Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Evidence-Based Interventions for Immigrant Students Experiencing Behavioral and Academic Problems: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Evidence-Based Interventions for Immigrant Students Experiencing Behavioral and Academic Problems: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Article excerpt


The purpose of the present research review is to identify effective, high quality school-based interventions for immigrant students with disabilities or academic and behavioral problems. A systematic review of the literature was conducted to synthesize international research studies. Initial and criteria-based selection processes yielded six intervention studies published between 1975 and 2010. Two of the studies are academic interventions while four are behavioral interventions. Three studies were conducted in the United States while the remaining three in Israel, Canada, and Norway. The identified studies were evaluated against the quality indicators of special education research. Three experimental studies met the minimum criteria for acceptable methodological rigor. The results show an urgent need for methodologically robust intervention studies in the field of special education for immigrant students. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

KEYWORDS: Immigrant Students, Migration Stress, Behavioral and Academic Challenges, Evidence-Based Interventions, International Research

Immigrant students are the fastest growing student population in the United States (Capps et al., 2005; Suarez-Orozco, Suarez-Orozco, & Todorova, 2010). Cultural and linguistic diversity that immigrant youth bring to the United States are vital resources, which could provide opportunities for enriching academic and social contexts of U.S. schools for all students. This process demands that educators understand and adequately address diverse strengths, needs, and interests of immigrant students through evidence-based interventions. Historically, immigrant students, especially immigrant students with disabilities or general academic and behavior difficulties, experience negative educational and post-school outcomes (Arzubiaga, Noguer-on & Sullivan, 2009). Moreover, current policy initiatives, litigations, and school-wide prevention programs (e.g., No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Response to Intervention [RTI], and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports [PBIS]) have created an increasing demand for educators to use evidence-based instruction and interventions (Sugai & Horner, 2009). The present review addresses what the evidence-based interventions are for immigrant students experiencing academic and behavioral difficulties or identified with emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD).

On Immigrant Students

Immigrant is an umbrella term for foreign-born youth and for first generation youth from immigrant families. In the United States, immigrant children account for 10-15% of youth under the age of 18 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). It is expected that this percentage will rise to about 30% in the next few decades (Passel, 2011). Although relative risk ratios vary by country of origin, on average, immigrant students experience significantly higher rates of school failure and dropout and at risk for disability (e.g., physical disabilities, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]; Suarez-Orozco et al., 2010). It is imperative for practitioners and researchers in the field of EBD to address the psychosocial aspects of immigration where individual factors (e.g., prior educational experience and resiliency) intersect with social and educational barriers in the resettlement countries (e.g., social rejection and prejudice) that result in negative outcomes (Harry, Arnaiz, Klingner, & Sturges, 2008; Suarez-Orozco et al., 2010). In the present review, we excluded youth identified as refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people as those youth's psychological, social and legal experiences and challenges may be different than that of immigrants (Bal & Arzubiaga, 2013; Birman, 2002).

Though immigrant youth are often equipped with rich individual and cultural resources, the transition to an unfamiliar country is arduous. Immigrant youth from nondominant racial/ethnic and linguistic backgrounds can encounter immense psychological and structural challenges. …

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