School Support for Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Youth: Challenges and Opportunities for the East Durham Children's Initiative

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



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.





Gordon, Anne Marie (2010). School Support for Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Youth: Challenges and Opportunities for the East Durham Children's Initiative. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.