Spanning Boundaries by Building Relationships
An estimated 1.2 million refugee students attend schools across the United States (U.S.). They represent between 35-40% of the total number of refugees in the U.S. Yet, we know little about how school districts work with refugee students, most of whom have had significant gaps in their formal education and for whom English is not their first language. Drawing on data collected during a three-year ethnography of refugee networks in Arizona, which included a case study of one school district’s refugee support department, we examine how the influx of refugee students alters the discourses and practices traditionally associated with school-family-community relationships. Framing refugee mentors who work in the school district and their community-based counterparts as “boundary spanners” Tushman (1977), we demonstrate how the mentors aim to bridge the boundaries between refugees’ homes and communities and their new U.S. schools. Highlighting the complexity of the varied, and often contentious, interactions between the policies of the school, the practices the community-based organizations, and the understandings of the refugee parents, we point to the precariousness of the school-family-community interactions and discuss what boundaries are left unbridged. Finally, we offer recommendations for the further development of policies made to influence the formal education of refugees attending U.S schools.
Copyright (c) 2018 Jill P. Koyama, Sowmya Ghosh
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