Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Resources and Reflections on Migrant Education Programs



"Our migrant children ...

they are our only hope ...
Like seedlings, they have been sown in your school.
It is our wish they blossom into harvests of hope."
-Author unknown


Source: Illinois Migrant Education Program brochure

This time of year most teachers are packing up their classrooms and beginning their summer vacations. But a number of educators around the country are unpacking boxes, setting up their summer programs, and welcoming new children into their classrooms right now. But these are no ordinary summer school programs. The teachers I am talking about are those working in migrant education programs. 

Each year thousands of children and their families move in order to work in the agricultural or fishing industries. Collectively, these families are considered migrant agricultural workers.  For many migrant children, their life experiences are impacted by substandard housing, poor nutrition, low wages and seasonal work. Repeatedly moving in order to find employment can impact students' academic achievement. Therefore, the goal of migrant education programs is to reduce the impact of these issues on the children's education. Illinois alone identified over 1,700 children through its Migrant Education Program during the 2011-2012 school year.

Each summer I look forward to attending and presenting at our local conference for migrant program educators.  Last week's conference was no different. The theme was "Continuing the Journey: Migrant Education in the Land of Lincoln." As I reconnected with colleagues I had met in years past, I couldn't help but ponder the wonderful work that migrant educators are doing each summer. As seeds are sown and produce is harvested, families move to work the fields. Awaiting them are caring, supportive teachers eager to provide them with instruction. As you might imagine, some children of migrant farm workers are English language learners. Therefore I typically present on topics related to ELLs. But each year I am intrigued to learn more about the inter-state collaborations that take place to better identify, serve and share relevant information about migrant children. I am also awestruck by the stories I hear and the passion and dedication of the teachers who serve migrant students. This year a teacher shared her experiences in the "migrant stream" and what it was like to raise her children as they moved from place to place. In the 1990s, her family settled permanently in Illinois. Now she works as a teacher in the summer migrant program. The keynote speaker this year, WIDA's very own Susana Ibarra Johnson, shared her insights and personal experiences growing up in a migrant farmworker family. She shared that the strong oral traditions in her family and other families can be a resource for classroom teachers. During their travels, her father often related stories like La Llorona and Cucui and adivinanzas (riddles) to help entertain the children. She remembered fondly some of the dichos (sayings) that her parents related. Susana inspired the conference participants to see themselves as cultivators, guides and architects of learning. She also shared a resource, Literacy Con Cariño. This book is a wonderful resource for understanding the unique needs of teaching migrant students. It also underscores the benefits of using dialogue journals. Read this online book review.
For a list of children's books about the life experiences of agricultural workers, visit Colorín Colorado.
For more information on federal programs for migrant students, visit the US DOE Office of Migrant Education page.
For an inside look at migrant working and living conditions, watch Invisible America a short YouTube video.



Written by: Tammy King

Image of teen: www.freedigitalphotos.net

Migrant Education logo: http://migrant-education.aurorak12.org/


  1. Tammy, this is a spectacular post. Interesting, heart warming, useful, and resourceful. You go, girl!

  2. Wow... so well done, Tammy. I am going to share this throughout my network. Thanks again for all of your insight this past week at the statewide MEP conference. It was a pleasure to work with you. I hope to see you again soon!

  3. I truly enjoyed reading your post Tammy. I work with both migrant and ELL students and loved that you emphasized Susanna Ibarra Johnson's message that these students' experiences and knowledge can be utilized in the classroom as a resource to enhance the learning of all. When teachers are able to realize and capitalize on this knowledge, the effectiveness of their teaching will soar.

    I also appreciated the resources and links you posted. I will be utilizing them as I prepare for the upcoming school year.

    1. Amy, I'm glad the post resonated with you and gave you some new resources. Please feel free to share additional resources in the comments section.

    2. I work with both migrant and ELL students and one program that was extremely beneficial for my students was Paths To Scholarships (Scholarship Fund and Migrant Scholarships www.needcollegemoney.com) Through this program students were able to learn what they need to do to be accepted into colleges, how to write a good scholarship letter, and were provided with numerous resources that were beneficial for both students and parents. I would highly recommend this program.

  4. Masud
    I really enjoyed this article. But for me as a parent to 3 lovely kids age ranges between 2 to 8 years old. I much more like them to stay at home rather than going outside and running around streets and meeting strangers that will cause dangers to them. Of course we admit that Tablets and smartphones can cause dangers too but is more far from getting abducted, raped and so on. I have introduced them to advance technology as this is a part of our society now and every kid as I believed should be entitled to know more about it since in this generation it is a big plus for kids now who knows technology and eventually use it for the future. All parent should do is know how to control and limit their playing time. And base on my research while struggling to limit my kids playing games on tablets and smartphones I have landed to a very helpful to all that limit what time they can use the tablet, control them and at the same time help them study mathematics. This Screenshot Ninja helps us parents to monitor them while we are busy working. So when their play time expires and they still want to play more they have to solve mathematics problem to gain more. Yeah its fantastic! As I have seen my daughters passionately solving it to gain more play time credits even my 3 year old daughter is asking me, "MOMMY what's the answer to 2+7?" and I let her count and then all I know is that my daughter can solve math now. :D
    Here's the wonderful app's link: http://bit.ly/screentimeninja