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New Report Explores Innovation of Educators in Immigrant-Serving Districts

The policy report from the Immigration Initiative at Harvard looks at how six districts are adapting and connecting with communities in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and school closure.
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Read the issue brief:

Connectivity and Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Immigrant Serving Districts Respond to the Pandemic (available in English and Spanish).

A new policy report released yesterday by the Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH) with the PIECE (Putting Immigration and Education in Conversation Everyday) research collaborative reports cutting-edge findings on how six immigrant-serving school districts are adapting and connecting with communities in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. It includes case studies and quotes from educators on the front line. The report is the fifth piece of research to be released as part of IIH’s Research Series, an ongoing initiative to disseminate rigorous, non-partisan, and non-ideological research on immigration issues across a broad range of disciplines and perspectives.
"When the pandemic hit, we felt a sense of urgency to respond to the inequalities that were laid bare and exacerbated by the crisis," says Rebecca Lowenhaupt, associate professor of educational leadership at Boston College, co-author of the report, and founding member and principal investigator of the present study. "At the same time, we were inspired by the innovative responses of our district partners, who demonstrated commitment and creativity in supporting immigrant students during school closures this Spring. As districts prepare for the uncertainty of the new school year, we wanted to share immediate insights from our conversations with the hope it might help other immigrant-serving districts grappling with similar dilemmas."
Since 2018, the PIECE research team has worked in partnership with six immigrant-serving school districts across the country to identify promising practices to support immigrant-origin youth and work toward reducing the inequalities they face.   

Key Findings

Based on two meetings in mid-May of 2020, this issue brief presents some initial findings from this research in progress. Among other key findings, it reports that:

  • The disproportionate and inequitable impacts of COVID-19 nationally mean that immigrant communities face added burdens on their physical and mental health, in addition to economic disparities. These increasing concerns, combined with ongoing efforts to restrict immigration, limit access to educational opportunity.
  • Immigrant-serving districts have grappled with these challenges as they seek ways to ameliorate inequalities exposed and deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • School districts can support immigrant-origin students and families during this time by creating innovative strategies to meet families’ basic resource-related needs, developing rapid-response equitable instructional policies that center students and their needs, and prioritizing relationships and communication in a way that is sensitive to the specific needs of immigrant families.

"It's like we're all in the storm, but on different boats. Some people are in a yacht, some on a raft, some have no boat at all," said a district administrator in Texas who was interviewed for the research. "We have a responsibility as humans to help one another, but especially as educators, it's compounded. In this storm, our role is to really help kids and their families get through this."
About the PIECE Research Collaborative
Funded by the W.T. Grant and Spencer Foundations, the PIECE research collaborative was established in 2017 with the goal of “putting immigration and education in conversation everyday” by examining the educational implications of increasingly restrictive immigration policy in the United States. Led by a team of researchers at Boston College, City University of New York’s Graduate Center, the University of Washington, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the research-practice partnership involves district and school administrators in six immigrant-serving school districts around the U.S.  

About the Immigration Initiative at Harvard
The Immigration Initiative at Harvard was created to advance and promote interdisciplinary scholarship, original research, and intellectual exchange among stakeholders interested in immigration policy and immigrant communities. The IIH serves as a place of convening for scholars, students, and policy leaders working on issues of immigration — and a clearinghouse for rapid response, non-partisan research and usable knowledge relevant to the media, policymakers, and community practitioners.


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