Responding to Refugee Students in K-12 Education: The Role Principals Play in the Integration and Education of Refugee Students
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe United States has a long history of resettling refuges in the country. Research indicates that refugee students enter the country and ultimately schools with varied educational experiences including little to no formal education, language barriers to learning, and discrimination (Block, Cross, Riggs, & Gibbs, 2014; Dryden-Petersen, 2015; McBrien, 2005; Roxas, 2011a; Rutter, 2006; Taylor & Sidhu, 2012). Couple this with the differences of culture, the classroom can be an intimidating place for students newly arriving in the country and the educational system responsible for meeting the learning, social and emotional needs. This qualitative exploratory case study illustrates how principals in a large urban school district responded to the needs of newly arrived refugee students and the strategies employed by the principals to integrate and successfully educate these students. One of the largest school districts in Arizona was selected because of its high number of refugee students. In depth interviews were conducted with six participants from a purposive sample identified by the school district. Using the constant comparative method to analyze the interview data and public documents, this study detailed what actions are currently occurring within this school district. Using the findings of this study and Taylor and Sidhu’s (2012) model of good practice in refugee education, a responsiveness model for refugee education was created. The principals focused on the learning, social, and emotional needs of refugee students within their schools. They did not foster their own partnerships with outside agencies but used the partnerships established by the district. An important strategy was creating a welcoming, supportive environment with an emphasis on social justice and inclusiveness. Principals concentrated on acclimating students to the school rules and environment, building relationships with students and parents, promoting refugees in a positive light, and trying to find instructional strategies to better meet the learning needs. Clearly, the principal plays a critical role in creating the environment that can be supportive to the social, emotional, as well as academic learning needs of refugee students. An unintended finding of the study revealed principals were not aware of the district supports such as professional development offerings to address refugee needs. One suggestion for practitioners is to address this disconnection in the district with disseminating information as it most likely affects other areas, not just refugee issues. This study adds to the field of research, as there is a dearth of research on K-12 refugee education from the perspective of the principal.
Degree ProgramGraduate College