Teaching Refugee Students in Arizona: Examining the Implementation of Structured English Immersion

Keywords: Refugee education, language policy implementation, educational policy


With an increase in refugee children entering schools around the world, it has grown increasingly important to examine educational policy formulation and implementation to understand how teachers are enacting policies to support this student population. This article focuses on the language policy that shapes educational experiences for refugee students in urban schools in Phoenix, Arizona. Through a review of the literature and data collected from teacher interviews and a survey, this article explores how teachers appropriate official educational policies to construct de facto policies in their classrooms. Innovative practices that teachers employ are also highlighted, and recommendations for further research, policy, and practice are provided.

Author Biographies

Joanna Henderson, Arizona State University

Joanna Henderson  has worked in youth and education related non-profit organizations for over 10 years. She has conducted research at Arizona State University in Social and Cultural Pedagogy focusing on teacher training to improve outcomes for refugee students. She has presented at many school district, state, and international professional development sessions and conferences. Her research interests include refugee and immigrant student integration into U.S schools, with a particular emphasis on dialogue and education for social change.


Eric Patrick Ambroso, Arizona State University

Eric Ambroso is is a doctoral candidate in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. His current research interests include the implementation of language policies, language ideologies, and experiences of teachers working with English learners in U.S. schools. Before returning to academia, Eric taught English in Italy, South Korea, Vietnam, and Washington.