Afghan Refugee Students' Academic and Social Experiences in a U.S. High School

Almazyed, Maysoon, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
McNergney, Joanne, Dean's Office, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hoffman, Diane, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Trent, Stanley, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

As estimated 90,030 out of 1,107,126 individuals who were granted legal permanent resident status in the United States in the fiscal year 2008 are refugees. Refugees differ from immigrants yet their educational experiences have been under-researched. Many of the refugees arriving in the United States today come from countries in which a large percentage of the population is Muslim. Due to escalating resentment towards Muslims in the United States today, it is necessary to investigate Muslim students' academic experiences. This interpretive study addressed these gaps in the literature. It explored the academic and social experiences of 10 Muslim Afghan refugees in a U.S. high school. Ogbu's cultural-ecological theory (CET) and symbolic interaction theory helped answer three research questions: (1) how do Afghan refugee participants' cultural models influence their academic experiences?; (2) what is the influence of academic tracking on participants' acculturation to American society and their academic success?; and (3) how do differences in teacher expectations impact participants' academic success and interactions with teachers? This study considered Ogbu's system and community forces and how they impact Afghan refugee students' academic and social experiences. Data collection included observations, interviews, and document collection. Findings revealed that although some aspects of Ogbu' s CET apply to Afghan study participants, it is necessary to consider the influence of pre-immigration factors on their current academic success. Findings also suggest that academic tracking has led participants to acculturate to different segments of U.S. society and has led some to adopt adversarial attitudes towards school and teachers. Low teacher expectations between the upper-and lower-academic tracks may have affected participants' academic performance and interactions with teachers. Afghan participants' current academic and social experiences are products of their cultural models, pre-immigration experiences, and academic tracking.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: