"I GO TO SCHOOL TO LEARN": ATTITUDES, STRESSORS, AND SUPPORTS IN THE SCHOOL EXPERIENCES OF YOUNG LATINO IMMIGRANT STUDENTS
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Immigrant children encounter various challenges involved in immigration, as well as cultural and language differences in school. These school experiences can lead to academic challenges, socioemotional difficulties, or special education referral. The present research assumed a developmental-ecological perspective to investigate school experiences and attitudes. This study explored the perceptions of a small group (n = 28) of recently immigrated 1st to 5th grade Latino children as ethnic and linguistic minorities in their schools. This mixed-methods investigation used the School Situation Survey (Helms & Gable, 1989) and a School Attitudes Interview (García Coll, et al., 2005) to explore student perceptions of school, the stress and supports they encounter, and attitudes towards schoolwork, classmates and teachers. Using a Family Background Survey completed by parents, contextual influences on student perceptions were also examined. Students had relatively low levels of stress and stress responses. Principal stressors for these students included teacher and peer interactions. School meal program participation (SES), special education, grade/age and length of residency were found to be significantly related to school stress and stress responses. Analysis did not show ESL instruction or parent variables as having a relationship with school stress, although limited English proficiency influenced students' dependency on friends, communication with teachers, and academic frustration. Students were generally positive about teachers, friends, learning, and school. Older students and students with longer U. S. residency had more negative attitudes towards teachers and school. Interview data revealed 3 themes: Expectations, Priorities: Learning, Behavior, and Performance, and Supportive Relationships. Implications for research, practice, policy and training are discussed, focusing on maintaining young students' positive aspirations, incorporating family support, and school awareness of immigrant students' needs. In hopes of understanding immigrant students' experiences in school and better addressing their needs, this research benefits both the field and practitioners in illustrating the specific viewpoints of young, 1st generation Latino students, and highlighting their strengths and needs in the U.S. school system.