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The Significance of Relationships: Academic Engagement and Achievement Among Newcomer Immigrant Youth


by Carola Suarez-Orozco , Allyson Pimentel & Margary Martin — 2009

Background/Context: Newcomer immigrant students are entering schools in the United States in unprecedented numbers. As they enter new school contexts, they face a number of challenges in their adjustment. Previous literature suggested that relationships in school play a particularly crucial role in promoting socially competent behavior in the classroom and in fostering academic engagement and school performance.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the role of school-based relationships in engagement and achievement in a population of newcomer immigrant students.

Research Design: The Longitudinal Immigrant Student Adaptation Study (LISA) used a mixed-methods approach, combining longitudinal, interdisciplinary, qualitative, and quantitative approaches to document adaptation patterns of 407 recently arrived immigrant youth from Central America, China, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico over the course of 5 years. Based on data from the last year of the study, we examine how the role of relationships mediates newcomers’ challenges with academic engagement and performance. We identify factors that account for patterns of academic engagement and achievement, including country of origin, gender, maternal education, English language proficiency, and school-based relationships.

Findings: Multiple regression analyses suggest that supportive school-based relationships strongly contribute to both the academic engagement and the school performance of the participants. Qualitative interview data and case studies serve to elucidate the relational processes inside and outside school that influence different academic outcomes.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 3, 2009, p. 712-749
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15342, Date Accessed: 3/27/2017 6:27:03 PM

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About the Author
  • Carola Suarez-Orozco
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    CAROLA SUÁREZ-OROZCO is a professor of psychology and the codirector of Immigration Studies @ NYU. She specializes in the development and well-being of immigrant youth and their families. Her research interests include academic engagement, the role of the “social mirror” in identity formation, immigrant family separations, the role of mentors in facilitating positive development in immigrant youth, and the gendered experiences of immigrant youth.
  • Allyson Pimentel
    Bellevue Hospital Center, New York
    E-mail Author
    ALLYSON PIMENTEL is a senior psychologist in clinical practice at Bellevue Hospital Center. She is also in private practice and was a research fellow at Immigration Studies @ NYU. Her clinical and research interests include ethnic and gender identity development in minority adolescents and adults, and the psychological and educational well-being of immigrant youth.
  • Margary Martin
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    MARGARY MARTIN is a doctoral candidate at New York University in the Department of Teaching and Learning, and senior research associate at the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. Her research interests include school contexts and academic engagement in the education and adaptation of immigrant youth; language, literacy, and identity development in multicultural and multilingual settings; and equity in educational policies and practices.
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