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Boston College Researcher Awarded Grant to Study Student Supports for Immigrant Children

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (September 2011) – Boston College Lynch School of Education Associate Professor Eric Dearing has received a 3-year, $150,000 Young Scholar award from the Foundation for Child Development to examine support for immigrant students in high-poverty elementary schools.

Dearing, an expert in applied developmental psychology, will conduct the research at the Lynch School’s Center for Optimized Student Support, which is dedicated to developing the most effective ways to address the out-of-school factors that influence how students learn and thrive in school.

Eric Dearing

Dearing’s research will focus on immigrant children who are English Language Learners (ELL) receiving student support through City Connects, an intervention program in 17 Boston public elementary schools that has proven effective in improving academic achievement. The school-based intervention uses student support professionals to collaborate with teachers in reviewing the strengths and needs of children in elementary schools and connects each student to a tailored set of prevention, intervention, and enrichment services in the community.

“Immigrant students who are learning English are the fastest growing group of students in US schools and, as a group, they face exceptional barriers to school success,” said Dearing. “From a research perspective, this award is very exciting because it will allow me to take advantage of natural experiments and quasi-experiments as evaluation tools, providing the first careful examination of whether systematic student support can be used to promote the achievement of immigrant children.”

Nearly 25 percent of schoolchildren in the United States are immigrants or the children of immigrants who are disproportionately likely to grow up poor and attend schools that are not properly equipped to promote their learning.  Dearing’s study will inform policy decision makers on the value of systematic student support for improving the lives of immigrant children, in and out of school.

Dearing will focus on a series of questions that revolve around the effectiveness of specialized supports delivered to immigrant children through City Connects.

“We are thrilled by this award, which will allow for deeper research into an important subset of students served by City Connects,” said Lynch School Kearns Professor in Urban Education and Innovative Leadership Mary E. Walsh, the executive director of City Connects. “Eric’s research examining the challenges and opportunities for immigrant students will ultimately lead to improved achievement and thriving for these children.”

The Foundation for Child Development Young Scholars Program focuses on understanding the changing faces of the nation’s children as reflected in the current demography of the United States. The program seeks to support a new generation of scholars conducting research on the development of children in immigrant families from birth to age ten, particularly those who are living in low-income families.