Creating 'Pockets of Hope': The Impact of High School Principals' Beliefs and Practices on the School Connectedness of Newcomer Central American Males

Campiglia, Michelle, Administration and Supervision - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Dexter, Sara, CU-Leadership, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

The steady growth of the immigrant population in the United States continues to impact many classrooms. Currently, more than four million foreign-born students are enrolled in U.S. schools, comprising approximately 10% of the total student population. Of these students, recently arrived immigrant English Learners (RAIELs) constitute a diverse group with varying educational backgrounds and literacy in their first languages. In suburban school divisions in the Washington, D.C., area, many of these RAIELs are Central American males who arrive in the United States as adolescents. While these students arrive with assets connected to their life experiences, many face significant challenges due to gaps in their education and socio-emotional needs often shaped by hardships such as trauma and dislocation. RAIELs who arrive as high school students encounter additional pressures associated with meeting graduation requirements (Short & Fitzsimmons, 2007). Because of these myriad challenges, many of these students leave high school before they graduate (Umansky et al., 2018).

With today’s political debate over immigration, some may assert that these students do not merit additional attention. Despite this lack of consensus, these learners have the legal right to a public education. Moreover, as Justice Brennan argued in Plyler v. Doe (1982), schools have a moral obligation to ensure that these youth are educated so that they do not “become permanently locked into the lowest socio-economic class” (p. 208). If educational leaders are serious about narrowing the achievement gap between English Learners and their White counterparts, increased efforts must be made to support these students and prepare them to become fully contributing members of society. This study contributes to the knowledge base of how the beliefs and practices of high school principals can contribute to inclusive learning environments that foster a sense of belonging for these newcomers (Gerhart et al., 2011; Hos, 2016; Scanlan & López, 2012; Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2016) and, in turn, support their academic achievement.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
School Leadership, Newcomer English Learners, School Connectedness
Issued Date: