Cultivating Capital for High School Newcomers: A Case Study of an Urban Newcomer Classroom

Abstract views: 12440 / PDF downloads: 1239


  • Rabia Hos University of Rhode Island
  • Kayon Murray-Johnson University of Rhode Island
  • Amy Correia University of Rhode Island



newcomers, English learners, social and cultural capital, newcomer programs


This qualitative case study examines how students in a high school newcomer program experience the development of social and cultural capital. Newcomer programs are created by K-12 schools with large influxes of refugees and immigrants.  This case study data stems from a larger ethnographic study of a newcomer program at Georgetown High, an urban secondary school in the Northeast region of the United States. Using Bourdieu’s (1986) social and cultural capital theory as a framework for the study we provide an overview of the literature on the importance of helping newcomers build social and cultural capital. Themes arising from the data as representations of the experiences of newcomers building capital and the role of the teacher in that development is explored further. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications of the case for research, policy, and practice.


Download data is not yet available.


Albers, S., Hellermann, J., & Harris K. (2007). A case of a student with little prior formal education: Success and interactional practices in the language classroom. Proceedings of the third annual forum for low-educated second language and literacy acquisition: Research, policy, and practice, 109-124.

Alogali, A. (2018). World Englishes: Changing the Paradigm of Linguistic Diversity in Global Academia. Research In Social Sciences And Technology, 3(1), 54-73. Retrieved from DOI:

Bigelow, M. H. (2007). Social and cultural capital at school: The case of a Somali teenage girl. Literacy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University, 7-22. Retrieved from

Borden, R. S. (2014). The English Only Movement: Revisiting Cultural Hegemony. Multicultural Perspectives, 16(4), 229–233. doi:10.1080/15210960.2014.956607 DOI:

Bourdieu, P. (1973). The three forms of theoretical knowledge. Information (International Social Science Council), 12(1), 53–80. doi:10.1177/053901847301200103 DOI:

Bourdieu, P. (1977). The production of belief: Contribution to an economy of symbolic goods. Media, Culture, and Society, 2, 261-293. doi:10.1177/016344378000200305 DOI:

Bourdieu, P. (1979). Symbolic Power. Critique of Anthropology, 4(13–14), 77–85. doi:10.1177/0308275X7900401307 DOI:

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. Cultural theory: An anthology. Wiley-Blackwell.

Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: On the theory of action. Stanford: Stanford University.

Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society, and culture. London: Sage.

Brooks, K., & Karathanos, K. (2009). Building on the cultural and linguistic capital of English learner (EL) students. Multicultural Education, 16(4), 47-51. Retrieved from

Callahan, R. M., & Shifrer, D. (2016). Equitable Access for Secondary English Learner Students: Course Taking as Evidence of EL Program Effectiveness. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(3), 463–496. DOI:

Carr, E. R., & Incetas, Y. (2018). Perceptions & Experiences of Non-Muslim Minority Students on the Muslim Image. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 5(2), 43-52. DOI:

Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory, Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Curry, M. J. (2001). Adult ESL students in the contact zone: Exploring the effects of multiple educational attainment levels on the community college writing classroom. Retrieved from

Curry, M. J. (2003). Skills, access, and ‘basic writing’: A community college case study from the United States. Studies in the Education of Adults, 35(1), 5–18. Retrieved from DOI:

Curry, M. J. (2007). A “head start and a credit”: Analyzing cultural capital in the basic writing/ESOL classroom. Pierre Bourdieu and literacy education, 291-310. Routledge.

Dimitriadou, A. (2006). Formation of social capital for refugee students: An exploration of ESOL settings in two further education colleges. The Journal of Doctoral Research in Education, 4(1), 31-45.

Dotson, J. M. (2001). Cooperative learning structures can increase student achievement. Kagan Online Magazine, Retrieved from: rationale/ increase_achievement.php

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. J. (2008). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model. Pearson. DOI:

Estrada, P. (2014). English learner curricular streams in four middle schools: Triage in the trenches. Urban Review, 46, 535- 573. DOI:

Faltis, C., & Arias, B. (2007). English language learners task force: A response to the proposed structured English immersion models. ELL Task Force Hearings.

Farbman, D. A. (2015). Giving English language learners the time they need to succeed profiles of three expanded learning time schools. The National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL). Retrieved from

Feinberg, R. C. (2000). Newcomer schools: Salvation or segregated oblivion for immigrant Students? Theory Into Practice, 39(4), 220-227. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip3904_5 DOI:

Friedlander, M. (1991). The newcomer program: Helping immigrant students succeed in U.S. schools (Program Information Guide No. 8). Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

Gándara, P., Rumberger, R., Maxwell-Jolly, J., & Callahan, R. (2003). English learners in California schools: Unequal resources, unequal outcomes. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11(36). doi:10.14507/epaa.v11n36.2003 DOI:

Gibson, M. A., & Bejinez, L. F. (2002). Dropout prevention: How migrant education supports Mexican youth. Journal of Latinos and Education, 1(3), 155-175. doi:10.1207/S1532771XJLE0103_2 DOI:

Gonzales, R. G. (2010). On the wrong side of the tracks: Understanding the effects of school structure and social capital in the educational pursuits of undocumented immigrant students. Peabody Journal of Education, 85(4), 469-485. doi:10.1080/0161956X.2010.518039 DOI:

Hellermann, J. (2007). The development of practices for action in classroom dyadic interaction: Focus on task openings. The Modern Language Journal, 91(1), 83-96. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2007.00503.x DOI:

Hones, & Cha. (1999). Educating new Americans. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Hopkins, M., Martinez-Wenzl, M., Aldana, U.S., & Gandara, P. (2013). Cultivating capital: Latino newcomer young men in a U.S. urban high school. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 44(3), 286-303. DOI:

Hos, R. (2016). Caring is not enough: Teachers’ Enactment of Ethical Care for Adolescent Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) in a Newcomer Classroom. Education and Urban Society, 48, 479-503. DOI:

James, G. (2018). A narrative inquiry perspective into coping mechanisms of international postgraduate students’ transition experiences. American Journal of Qualitative Research, 2(1), 41-56. DOI:

Kanno, Y. (2018). High-performing English learners’ limited access to four-year college. Teachers College Record. DOI:

Kao, G. (2004). Social capital and its relevance to minority and immigrant populations. Sociology of Education, 77(2), 172-183. doi:10.1177/003804070407700204 DOI:

Kenna, J., & Russell III, W. (2018). The Culture and History of Standards-Based Educational Reform and Social Studies in America. Journal of Culture and Values in Education, 1(1), 26-49. Retrieved from DOI:

Kustati, M., & Al-Azmi, H. (2018). Pre-Service Teachers’ Attitude on ELT Research. Research in Social Sciences and Technology, 3(2), 1-13. Retrieved from DOI:

Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. CA: Sage Publications.

Lee, S. J. (1996). Unraveling the “model minority” stereotype. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lee, S. J., & Walsh, D. (2015). Welcoming immigrant students with a high-quality education. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(4), 46-50. DOI:

Lemke, J. (2007). Video epistemology in-and-outside the box: Traversing attentional spaces. In R. Goldman, R. Pea, B. Barron & S. Derry (Eds.), Video research in the learning sciences (pp. 39-52). London: Erlbaum.

Liang, X. (2012). Language as investment, capital, and economics: Spanish-speaking English learners’ language use and attitudes. International Journal of English Linguistics, 2(6), 1-16. doi:10.5539/ijel.v2n6p1 DOI:

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. (2006). Designing qualitative research (4th ed.). London: Sage.

Márque, J., Peña, C., Jones, L., Orange, A., & Simieou, F. (2018). Academic success and resiliency factors: A case study of unaccompanied immigrant children. American Journal of Qualitative Research, 2(1), 162-181. DOI:

Mays, L. (2008). The cultural divide of discourse: Understanding how English-language learners' primary discourse influences acquisition of literacy. The Reading Teacher, 61(5), 415-418. Retrieved from DOI:

Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (Revised and expanded from 'Qualitative research and case study applications in education'). Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass (Wiley).

Merriam, S. B. (1998). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Miller, K. F., & Zhou, X. (2007). Learning from classroom video: What makes it compelling and what makes it hard. In R. Goldman, R. Pea, B. Barron, & S. J. Derry (Eds.), Video research in the learning sciences (pp. 321-334). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Niehaus, K., & Adelson, J. L. (2014). School support, parental involvement, and academic and social-emotional outcomes for English language learners. American Educational Research Journal, 51(4), 810-844. doi:10.3102/0002831214531323 DOI:

Noguera, P. A. (2004). Social capital and the education of immigrant students: Categories and generalizations. Sociology of Education, 77(2), 180–183. doi:10.1177/003804070407700206 DOI:

OECD. (2015). Helping immigrant students to succeed at school – and beyond. Retrieved from:

Ogbu, J. U., & Simons, H. D. (1998). Voluntary and involuntary minorities: A cultural‐ecological theory of school performance with some implications for education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 29, 155-188. doi:10.1525/aeq.1998.29.2.155 DOI:

Orfield, G., Frankenberg, E. D., & Lee, C. (2003). The resurgence of school segregation. Educational Leadership, 60(4), 16-20. Retrieved from

Park, H. (2018). Influences of reading online texts in Korean English language learners' cultural identities. The Journal of Educational Research, 111(4), 385-397. doi:10.1080/00220671.2017.1284038 DOI:

Pollock, D. (2018). Using cultural capital in the ESL classroom: One teacher’s journey. Issues in Language Instruction, 7 (1). DOI:

Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2001). Legacies: The story of the immigrant second generation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rudd , T. (2003). ICT and the reproduction of inequalities: a Bourdieuian perspective . (PhD thesis). Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol.

Short, D. J., & Boyson , B. A. (2003). Secondary school newcomer programs in the United States. Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence. doi:|

Straubhaar, R. (2013). Student use of aspirational and linguistic social capital in an urban immigrant-centered English immersion high school. The High School Journal, 97(2), 92-106. doi:10.1353/hsj.2013.0026 DOI:

St. John, E. P., Hu, S., & Fisher, A. S. (2011). Breaking through the access barrier: Academic capital formation informing public policy. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Suarez‐Orozco, M. M. (1987). “Becoming somebody”: Central American immigrants in US inner‐city schools. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 18(4), 287-299. doi:10.1525/aeq.1987.18.4.04x0020t DOI:

Tang, S. (2015). Social capital and determinants of immigrant family educational involvement. The Journal of Educational Research, 108(1), 22-34. doi:10.1080/00220671.2013.833076 DOI:

Thomas, G. (2012). How to do your case study–a guide for students and researchers. London: SAGE Publications.

Trueba, H,. T. (2002). Multiple ethnic, racial, and cultural identities in action: From marginality to a new cultural capital in modern society. Journal of Latinos and education, 1(1), 7-28. doi:10.1207/S1532771XJLE0101_2 DOI:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition (2017). English Learner Tool Kit. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition. (2017). Newcomer Tool Kit. Washington, DC: Author.

Valenzuela, A., & Rubio, B. (2018). Subtractive schooling. The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching. doi:10.1002/9781118784235.eelt0139 DOI:

Wagner, C. L., & Gimenez, M. E. (2008). Does community-based collaborative resource management increase social capital? Society and Natural Resources, 21(4), 324-344. doi:10.1080/08941920701864344 DOI:

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Zhou, M., & Bankston, C. L. (1996). The ethnic church, ethnic identification, and the social adjustment of Vietnamese adolescents. Review of Religious Research, 38(1), 18-37. doi:10.2307/3512538 DOI:




How to Cite

Hos, R., Murray-Johnson, K., & Correia, A. (2019). Cultivating Capital for High School Newcomers: A Case Study of an Urban Newcomer Classroom. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 6(1), 101–116.



Received 2019-05-01
Accepted 2019-05-22
Published 2019-06-23