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Educating immigrant children in the United States: A mixed methods analysis of achievement of Hispanic students in Pennsylvania

Jacobo Suarez, Monica (2013) Educating immigrant children in the United States: A mixed methods analysis of achievement of Hispanic students in Pennsylvania. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The education of immigrant students in the U.S., especially those of Hispanic origin, poses an important challenge to education policy because: i) there is a considerable achievement gap between Hispanic students and White students; ii) Hispanic students are over-represented within the English language learner population; and iii) Hispanic students remain more likely than other immigrant students to come from disadvantaged families. This dissertation identifies the necessary determinants of achievement for Hispanic students while systematically illustrating a number of public policy challenges that constraint educators in Pennsylvania, a state experiencing a recent and a rapid surge of Hispanic immigrants. It specifically asks: What are the effects of student background characteristics and school attributes on individual performance of Hispanic students? What are the main challenges that schools encounter when serving this population? And, what policy recommendations could contribute to enhance the achievement of Hispanic students? To answer these questions satisfactorily, it draws on literatures and methods from three scholarships: Education, Applied Linguistics, and Sociology of Immigration. It utilizes case studies and applies Hierarchical Linear Modeling to a state representative sample of students who took the Pennsylvania System of School Achievement test during 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Findings suggest that student background characteristics significantly predict achievement among Hispanic students and their effect is larger than those of school attributes. The major challenges that schools face in relation to teaching Hispanic students include the English language barrier, a poor academic background knowledge, and low parental involvement. Three strategies showed to be highly effective to address these challenges: constant monitoring of student’s achievement; use of achievement data to inform instructional decisions and tailor interventions to individual students’ needs; and the existence of ESL certified teachers and bilingual school staff. Based on these findings, policy recommendations are offered at the school and district level.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jacobo Suarez,
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFinkel,
Committee MemberComfort , Louiselkc@pitt.eduLKC
Committee MemberMendeloff, Johnjmen@pitt.eduJMEN
Committee MemberYe, Feifeifeifeye@pitt.eduFEIFEYE
Committee MemberTucker,
Date: 26 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 April 2013
Approval Date: 26 June 2013
Submission Date: 30 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 217
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hispanics, math achievement, reading achievement, Hierarchical Linear Modeling, Case Studies, Pennsylvania
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2013 19:46
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12


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