Binational cooperation for high school ELL immigrant students : the LUCHA program at UT Austin
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This dissertation is a qualitative case study of a program where binational program established by the University of Texas to lower the Hispanic high school dropout rate in the United States. The Language Learners at the University of Texas at Austin Center for Hispanic Achievement (LUCHA) program is the focus of this dissertation. The LUCHA program serves immigrant Hispanic students who account for 34% of the 45% Hispanic dropout rate reported by NCES. The theoretical framework employed included the theories of cultural and social capital and the theory of caring to answer the following questions: 1) What challenges had to be met in order to initiate and develop the LUCHA program, a binational education program to combat the high dropout rate among Latino immigrants?, and 2) What can be learned from the implementation and practice of the LUCHA program in school districts with almost identical, homogenous population, and different levels of success with the program. Data was collected in Mexico and the United States and included participants involved in the program at different levels ranging form political involvement in Mexico to immigrant students in South Texas Valley school districts where the program started operations in 2006. The researcher was a participant in this study. The innovative ideas developed and instituted to reduce the Hispanic dropout rate included equipping schools with essential/core and English as a Second Language courses produced in Mexico, validating prior high school credits students had from Mexico through a transcript analysis service, obtaining Mexican transcripts for immigrant students who could not deliver them to schools, and diagnostic tests produced in Mexico for immigrant students with interrupted schooling. These services and their delivery were modified and adapted to meet the changing needs and graduation requirements of students and the educational bureaucracy in the U.S. This study brings to light the skills sets, assumptions, and characteristics of people needed to create binational agreements of cooperation. This research suggests that the perception of caring (Noddings, 1984) of educational agents in schools and school districts influences the level of success of the program in schools with almost identical populations.