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Immigration and Education in North Carolina

reviewed by Eliane Rubinstein-Avila - May 17, 2019

coverTitle: Immigration and Education in North Carolina
Author(s): Xue Lan Rong & Jeremy Hilburn (Eds.)
Publisher: Sense Publishers, Rotterdam
ISBN: 9463008071, Pages: 282, Year: 2017
Search for book at Amazon.com

Although the expansion of new immigrant communities across the Southern United States is no longer breaking news, few books have focused on the ways in which this relatively sudden demographic change has impacted the experiences of immigrant students, their teachers, families, and local school districts. Rong and Hilburns highly relevant edited volume Immigration and Education in North Carolina, from the series Breakthrough in the Sociology of Education, focuses on a variety of pertinent issues on immigration and education specific to North Carolina.


Coincidently, the book was published the same year as Salas and Portes (2017) insightful edited book on the education of Latinas/os in the new South, US Latinization: Education and the New Latino South. Although Latina/o (or Latinx) communities are the most numerous, Immigration and Education in North Carolina sheds light on the diversity of the immigration landscape to the state. This co-edited book, informed by different theoretical and conceptual frameworks, including critical race theory (CRT) and Chicana mujerista pedagogies, provides readers with a kaleidoscope of highly relevant issues related to education and immigration, from a variety of richly contextualized viewpoints (those of students, parents, educators, and researchers).


As others have stated, the new immigration to the South has greatly disrupted local racial and sociocultural landscapes and is a phenomenon that deserves our fields attention (Salas & Portes, 2017). In fact, the number of immigrants in North Carolina before 1980 hovered around less than 1% of the total population (Rong & Hilburn, 2017). Immigration and Education in North Carolina offers a sobering look at the rapid expansion of immigrant communities and the (often personal) impacts of such a dramatic demographic shift.


The organization of the book is practical; the eleven chapters are organized into three main thematic sections. In the preface of the book, the co-editors offer: (a) a rationale for the general organization of the book; (b) a summary for each chapter, and (c) an explicit rationale for Why this book is important (p. xiv). Moreover, each chapter begins with an informative abstract. The guiding questions and sub-questions in the beginning of each chapter are highly effective and can help scaffold understanding for readers who may be new to the general topic. All chapters are refreshingly clear and devoid of jargon. In fact, the book seems to target a wide readership, including educational researchers and school practitioners.


The first chapter, composed by the editors and Sun, offers readers the necessary prior knowledge to understand the recent history and demographic context of North Carolina, covering the period between 1990 and 2015. The second chapter, by Shofer, is a sobering analysis of the philosophical, historical, and economic factors behind the lack of funding for English as a second language (ESL) services to newcomer students across the state. These two introductory chapters help situate the mostly empirical chapters that follow.


The next five chapters, which make up the second section, focus on the immigrant students educational experiences, their classrooms/schools, and their communities. Chapter Three provides a complex, qualitative perspective from a mixed-methods study of youth in urban and rural school districts. Informed by ecological and acculturation theoretical frameworks, the chapter sheds light on the ways in which a group of adolescent Latinx students relationships with their peers, teachers, and parents have shaped their educational experiences. Chapter Four focuses on the experience of the second fastest growing immigrant community in the state, Arab Americans. Chapter Five, the only one to focus solely on educators, delves into social studies teachers perceptions of state policies and their impact on immigrant students. Chapter Six delves into the plight of undocumented college students in the state, while in Chapter Seven, one of my favorites, Carrillo provides readers a captivating, in-depth, qualitative portrait of José, a college student who is constructing his Chicano identity within the North Carolina context.  

The four last chapters, which make up the third section, pertain to language practices and language policy in education. Given my background and particular interest in languages and literacies, I was especially drawn to this section (Chapters Eight to Eleven). I found most of these chapters on various aspects of language practices (dual-language immersion programs, heritage language classes, language socialization and pedagogy) fascinating. Each chapter provides a wealth of knowledge about several cultural/linguistic communities, including Spanish, Korean, Czech, and Slovenian, highlighting the diversity of these immigrant communities. Chapter Eight, for example, examines the tensions associated with developing heritage language learners (HLLs) within traditional Spanish as a foreign language (SFL) high school classes, which are not designed for these students needs. The authors of Chapter Ten explain why linguistic sustainability in the Korean community they studied expands on more common notions of language maintenance. Finally, Chapter Eleven shines the spotlight to the plight of smaller minority languages, such as Czech and Slovenian. Given the general lack of support for bilingualism, these smaller linguistic communities are reliant on transnational resources to attempt to sustain their home languages, against all odds.


A word about the co-editors: they seem to complement and enhance each others expertise, weaving research and practice seamlessly. Dr. Xue Lan Rong, a professor in the college of education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is herself an immigrant to the United States from China. In 2008, Dr. Rong, together with Dr. Preissle, published Educating Immigrant Students in the 21st Century: What Educators Need to Know. Dr. Jeremy Hilburn teaches preservice teachers at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He also conducts research that focuses on preparing teachers to teach in culturally and linguistically diverse contexts.


In sum, Immigration and Education in North Carolina is a strong contribution to the field. It raises a plethora of au courant issues, pointing to many areas that are in desperate need of attention and reformulation. The book informs immigration and education in ways that speak to both researchers and school practitioners.


Salas, P., & Portes, P. R. (Eds.) (2017). US Latinization: Education and the new Latino south, New York, NY: SUNY Press.

Rong, X. L., & Preissle, J. (2009) Educating immigrant students in the 21st century: What educators need to know. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.






Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: May 17, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22799, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 3:04:41 PM

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About the Author
  • Eliane Rubinstein-Avila
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    ELAINE RUBINSTEIN-AVILA is a professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, & Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. Dr. Rubinstein-Avila’s courses and research focus on qualitative research, case studies in literacy research, immigration and education, teaching students for whom English is an additional language, and the ways in which bilingualism, race, ethnicity, gender and culture intersect with formal schooling and out-of-school educational contexts..
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