and community programs that can offer assistance to the schools with regard to the meeting the needs of each family. After meeting the basic needs of the students’ families, it is only then that successfully and true family engagement and partnership can be developed (Shields & Behrman, 2004).
Second, for family involvement and partnership to be successful, teachers and educators have to be informed of the language that is spoken in home settings and make sure that all communications with the family are translates to the home language of the respective students’ families. In addition, efforts to reach out to parents should be tailored using both traditional communications means such as announcements and fliers, and non-traditional communication methods such as television, radio, and flyers at local social gatherings such as churches. Another crucial factor to take into consideration when partnering with parents is that teachers have to be capable of maintaining communication with families during unofficial school days. This may imply home visitation of families that have transportation challenges, phone communication with parents during unconventional hours in order to cater for the parents’ busy schedule, and establishing parent-teacher conferences conducted at community-based settings (Suarez-Orozco & Martin, 2009).
Another strategy that can be used to engage families and truly partner with them is through the use of parent liaison aimed at helping to build and sustain frequent home-school communication. This can be implemented by asking parents in the same socio-economic and cultural background to foster effective communication between them and the teacher/school at the school setting. Parent liaisons have been established to be effective in increasing and improving family/parent involvement at the school setting when supported by the teacher or the school. When implemented, parent liaisons are capable of training parents and encouraging them to communicate with other parents and the entire community (Li, 2012).
Another approach to foster immigrant parent involvement is through establishing parent education classes in order to enable to allow parents to access more skills and knowledge regarding the specific topics associated with their needs such as how to tutor their children effectively in specific subjects.
The following table summarizes the budget for the activities aimed at establishing and building immigrant family partnerships.
|Searching businesses and community programs that can offer assistance to the schools with regard to the meeting the needs of each family. The costs incurred in this phase include transportation expenses and phone call expenses||$ 500|
|Catering for the physical, social and economic needs of the respective students’ families. Costs incurred in this phase include social work services and assistance to secure housing for families having housing problems||$ 2000|
|Efforts to reach out to parents through both traditional and nontraditional communication methods such as radio, television, and fliers among others||$ 500|
|Personal communication with parents during unofficial school days, particularly through phone calls||$ 200|
|Transportation costs associated with home visitation||$ 300|
|Parent-teacher conferences costs||$ 500|
|Parent education classes||$ 1000|
The increase in the number of immigrant students in American classrooms poses the need for teachers to come up with new ways of increasing student achievement as well as address the needs of culturally diverse students. In addition, it has been observed that immigrant children are not the ones failing; instead, failure can be observed on the part of adults involved in the lives of the immigrant students, mainly teachers and parents, and school administrators. With grant funding, the issue relates to ensuring immigrant students’ academic success will be addressed by supporting immigrant students as well as their families.