Identification and Recruitment of Migrant Students:
Strategies and Resources. ERIC Digest.
by Melecio, Ray - Hanley, Thomas J.
Interrupted schooling, low socioeconomic status, as well as language
and cultural differences are primary causes for many migrant children's
poor performance in school (Lopez, Scribner, & Mahitivanichcha, 2001;
U.S. Department of Education, 1994). The goal of the federal Migrant Education
Program is to minimize the negative health, developmental, and educational
effects caused by constant mobility and interrupted schooling. A primary
activity of the program involves considerable efforts to identify and recruit
children eligible for services. Finding migrant children, however, is not
an easy task. This Digest provides an overview of how to develop a realistic
and workable system for quickly finding and enrolling eligible students.
KNOWING THE REGION/STATE
The first step for the recruiter is to develop a picture of the region's
agriculture, processing, and fishing industries to facilitate the search
for migrant children. There are many sources for this information:
Department of Agriculture. Provides current information on land use,
types of crops grown and processed, future harvesting trends, crop expansion
(or reduction), and more.
State Department of Labor (DOL). Provides information on the whereabouts
of farm labor. When farmers use more than a certain number of farm laborers,
they are required by law to report this information to the DOL. A list
of such farms can be obtained.
Cooperative Extension Programs. Provide information on a variety of
farm-related issues through county extension agents who visit local farms
and through key contacts at land grant colleges and universities. Agriculture
faculty at these institutions often can provide valuable insights on changing
harvesting trends, use of labor, mechanization of crops, and the human
and political implications of these changes.
Other Regulatory Agencies. Provide information on regulations they monitor.
For example, knowing the state's regulations regarding housing can facilitate
finding eligible families by providing answers to questions such as "Is
housing provided by the farmer?" or "Is housing adequate for families or
for single men?"
PLANNING AND LOGISTICS
After gathering information about agricultural and fishing activities
in the region, a recruitment plan should be developed (Johnson & Rivera,
1989). The plan should take into account input from those already working
with the migrant population and provide strategies for administrators and
recruiters. The plan should include at least the following components:
Hiring recruiters. Successful recruiters typically possess an empathy
and dedication that motivates them to do whatever it takes to meet the
needs of migrant children and their families (Lopez et al., 2001). Hiring
such people thus becomes key to a successful recruitment program. Other
qualities of a good recruiter include being patient, down-to-earth, and
willing to work flexible hours (California Department of Education, 1997;
Johnson, 1989; Johnson & Rivera, 1989; Migrant Student Records System
[MSRS], 2001; Virginia Migrant Education Program, 2001). The job requires
a person who is willing to drive back roads, work at night, knock on doors
in rural and poor neighborhoods, fend off barking dogs, and enter residences
alone to solicit personal information to fill out an eligibility form.
This job is not for the faint of heart. Good recruiters are people who
are as comfortable talking to a school principal at the central office
as to a recently arrived immigrant in a tomato field.
Because the migrant education program provides services to families
from many different cultures and countries, it is best to hire recruiters
of the same cultural or language group as the families being served. Speaking
the same language and understanding the culture of the clients help facilitate
the recruitment process (Johnson, 1989). Sometimes, though, it is difficult
to find such people. In these cases, trained translators should be available
to assist recruiters.
Deploying recruiters. Because the migrant education program has limited
resources, the strategic deployment of recruiters is crucial. One efficient
strategy is to obtain a list of recently arrived families from school districts
(this can be difficult for non-school-based recruiters). The list can then
be reviewed to identify families engaged in agricultural or fishing activities.
Building a recruitment network. A strategy such as the one mentioned
above depends upon maintaining good relationships with local organizations
and individuals who have direct contact with the farmworker population,
such as schools, agencies, churches, migrant parents, and employers (Johnson,
1989; Lopez et al., 2001; MSRS, 2001; Rudes & Willette, 1990). These
organizations and people become a recruiter's eyes and ears in the field
(MSRS, 2001; Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program, 1999). Migrant program
administrators can help by contacting school superintendents, employers
of agricultural workers, and directors of other organizations that work
with migrants to inform them about the program and its benefits to migrant
children and youth. Recruiters can also help establish an interagency council
of service providers.
Staying informed about program services. Because recruiters are the
program's frontline force, they both "represent" the migrant program and,
in many cases, "are" the program. Recruiters must have a detailed working
knowledge of all the services offered by the program and other agencies
(Johnson & Rivera, 1989; Wright, 1986).
Training of recruiters is key to the quality of any recruitment effort.
Recruiters need to know about the statutes and regulations, and they need
a variety of other skills including those described below:
Determining eligibility. Perhaps the most important role of the recruiters
is to determine the eligibility of children into the migrant program (Johnson
& Rivera, 1989; U.S. Department of Education, 1994; Wright, 1986).
Recruiters must document basic demographic data, information related to
the family's movement, and questions that pertain to the type of agriculture
or fishing work done by the adolescent migrant worker or parents.
Assessing families' needs. Although the recruiter will enroll all eligible
children and youth ages 0-21, the migrant education program has limited
resources and cannot address all the children's and families' identified
needs. Therefore, the program must develop a profile of the families' resources
to meet the immediate needs as quickly as possible. The recruiter can be
key in helping to conduct this initial assessment and also in helping a
migrant family address its immediate concerns, providing referrals and
information, and making them feel welcome in the new community.
Appropriately serving all eligible migrant children. While not all enrolled
migrant children will receive the same level of services from the program,
recruiters are still required to enroll all migrant children in their area.
Migrant children, whether or not they receive direct or "visible" services
(such as extended day or summer program) will still receive some of the
"invisible" services provided by recruiters. Some of these services include
advocacy in schools, referrals to other agencies, and parent training activities.
However, recruiters must be well trained in documenting eligibility to
avoid problems in program audits.
Working within language and culture customs. While it is preferred to
have recruiters who can speak the families' native language or understand
their cultural nuances, hiring such recruiters is not always possible.
In these cases it is important that staff members are trained in the basics
of the culture and language of the migrants they are recruiting in order
to avoid misconceptions or misunderstandings. Questions such as, "Can a
male recruiter enter a house without the father at home?" or, "Is it appropriate
to accept/refuse food in the family's house?" should be discussed in training
sessions. Having a basic knowledge of the "do's" and "don'ts" of the culture
can go a long way when the recruiter is acting as the initial ambassador
for the program (Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program, 1999).
Staying safe. Because of the type of job performed, recruiters probably
face more hazards than other employees in a school system (Johnson, 1989).
Examples of common policies implemented to protect recruiters include working
in pairs in certain locations, not driving in hazardous conditions, and
avoiding recruiting when temperatures are too high or too low. Safety issues
will vary by region.
Community-based recruitment. Although many eligible migrant children
can be found at school during the school year, preschool children, school-aged
children during the summer, children of illegal immigrants, and young adults
who do not attend school can be missed by a school-based recruiter. Identifying
these populations requires a year-round community-based approach. Local
Head Start programs, churches, and social service agencies are some places
out-of-school children and youth may be found (MSRS, 2001; Virginia Migrant
Education Program, 2001).
An important part of any quality control system is an independent review
or "friendly" audit. As diligent as states or districts might be in their
efforts to ensure the integrity of their Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
and the honesty of their recruiters, an occasional review by people who
are not a regular part of the system is generally considered to be beneficial.
Sampling the COEs for accurate eligibility data and other concerns should
be a part of the process. The establishment of a monitoring process, either
formal or informal, can help any program update and improve its quality
A good recruitment system, like agriculture itself, is changing and
dynamic. It needs adequate resources dedicated to its maintenance. By hiring
the right people, preparing them with quality training, supporting them
with caring administrators, and constantly monitoring the system for improvement,
it can ensure that the migrant children and families who are eligible for
the migrant education program will receive the services they are entitled
California Department of Education, Migrant Education Office. (1997).
California handbook for identification and recruitment. Sacramento, CA:
California Migrant Education Office.
Johnson, L. (1989). Recruiting migrant students: Recruiter's guide.
Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Migrant Education.
Johnson, L., & Rivera, V. A. (1989). Recruiting migrant students:
Administrator's guide. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Migrant Education.
Lopez, G. R., Scribner, J. D., & Mahitivanichcha, K. (2001). Redefining
parental involvement: Lessons from high-performing migrant-impacted schools.
American Educational Research Journal, 38(2), 253-288.
Migrant Student Records System (MSRS). (2001). Identification and recruitment
handbook. Sunnyside, WA: Washington State Migrant Education Program.
Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program. (1999). National identification
and recruitment: Recruiter's guide. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department
Rudes, B. A., & Willette, J. L. (1990). Handbook of effective migrant
education practices. Final report. Volume I: Findings. Report prepared
for the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Budget and Evaluation.
Arlington, VA: Development Associates, Inc. (ERIC Document Reproduction
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U.S. Department of Education. (1994). Preliminary guidance for migrant
education program, Title I, Part C, Public Law 103-382. Washington, DC:
Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA). Retrieved December 13,
2002, from http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/MEP/PrelimGuide/eseaptc.html
Virginia Migrant Education Program. (2001). Recruiter's manual. Richmond,
VA: Virginia Department of Education.
Wright, A. (Ed.). (1986). Systematic methodology for accounting in recruiter
training: SMART manual. Louisiana Department of Education.