Voices at the shore: Ethnolinguistic identity among adolescent Haitian students

Deborah Dyer Teed, Florida International University


Newly immigrated Haitian adolescent students enrolled in the Miami-Dade Public School System and designated as Limited English Proficient (LEP) face many challenges as they adjust to new expectations for performance and success in the family, school, and community. The dissertation examines the emerging self-identities of 32 Haitian LEP students attempting to fit in and succeed within the classrooms and larger community of Miami. Research questions asked include (1) What models for self-identity, including education and careers, are postulated for young Haitians? (2) What are the discourses and cultural models through which these identities are expressed? (3) How does the school assign identities to Haitian students? (4) How do the notions of identities conflict? and (5) How do emergent identities affect the students, orientations, adaptation, and performance in the worlds of secondary and higher education? Research was conducted longitudinally over a three-year period (1996–1999) within the Miami-Dade Public School System and within the Miami Haitian community. Research methods included ethnographic research (participant and nonparticipant observation); interview; collection of oral histories; focus groups; and the examination of school records (grades, attendance, test scores). The findings suggest that despite pressures from school and peers many Haitian students maintain a strong ethnolinguistic identity that provides the means to maintain an ideal “student” identity even as it conflicts with the American school Is negative marking of the LEP students I social background, culture, and language. The label “limited proficient” also limits the Haitian students' access to strong remedial or advanced academic programs and hence to future opportunities. In conclusion, it is recommended that a re-working of the ways Haitian immigrant students are identified, tested, counseled, and advanced to other academic programs is necessary.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Teed, Deborah Dyer, "Voices at the shore: Ethnolinguistic identity among adolescent Haitian students" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9992734.