I recently learned from a visit with Enrique Lopez, NWESD Migrant Education Coordinator, that Washington has the second highest number of migrant students in the nation after California. In Washington State, over 24,000 identified migrant students attend our schools.
Who are our migrant students, you may ask? In Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations, a migratory child is defined as one "… who, in the preceding 36 months, in order to accompany or join a parent, spouse, or guardian who is a migratory agricultural worker or a migratory fisher, has moved from one school district to another …"
I know this can be a confusing definition, so, in other words, a migrant student is any student who has moved with his or her family (districts, county, state or national boundaries) within the previous three years seeking agriculture work. Agriculture work in this context indicates crops, dairy products, poultry, livestock, cultivating or harvesting trees and/or fishing. The definition of agriculture-specific jobs tends to confuse some of us, but really, it is a job sector where many of our local migrant families tend to work, including many of the migrant students in our school districts.
Often, due to the migratory nature of these students’ lives, many of these students fall behind in academic progress toward standards. Many migrant students start working after the age of 13, and it is very common that they help contribute to the total annual family income. According to the United States Department of Labor, the average family income for farmworkers in the United States in 2013-2014 is between $20,000 and $24,999 a year. This is also taking into account the income contributed by the migrant students towards their family income.
When migrant students arrive in our school districts, they also bring great assets with them. Finding the methods to engage migrant students where they feel comfortable enough to share their knowledge, culture and perspective can be challenging, and districts across the region are learning how to best serve these students and families. Many of the assets migrant students bring to our schools include leadership, cultural richness, a strong work ethic, family unity, dual language, experiences in diverse school cultures, agriculture knowledge/skills and much more.
Along with the great assets that our migrant students bring, educators find that there are also concerns. We refer to these concerns as Seven Areas of Concerns. These areas of concerns, once identified, allow educators to do their best to support the migrant students in their classrooms. The Seven Areas of Concerns are:
1) Educational Continuity
2) Instructional Time
3) School Engagement
4) English Language Development
5) Educational Support in the Home
7) Access to Services
These areas have been identified within a migrant student’s educational experience and this is where educators work to support migrant students to succeed. Doing so will help to close the achievement gap. It is understood that some students who are not migrant in your school may have a few of these concerns that apply to them. However, the Migrant Education Program (MEP) has concluded that all seven apply to migrant students. Together as a region, we will continue to explore the areas of concern and develop strategies to help close the achievement gap of migrant students.
To learn more please contact Enrique Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Eric Hall