education of migrant students in Texas. The writer outlines the problems and difficulty often encountered by the school age children of migrant workers, both elementary and high school aged. The writer also addresses programs that have been designed to alleviate some of the difficulties and discusses their success and their impact on the students' educational path. There were ten sources used to complete this paper.
The most recent Census told the nation what many already knew. Migrants are here to stay. Texas has known for many generations that migrant workers make up an important part of the state's agricultural workforce. The state's proximity to Mexico coupled with its varied climates statewide make it the perfect place for attracting large migrant populations. The migrant workers talk agriculture jobs that many residents would not accept and they move from area to complete them whereas others refuse to uproot their families (Jennings, 1996). They do this because they are willing to do whatever it takes to make money and many of them send money home to their families in other nations each month. Often times it takes the entire family working the fields to make enough money to meet the immediate living expenses of the family while still having enough to send home to poverty stricken relatives. Even when it is only the parents of the families that are working they are constantly moving to seek new jobs. These life circumstances often create a fractured educational foundation for the children of migrant workers (Perloff, 1998). The combined stress of not usually speaking English as their first language and moving every time a new job ends can have a negative impact on the education of these children. Migrant workers often struggle financially their entire adult lives and they want nothing more than their children to have better lives than they do. It becomes a vicious circle for the educational systems and the families as they try and work out a solution that will allow migrant workers to support their families while allowing their children to get an education (Valley, 2001). It is important that the school systems with migrant populations design and adapt programs that will accommodate their educational needs.
Because of the seasonal nature of migrant work the migrant workers of Texas have to travel to stay employed. Some parts of the state grow crops in one season while other parts of the state use other seasons. In addition the migrant workers of Texas sometimes have leave the state or the country to maintain their ability to maintain an income for the purpose of supporting a family. Compounding this issue of transience is the fact that the families do not all moves about at the same time. This leaves their children in the position of entering and leaving schools only to enter new schools or return to the former settings frequently. The constant disruption of their education causes the Texan migrational students to miss important chunks of valuable learning time.
WHAT HAS BEEN DETERMINED
Children of migrant farm workers spend parts of each school year in different communities across the country; some children migrate back and forth between schools in Mexico and the U.S. (Martin, 1994). The hardships and rich experiences of this lifestyle provide educators with unique challenges and, at the same time, opportunities to learn and develop new strategies (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html)."
Studies of migrant workers have concluded that 94% of Texas workers are Hispanic and 80% of those are born in Mexico. Migrant family incomes are about $5,000 a year with many of the families living in substandard housing and suffer from medical problems caused by their occupation. There are several factors that have been determined as contributors to the high drop out rate of migrant family students. Some of these factors include traveling from area to area, difficulty with the English language and the inability to attend regularly due to their own work schedules or the work schedules of their parents (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html).
In many cases according to survey research students do not feel valued in the school system and that leads to discomfort, which in turn can lead to student dropouts. School systems in Texas can adopt several policies that can strengthen their ability to retain and educate the migrant student population. A statewide-standardized program for the education of migrant students should address several aspects of their needs. One of the most important things that can be done according to studies is to develop a mentorship program. When migrant students come into a school older students can be assigned to act as mentors for them. This will allow the migrant students to feel included and part of the school's culture and society. It is an important confidence builder for the migrant students and it will encourage them to put their best effort into catching up academically at each school. "Build on migrant students' strengths. Most migrant students have lived, traveled, and studied in several states. Teachers can incorporate into lessons these diverse experiences and the richness of students' cultures and languages (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html).Examples include recognizing migrant children for their travel experiences, knowledge of geography, and for overcoming crises on the highway. Building on these experiences and capabilities validates students' knowledge. Such validation enhances students' self-images and sense of self-worth (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html)."
Another thing that has been deemed helpful is to capitalize on the lifestyles of the migrant students (Coats, 2000). Asking them to share their travel experiences with the students in their class makes them less outcast and more intriguing. In addition each time a student leaves the class and a new student comes in the class can share the previous student with the new one and create a mini society and support system for the migrant students. Texas has a very large Migrant population and the mass majority of them are from Mexico. A statewide program for the education of migrant students should include the effort to teach the Mexican and other cultures to the classes. Using the culture of the migrant students takes the mystery out of them for the stationary students and allows them to get to know the migrant student lifestyles even while they are moving in and out of the classroom. "Teachers can read to students, generate discussion, and then have the students either write or share in groups some similarities and differences between the book's characters and the students' own lives. Such cultural material can be used in social studies, science, reading, or language arts (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html)."
One of the most valuable things a teacher can do for a migrant student is to teach the student to recognize when obstacles approach. Teaching the students of migrant families to recognize lapses in their previous education and speaking up for help, is a skill that they can use in every school they attend. The ability to do this will go a long way in the prevention of dropping out because the students will be less inclined to give up.
Individual methods for teaching subjects should also be taught to the migrant workers statewide as well. The strategies used in one school can be applied in other schools, especially if there is a statewide program to implement the same ideas. One example of a statewide standardized system of teaching migrant students is in the recognition of a breakdown in comprehension. This is a common problem among migrant students because of the language barriers and the constant travel between school systems that are at different levels of learning in various subjects. "Teachers instruct students to employ alternative strategies once they have recognized and determined a breakdown in comprehension. For example, if a student is reading and has difficulty understanding the text, he or she could apply some "fix-it" strategies (Baker & Brown, 1984), such as (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html) ignore and read on, anticipate the problem to be resolved by future information, make an educated guess based on prior knowledge, reflect on what has already been read, reread the current sentence or paragraph, or consult the glossary, encyclopedia, or teacher (Collins & Smith, 1980) (Instructional Strategies for Migrant Students. ERIC Digest. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed388491.html).
With an estimated 165,000 migrant students in the state it is imperative to provide statewide and standardized programs for the purpose of educating the migrant students. Recent investigations have isolated many of the things that set the migrant student apart from the stationary students. Some of the differences include the percentage of poverty and the problem with language barriers (Meeting the Needs of Migrant Students in Schoolwide Programs http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/PES/migrant2.html).
Principals across the state participated in a study to determine some of the things they felt migrant students needed that regular students did not. The things that came up outside of teaching academics included: