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Latina/o and Latin American Faculty Working Group
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University
Current Research  >  FWG Research

Current Research in Latina/o Education at Teachers College

International Working Group on Indigenous Intercultural Bilingual Education in Latin America

Consisting of scholars and experts across several Latin American countries as well as the United States and Canada, the International Working Group will explore challenges and limitations of current policies and programs aiming to increase educational opportunities for indigenous children in Latin American countries.  The Working Group provides a forum to discuss and compare strategies for improving the quality of education available to Indigenous peoples in different countries in Latin America. Its first meeting will be in Santiago, Chile, on June 19-21, 2013.  For more information on the center refer to the Spring 2013 Global Update newsletter of the International and Comparative Education Program by clicking here.

Dual Language Programs in Northern Manhattan Schools

Findings from the policy paper The Education of Latinos in Northern Manhattan Schools (Cortina 2009) show the role of tracking on Latino student's achievement. Dual language programs have emerged as an alternative to traditional tracking mechanisms and available research demonstrates that they are having significant impact on students' acquisition of English. Scholarship on Dual Language Programs nationwide proves how native language instruction has resulted in development of English language literacy. At present there are few studies on dual language programs in New York City, despite the growing desire of researchers and practitioners to understand how these curricular strategies operate. The aim of the proposed project is to demonstrate how dual language programs operate in Northern Manhattan and how they can be further developed to serve a larger population of students. NYLARNet 2009-10.

The Education of Latinos in Northern Manhattan Schools

A NYLARNet Policy Report by Regina Cortina, Ph. D. (2009)

Focusing on students from Latin American and Caribbean origin, this paper examines demographic shifts taking place in Northern Manhattan and their implications for education.The goal is to understand the educational experiences of Latinos, who constitute 40 percent of the students in New York City schools, by using as a case study the ten schools in the Harlem Schools Partnership. 

You can download the report here.

The Impact of State and Local-level Policies on the Availability and Quality of Educational Resources in New York  City Charter Schools

Prof. Luis Huerta (together with a team of TC graduate students) has been conducting research in New York City charter schools for the last five years. His work examines how state and local-level policies impact the availability and quality of educational resources in New York charter schools. Specifically, this research asks whether charter schools successfully obtain additional resources to compensate for lower public expenditures relative to traditional public schools. Charter schools have been described as schools that provide important educational alternatives for minority and at-risk students, but building any school from scratch, (or converting an existing institution for that matter), is an enormous undertaking. The availability and use of resources directly impacts the quality of education provided; classrooms need to be built and a staff needs to be hired. The operation of these new institutions is further complicated by key funding differences that exist between traditional public schools and charter schools in New York. While both school types receive public revenue, early research reports that charters receive less per-pupil funding than traditional schools in some states. The expectation is that charter schools will redress financial shortcomings by obtaining non-traditional and private sources of support.  These new relationships are expected to forge innovative and diverse learning opportunities, however, it is not known to what extent such occurs.
The results of this research will help spotlight the impact of the charter school movement in New York. As of the 2002-03 school year, 85% of New York charter school students were minorities and the vast majority of charter schools were located in urban centers. If charter schools are able to secure new non-traditional resources, they may alleviate resource disparities and enable better educational opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods. However, if charter schools cannot overcome resource limitations, then the students they enroll may be inadequately served and the achievement gap between white and minority students may be exacerbated. Of course, it is quite possible that the operation and performance of charter schools vary. Given this most probable scenario, this research will be vital in identifying the state and local policies that encourage best practices.

Implementation of College In-State Tuition Benefits Undocumented Immigrants in New York

Professor: Kevin Dougherty, Associate Professor of Higher Education
Doctoral students: Kenny Nienhusser
In 2002, New York became the fourth state to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants enrolling in its public postsecondary institutions. Although enacted six years ago, the implementation of this policy has never been examined. Undocumented immigrants, many of them Latino, encounter socially constructed barriers that discourage their college access: in particular, low incomes, inadequate secondary school academic preparation, lack of information about postsecondary opportunities, and fear of deportation.  Given these obstacles, making undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition is no panacea for ensuring greater college access. Still, it can make a notable contribution, given the low incomes of most undocumented students and their sensitivity to tuition differences.

This qualitative case study will investigate how New York's in-state tuition legislation for undocumented immigrants has been implemented. The goal is to expand postsecondary access for undocumented immigrants by informing New York policy leaders in government, education, and the community about the challenges faced in the implementation of the in-state tuition policy.  Moreover, the study's findings may have wider relevance, since the challenges undocumented students find in gaining college access are likely to be reflective of challenges undocumented immigrants generally face in gaining access to other social services as well.
You can download the pdf document here:  13854_ImplementationCollegeIn-StateTuitionUndocumentedImmigrantsNY.pdf

The Politics of In-state Tuition in Texas and Arizona

Professor: Kevin Dougherty, Associate Professor of Higher Education
Doctoral students: Kenny Nienhusser and Blanca Vega

This research is on the political dynamics behind the varying responses of states to legislative proposals for making undocumented immigrants graduating from high school in a state eligible for instate tuition at public colleges and universities.  The larger background to this study is our interest in the political context affecting how immigration issues are considered: particularly, what determines why the reaction in some cases is very heated and oppositional and why the reaction in other cases is much less heated and even supportive, even in states that are conservative in political culture.  To illuminate this, we are examining the politics of instate tuition legislation in Texas and Arizona.  Both states have large numbers of undocumented immigrant students graduating from their high schools but have sharply differed in their responses.  Texas was the first state in the nation to authorize instate tuition and state financial aid to undocumented students, while Arizona has explicitly prohibited such assistance.  To shed light on the political dynamics, we are conducting interviews in both states with a wide variety of actors, including state government leaders, higher education officials, political activists on both sides of the issue, and representatives of leading interest groups.

A paper discussing the findings of this study and published in the Review of Higher Education can be downloaded here.

Young Emergent Bilinguals: The Transition from Head Start to Kindergarten

Professor: Prof. Celia Genishi, Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching
Doctoral students: Ysaaca Axelrod, Lorraine Falchi, and Ariela Zycherman.

This project examines young children's learning of language and literacy in classroom settings. The focal children in this longitudinal study were originally enrolled in Head Start and are of Mexican heritage. Their home language is the indigenous language Mixteco, which means that some of the group of six children became trilingual in Mixteco, Spanish, and English in the first 4 or 5 years of life. Our focus was on their learning of spoken Spanish and English and the beginnings of their literacy skills in a public school kindergarten. Preliminary findings show individual variation, especially with regard to rate of learning spoken Spanish and English. These call into question prescribed curricula that require the learning of English at the earliest opportunity.

Communication Disorders and Second Language Speech Perception/Production in Multilinguals

Assistant Professor Erika Levy performs research on second language speech perception and production and on communication disorders in multilinguals. Her research includes examinations of the effects of language background on phonological assessment by bilingual clinicians, and of how listeners with communication disorders perceive accented speech, as well as surveys of policies, practices and beliefs involving speech pathology students with foreign accents. Special attention is paid to the shortage of bilingual speech-language pathologists, especially those needed to provide services for Spanish-speaking children with communication disorders.

Language, Literacy, and Schooling among Latino Youth in New York City: An Ethnographic Study

Professors: Lesly Bartlett, Assistant Professor of Education in International and Cultural Studies and Ofelia Garcia, Professor at CUNY Graduate Center

This four-year ethnographic study examines the educational experiences and language and literacy development of immigrants recently arrived from Spanish speaking countries in Latin America who are studying in New York City. Situated in one NYC high school, this study asks three overarching, interrelated questions:

   1. How are new federal and city policies influencing the educational opportunities of newcomer Latino youth, and specifically their language and literacy practices?
   2. How are recently-arrived Latino immigrant youth negotiating the new social structures, institutions, and social relations they find upon arrival in New York in their quest to graduate from high school?
   3. How are Latino youth's English and Spanish language and academic literacies co-developing over time?