Micronesian Migrant Perspectives About Student Attendance in Hawai‘i: An Ethnographic Case Study

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The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HISDOE) reported high rates of chronic absenteeism within Micronesian student populations. A qualitative case study explored perspectives of Micronesian migrant parents and guardians on school attendance in a Hawai‘i elementary school. Ten Chuukese, Kosraean, and Marshallese migrant parents and guardians of English Language Learner (ELL) elementary students shared perspectives associated with school attendance and how certain cultural factors, directly and indirectly, influenced attendance decisions. Social justice leadership and ethnographic theories formed a supporting theoretical framework. The data were analyzed via hand-coding and NVivo software. Key findings revealed participants desired to support the unknown or misunderstood attendance policy but were unsure how to do so. Post-migration washback elements of monetary poverty, discrimination and bullying, prior education levels, educational experiences in Micronesia, and language barriers were found to be intertwining direct and indirect cultural influences. Culture was significantly important to participants, where church obligations were directly tied. Future research initiatives and a differentiated collaborative approach could help form meaningful synergistic relationships between the school, dominant school community, and policymakers for sustainment in supporting student success and creating a positive identity for Micronesian migrants. The study findings were significant for understanding the Micronesian community’s perspectives about attendance, education, and acclimation at school to extend meaningful knowledge within the school community. Educational stakeholders can benefit from localized awareness framing Micronesian migrant struggles and social equity issues. The Micronesian migrant community can participate in future positive social change by accessing the dominant school community via targeted unification efforts.
Doctoral Dissertation