||The extraordinary increase in Hispanic immigration to the United States has led to
a demographic shift in student enrollment at Durham Public Schools. Schools in the
district demonstrate below-average passing rates on North Carolina End of Grade tests
for students with Limited English Proficiency, indicating that the systems in place
may not be equipped to handle greater numbers of students with English language learning
needs. The East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) is an organization at opportunity
for addressing such needs. The EDCI attempts to create a “pipeline of services from
cradle to career” for its student population through community outreach and empowerment.
As the East Durham Children’s Initiative continues to expand and improve, it is essential
that the organization assesses the needs of the population within its borders and
caters its programming towards those needs. Using support from prior literature and
published data with respect to academic performance at the elementary, middle, and
high school levels, research in five public schools explored the specific circumstances
in each school regarding student adjustment and transition. Interviews with school
staff investigated how effectively each school addresses the challenges its Spanish-speaking
immigrant students face, where schools feel they succeed and fail, and ways in which
the findings could be taken into consideration by the East Durham Children’s Initiative.
Specific indicators included student achievement, development of student-adult relationships,
social network formation, school involvement, stress and isolation, and risk of dropout.
Research found that schools work to the best of their abilities within very specific
constraints in order to help immigrant students succeed. However, extracurricular
academic support and enrichment tends to decrease as students graduate into higher
school levels, making it more difficult for students to close achievement gaps in
middle or high school. In addition, students confronting language acquisition are
doubly challenged by attempting to simultaneously learn English and master new content
material. Interviewees supported English classes for parents and a greater number
of classroom teachers with Spanish communication skills as a means to expand the base
of adults prepared to help students achieve positive academic and life outcomes.