Educational justice for undocumented students: How school counselors encourage student persistence in schools


  • Emily Crawford University of Missouri, Columbia
  • Fernando Valle Texas Tech University



undocumented students, school leadership, school counseling, advocacy


School counselors are critical intermediaries in K-12 schools who can help students from undocumented immigrant families persist in school. Yet, a dearth of research exists about their advocacy work, or the range of efforts they make to support unauthorized youth. This paper asks, 1) what challenges do counselors face and strive to overcome to promote undocumented students’ persistence in school?; and 2) what strategies do counselors use to encourage students to persist? Data come from an embedded case study with seven school counselors and a family intervention specialist in two Texas school districts on the U.S.-Mexico border. The findings revealed that two of participants’ biggest challenges in terms of student persistence—and their strategies to help—related to complexities arising from students commuting across the border to school and students’ transient living situations. Despite participants networking on behalf of students and families, forming partnerships and seeking services for students and families, counselors recognized limits to their efforts. Policies impeded their assistance, and events that were out of their control inhibited them from potentially acting as empowering agents for students in critical ways. While counselors can develop strong, trusting school-student partnerships to encourage student persistence, more research must explore how school leaders can act as empowerment agents and build capacity to serve newly arrived or undocumented families.


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Author Biographies

Emily Crawford, University of Missouri, Columbia

Emily Crawford is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her research interests include the ethics of educational leadership, immigration and education policy, and paths to educational equity for undocumented students.

Fernando Valle, Texas Tech University

Fernando Valle is an associate professor of Educational Leadership at Texas Tech University. After serving as a teacher, school counselor, and principal, he moved into university work and the professoriate. Dr. Valle leads $12 million in U.S. Department of Education federal grants including the i3 Innovation and Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) TAP Connect National Pilot and the LIFT Program which seek to improves classroom practice, instructional coaching and instructional leadership. Dr. Valle collaborates with scholars nationally to mentor and develop Latina/o Leaders and research Latina/os across the Educational Leadership pipeline.




How to Cite

Crawford, E., & Valle, F. (2016). Educational justice for undocumented students: How school counselors encourage student persistence in schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 98.