The number of families immigrating into the United States continues to increase each year. According to a recent study there are 10.4 million students from immigrant households in public schools, accounting for one in five public school students. Of these students, 78 percent speak a language other than English at home (Camarota, 2012). The graduation rates are much lower and the dropout rates much higher than their American born peers. Limited research has been done to examine the on-going problem of low graduation rates for foreign born English Language Learners in high schools in South Texas. The goal of this study was to identify the factors these participants attributed to their successful graduation from a South Texas high school, as well as barriers encountered while in high school. The exploratory qualitative research method utilized a case study design to identify the success factors as well as the obstacles overcome by foreign born English Language Learners who (a) have successfully completed the requirements to graduate from a South Texas high school and (b) are currently enrolled in post-secondary schools. Following an interview protocol, the researcher conducted one-on-one, in-depth interview sessions with seven study participants. The qualifying criteria for the study participants included (a) having been born in a country other than the United States, (b) having been labeled as an English Language Learner while in high school, (c) having graduated from a high school in South Texas, and (d) currently enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution. It was an unexpected finding that all participants in this study attended private school during their primary or middle school years. Significant results from this study revealed that the families of the participants played an important role in their educational development. In addition, the participants described finding determination and resilience to push through discouraging moments in their journey. Finally, the participants in this study reported using entertainment as educational tools for acquiring English. These findings will provide information for educators who continue to work with students immigrating into the United States and enrolling in its public schools. This study concludes with recommendations for leaders and public school educators to add a brief transitional program for recent immigrant students, so that they can become acculturated and acquire some basic communication skills before beginning core classes. It is also recommended that public schools incorporate technology to aid in the English acquisition for Limited English Proficient students.
July 27, 2016
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