Struggles, Resistance, and Solidarity
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated persistent educational inequities and added exponentially to the existing “education debt” (Ladson-Billings, 2006). Public schools’ sudden shift to remote learning marginalized a large population of students, including young bilingual children from immigrant backgrounds. These students are among the most vulnerable when it comes to remote learning not only because of accessibility issues, but also because many of these students’ families live in underserved and under-resourced communities that were negatively affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent systemic racism (Fortuna et al., 2020; Schmit et al., 2020). Hence, there is an urgent need to understand pandemic-related experiences of immigrant families with young bilingual children and to respond with educational strategies that strive to mitigate the negative effects of this educational crisis. This dissertation study comprised of three papers addresses this need through a collaborative project with 20 immigrant families with 42 young bilingual children and two community organizations from the Metro and Greater Boston Area. Paper 1 used sequential mixed methods to provide an in-depth account of immigrant families' remote learning experiences and investigate structural barriers such as lack of support and oppressive practices that hindered the establishment of home-school connections during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paper 2 employed transformative mixed methods to document the development, implementation, and evaluation of a family engagement and remote learning program—the Home Connection. This program was firmly grounded in the equitable collaboration framework of family engagement to build a strong partnership with the family participants and to recognize the crucial roles of the families as co-designers, co-educators, co-researchers, and co-evaluators. Paper 3 is a practitioner inquiry reflecting on what I have learned as a teacher-researcher implementing culturally sustaining pedagogy to partner with immigrant families and teach young bilingual children from diverse backgrounds during pandemic remote learning. Findings from this dissertation documenting the struggles, resistance, and solidarity of these immigrant families will help inform educators, administrators, and policymakers in their planning and delivering of learning experiences and family engagement initiatives that center on the motivation, needs, and assets of diverse students and their families.