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Hosting Newcomers: Structuring Educational Opportunities for Immigrant Children

reviewed by JoAnn Phillion - 1999

coverTitle: Hosting Newcomers: Structuring Educational Opportunities for Immigrant Children
Author(s): Robert Dentler and Anne Hafner
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807736120, Pages: , Year: 1997
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Immigration in the United States has led to increasing numbers of immigrant students entering the education system. In some school districts immigrant students comprise over 50% of the enrollment. Many of these students are poor, and many speak English as a second language (ESL). Some school districts have also experienced dramatic changes in the ethnic and linguistic composition of their immigrant students. Increased numbers, increased ethnic and linguistic diversity, as well as the accelerating pace of cultural and socioeconomic diversity among immigrant students and their families, has created a challenge for society. This challenge is not restricted to the United States. It affects urban centers in Canada and other countries as well (Cummins, 1989). In Hosting Newcomers: Structuring Educational Opportunities for Immigrant Children Robert Dentler and Anne Hafner discuss this challenge and offer solutions to improve educational opportunities for immigrant students.

Educators at all levels question what strategies work best to meet the needs of immigrant students and how best to assist them in achieving their full potential. In their study the authors analyzed responses to immigrant students, students they term "newcomers", in eleven metropolitan school districts in California, Arizona and Nevada that experienced unprecedented rises in numbers of poor ethnic and language minority students between 1980 and 1990. They examined school districts that had successfully met the challenge of educating immigrant children and compared them to unsuccessful districts. The authors focused on school districts as the primary unit of analysis as districts determine the reception immigrant students receive. Within districts they looked at schools, teachers and programs, cultural and community history, and health, psychological, and social services.

Dentler and Hafner focused on discovering school districts "whose staffs receive, host, and treat their newcomers so well that that they flourish academically, despite challenges that overwhelm other districts" (p.6). Of the eleven districts studied they found three they determined to be successful districts. Success was based on a measure of change in district-level achievement in mathematics and reading as measured by standardized achievement test scores. (The authors acknowledge limitations of this measure.) Researchers also visited selected schools within the eleven districts and observed schools and classrooms, and interviewed administrators, teachers, parents, and community members. They used scales to measure the quality of education, integration, multiculturalism, organization, and teaching. (The authors included the scales used in an appendix.) The authors examined key differences between successful and unsuccessful school districts in the light of quantitative and qualitative data gathered. They present the information clearly and concisely and use tables and charts that make for easy to read summaries of relevant findings.

The authors identify political, cultural, organizational, programmatic and instructional features of districts that facilitate higher student achievement. If this book were used in a course many of the topics discussed could be pursued more in-depth in readings and class discussions. Chapter one and two provide an introduction to the overall study and the procedures used. In chapter three they examine the quality of staff, instruction and programs, minority and bilingual teachers’ contributions, effective models of staff development, bilingual and ESL programs, and assessment strategies. In chapter four they examine historical, cultural and community factors of high performing districts and compare these factors with low perfuming districts. In chapter five they examine district and school organization, specifically addressing the attributes of effective school boards and key personnel. In chapter six the authors integrate an examination of the health programs and social services of the high and low performing districts. Perhaps the authors greatest contribution is the articulation of the interconnectedness of the various factors in the success of students.

In the seventh and final chapter the authors conclude that fiscal resources, and size of district and other factors, while important, do not account for the differences in performances of the various districts. Rather "high performing districts are unified and cooperative in their political determination to do what it takes to host and treat children and youth humanely and in ways that optimize their growth and life chances" (p. 149). Districts that succeed embrace all students, welcome diversity and are willing to transform their visions of education.

Good work that would benefit school districts struggling with similar problems is often done in isolation. Hosting Newcomers: Structuring Educational Opportunities for Immigrant Children fills a void in the lack of information on what does work with immigrant student and highlights exemplary initiatives with immigrant students that "succeed at making of newcomers what they each want to be-fully participating citizens" (foreword by Llanes, p. ix).




Cummins, J. (1989). Empowering minority students. California Association for Bilingual Education: Sacramento, CA.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 4, 1999, p. 898-899
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10349, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 6:28:13 PM

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