School-Family-Community Partnerships: Strategies for School Counselors Working with Caribbean Immigrant Families

By Mitchell, Natasha A.; Bryan, Julia A. | Professional School Counseling, April 2007 | Go to article overview

School-Family-Community Partnerships: Strategies for School Counselors Working with Caribbean Immigrant Families


Mitchell, Natasha A., Bryan, Julia A., Professional School Counseling


Caribbean immigrant students, who represent one of the largest subgroups in the Black population in the United States, are experiencing negative educational outcomes that are related to poor academic achievement and high dropout rates. These academic problems have been partially connected to the negative experiences Caribbean students and their families have within schools, particularly poor interactions with school personnel (Albertini, 2004; Fine et al., 2004). This article discusses the cultural values, historical experiences, and socio-political issues of Caribbean immigrants as a foundation for understanding appropriate school counseling interventions in working with this population. Specifically, the use of school-family-community partnerships to encourage positive interactions among Caribbean students, their families, and school personnel is discussed as a means to promote high academic achievement for Caribbean immigrant students. Specific strategies for counselors working with Caribbean immigrants within the context of such partnerships are provided.

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Educational achievement is important for all students. When students do not fully develop their academic skills and/or drop out of school, they take with them educational deficiencies that significantly decrease their economic and social well-being over the lifespan (Santrock, 2002). Black student populations in the United States, including Caribbean immigrants, disproportionately experience economic and occupational problems that are partially rooted in achievement difficulties. Therefore, improvement of academic achievement in Caribbean student populations is extremely important given the correlation between school achievement and positive outcomes over the lifespan (Marsh, 1990; Santrock).

The achievement gap among student subpopulations (Dworkin & Dworkin, 1999) and the resulting high dropout rates among minority groups have been well documented in the literature (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Fine et al. (2004) found that 72% of Caribbean students believe that there is an achievement gap, and the authors' analyses of student transcripts confirmed this belief. Whereas 64% of White students participated in advanced placement/honors courses, only 46% of Caribbean students participated in those same courses; even when the comparison was made between students who have college-educated parents, the gap still existed (Fine et al.). Caribbean middle school students in Florida's Miami-Dade County (the area with the second largest concentration of Caribbean immigrants) on average had a GPA below 2.0 (Albertini, 2004). In New York City, the area with the largest numbers of Caribbean immigrants, the Board of Education determined that the high school dropout rate for Caribbean students was 23.53% among males and 19.66% among females (Udeogalanya, 1995). Rong and Brown (2001) reported that 56.1% of first-generation Caribbean immigrants (ages 17-24) completed high school, while 62% of White first-generation immigrants completed high school. High school dropouts, in comparison to high school graduates, are more than twice as likely to be unemployed or underemployed (Dworkin & Dworkin).

Several authors have attributed the high dropout rate among Caribbean immigrant students to the negative experiences they have within public schools in the United States (Albertini, 2004; Nieto, 2000). Caribbean parents and children typically do not receive adequate, culturally competent counseling services, which affects their academic outcomes and ultimately limits their life chances (Constantine & Gushue, 2003; Gopaul-McNicol, 1993; Reynolds, 1999). The inappropriate services provided by some counselors may be due to their negative perceptions of Caribbean immigrants. Constantine and Gushue found that school counselors with higher levels of racism were less aware of immigrant students' cultural issues and may ultimately limit their well-being. …

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