Investigating the headwater : an examination of the PK-12 student experiences of Mexican-American PK-12 educators to promote authentic educator recruitment strategies
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Solorzano, Villalpando, and Oseguera (2005) posited that "the underachievement and underrepresentation of Latinas and Latinos at each point in the educational pipeline might be better explained by investigating the educational conditions at the elementary and secondary 'headwater'" (p. 276). In this dissertation, a critical collective case study examined the perceptions of PK-12 Latino educators (specifically, those of Mexican-American descent) regarding their personal experiences as students in the PK-12 milieu, and how those perceptions may have positively or adversely impacted their consideration of education as a career. Through data analysis of the elementary and secondary “headwater” (Solorzano et al.), the researcher sought to determine ways in which transformative PK-16 educational leaders can fashion authentic strategies to bolster the future recruitment of talented Latino students. The participants for this collective case study consisted of six practicing PK-12 educators - two elementary, one middle-level, and three secondary. Data collection methods included audio-recorded interviews and observations in the school setting. Two themes emerged with one clear constant: the Role of Relational Support (via the three subthemes of Educators, Family, and Community) and the Role of Institutional Support (via the three subthemes of Increased Student Expectations, Building Capacity, and Cultural and Socioeconomic Awareness and Validation). The researcher identified strategic recommendations for transformative PK-16 educational leaders to bolster the recruitment of Latino students into the PK-12 education ranks. First, as supported by Bourdieu (1986), Lin (2001), Portes (1998), and Yosso (2005), Latino youth need to accumulate at least as much (if not more) social capital as their majority peers to secure resources through durable social networks to access information, influence, and social credentials while reinforcing and recognizing their Latino identity (Lin) with the "instrumental and emotional support [necessary] to navigate through society's institutions" (Yosso, p. 79). Secondly, critical collaboration is needed among PK-16 educational leaders to curtail the perpetuation of subtractive schooling (Venezuela, 1999) institutional practices via programs that could significantly bolster Latino participation and achievement in postsecondary education (Weiher et al., 2006) while providing both students and parents added social capital to navigate the often-convoluted transition process from PK-12 to postsecondary institutions. The implications of this inquiry for practice in education could affect both K-12 institutions and higher education institutions as they reflect on existing practices, most of which are predicated upon majoritarian norms (Huber, Lopez, Malagon, Velez, & Solorzano, 2008), so as to cultivate an authentic commitment to diversity with educational practices that respect and validate the unique cultural (and socioeconomic) qualities that Latino youth bring to school each day. It is the intent of the researcher that more institutions will infuse the relational and institutional support necessary to address (and someday ameliorate) the professional epidemic (Ramirez, 2009) of the inverse growth of PK-12 Latino educators relative to the American population as a whole.
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