School Factors and Children of Immigrants

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 12, 2008 1 min read
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For children of Latino immigrants, a school’s environment can play a big role in helping them to catch up academically with non-Hispanic whites, according to a study released this week by a researcher at Columbia University. The study finds, in fact, that children of Latino immigrants respond more to school-level factors than do immigrant children of many Asian backgrounds (with the exception of children of parents from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos).

Wen-Jui Han, an associate professor of social work for New York City’s Columbia University, conducted the study; she examines the impact of school-level factors such as school resources, the provision of English-as-a-second-language programs, the provision of services to parents, average student academic performance, and school climate. She finds that services and programs for immigrant families, in particular, correlate with improved math performance for children of immigrants. She tracks children from kindergarten to 3rd grade.

The author notes that her research may support what other researchers have found, that the positive ethnic ties of many Asian children outside of school may account more for how well they do in school than do the characteristics of the schools they attend. But the reverse may be true for Latinos who are children of immigrants.

I mention this study because it examines a large sample of children—14,000 children from the kindergarten cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey. I also think it’s interesting that Ms. Han examines the impact of school factors on the achievement of different immigrant groups and highlights the diversity within those groups.

It appears in the November issue of Developmental Psychology.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.