Quest for a better life: The educational experiences of Salvadorian immigrant middle school students in the United States

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

Literature on the Hispanic/Latino/a immigrant experience primarily focuses on Puerto Rican and Mexican cultures. Little attention is given to the growing Salvadorian immigrant experience. Literature also focuses on the monolithic categorization of Hispanics as an ethnic minority without exploring the inter-variability that exists between and among Hispanic groups.

This collective case study documented the educational experiences of middle school Salvadorian immigrants. Six middle school students, three male and three female, described their Salvadorian educational experience, their immigration experience and their United States educational experience through a series of semi-structured interviews. The four interview protocol used was based on Seidman's (1998) interview process and contained: an oral history interview, academic audio journal, cultural artifact interview, and conclusion interview. In addition to student interviews, other sources of data collection were teacher interviews, informal observations, and student academic folders.

The data collected were analyzed through John Ogbu's cultural ecological theoretical framework. The data documented that all of the participants described a folk theory of success which helped them to navigate the educational system in the United States. These findings suggest that Salvadorian immigrant students were eager to learn English and adopt United States cultural norms in order to fulfill their folk theory of making it. However, each retained their collective Hispanic cultural identity through peer associations, despite discriminatory structures and practices of the school's policies and personnel. Even though four of the six participants were achieving academic success in the middle school, future academic success was a difficult prediction based on existing school practices and structures.

The findings of this study have implications for educators as well as researchers. By listening to the voices of this marginalized group, I hope that teachers and school administrators will begin to understand Salvadorian student needs and implement programs that honor students' Hispanic cultural heritage, thereby assisting them in school adaptation. In addition, I hope that research recognizes that the growing Hispanic population should not be categorized and researched as a monolithic ethnic group.

Indexing (details)

School administration;
Secondary education;
0514: School administration
0533: Secondary education
0727: Curricula
0727: Teaching
Identifier / keyword
Education; Educational experiences; Immigrant; Middle school students; Salvadorian
Quest for a better life: The educational experiences of Salvadorian immigrant middle school students in the United States
Costello-Herrera, Lynda A.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 65/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Shakeshaft, Charol; Scott, Kimberly
Hofstra University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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