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On-line version ISSN 2007-7033Print version ISSN 1665-109X

Sinéctica  n.48 Tlaquepaque Jan./Jun. 2017


Investigaciones temáticas

Equitable teaching for returnee children in Mexico

Bryant Jensen1 

Rebeca Mejía Arauz2 

Rodrigo Aguilar Zepeda3 

1Department of Teacher Education, Brigham Young University, USA.

2Department of psychology, Education and Health, ITESO, México.

3El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, México.,


The number of Mexicans leaving the U.S. is now greater than the number coming to the U.S., signaling monumental shifts in U.S.-Mexico relations. This is evoking new questions about bi-national collaboration, particularly regarding the wellbeing of transnational children and youth. Analyzing data from the Mexican Census, we identify basic demographic trends of “returnee” children and youth —those in Mexico after living in the US. Most are US-born with a Mexican-born parent, relatively young, and dispersed across the country, with concentrations in municipalities in northern and central states. We frame classroom-learning needs for these students and share descriptive findings from a recent study of equitable teaching —i.e., high quality, adequate quantity, and meaningful (Jensen, Perez Martinez & Aguilar Escobar, 2016)—through video recordings of classroom interactions in early elementary settings in the state of Aguascalientes. We conclude with a series of recommendations to enrich learning opportunities for returnee students in Mexican classrooms.

Keywords: equity; teaching and learning; family migration; sociocultural theory


The economic recession of 2008 marked the end of an era of Mexican migration and triggered new trends and associated questions regarding MexicoU.S. relations. How, for example, should Mexican and U.S. institutions partner to address the educational wellbeing of U.S. children and youth who return to Mexico with their families? More specifically, we wonder how we can foster high quality learning opportunities through equitable teaching in Mexican classrooms for children who identify as American. For teaching to be “equitable,” it should be of high quality in terms of universal factors, provide students enough time on task, and be meaningful in terms of sociocultural factors (for definitions and a lengthier discussion of “equitable teaching,” see Jensen, Perez Martinez and Aguilar Escobar [2016] and Jensen, Chapman and Haertel [2017]). Whereas some research has explored the experiences of Mexican-American families who send their adolescent children to school in Mexico to avoid the violence of U.S. inner-city schools (Reese, 2002; Trueba, 1999), and others have examined the experiences of and institutional challenges facing “American Mexican” children at school in Mexico (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2013); no research of which we are aware addresses the quality of teaching for returnee students in Mexico.

The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, using data from the 2010 and 2015 Mexican Census, we provide a nationwide map of returnee children and youth. We examine differences in returnee concentration by child age, state, and municipalities within states. Using conservative criteria –i.e., limited to those with migrant experiences in the previous five years at the time of census– we define returnees broadly: children ages 6 to 17 years old who, regardless of their place of birth, have experience living in the U.S. Returnees are not a homogenous group. They vary in terms of their reasons for leaving the U.S., proficiency in Spanish and English, familiarity with Mexico, national identities, amount of schooling in the U.S., recency of arrival to Mexico, socioeconomic status, and so on (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2009). Second, we conceptualize equitable teaching for returnee students in Mexico, and offer a descriptive analysis using observations of K-1 classroom videos in the state of Aguascalientes. We conclude with recommendations to enrich teaching for returnee students in Mexican classrooms.

New migration patterns

The wave of immigration from Mexico to the United States from 1965 until 2008 is the largest in U.S. history (Pew Research Center, 2015). It comprises over 16 million people, not including the children of Mexican immigrants born in the US (Gonzalez-Barrera, 2015). Currently one in seven school-aged children in the U.S. has a Mexican-born parent or grandparent (Jensen & Sawyer, 2013). Mexico continues to be the single largest source of authorized and unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

Yet, the recession of the late 2000s marked the end of an immigration era. By 2010 there were as many Mexicans returning to Mexico as there were coming to the U.S. (Passel, Cohn & Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012), and by 2014 more Mexicans were returning than coming (Gonzalez-Barrera, 2015). In 2007 there were 12.8 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S., compared to 11.7 million in 2014. Family reunification and the U.S. economic recession (Gonzalez-Barrera, 2015; Passel, Cohn & Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012) were cited as the most common reasons for increased returns to Mexico, followed by deportation (U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, 2014) and stricter border enforcement (Rosemblum & Meissner, 2014). The anti-immigrant agenda of the new U.S. administration will likely lead to increases in returnees to Mexico.

Return flows to Mexico have provoked new questions and considerations about immigrant integration and opportunity, even as old ones –e.g., how to improve school quality for U.S. children of Mexican immigrants (Jensen & Sawyer, 2013)– continue to remain relevant. Integration concerns have inverted. New questions address how Mexican institutions should incorporate migrants, not only from the U.S. but also from Central America (Pederzini, Riosmena, Masferrer & Molina, 2015). There is little empirical work on these issues (Escobar Latapi, Lowell & Martin, 2014), and less so for children and youth. Some studies address educational and other opportunities for Mexican children of immigrant parents in the U.S. –those “remaining behind” (e.g., Giorguli et al., 2014). They find, for example, that remittances have little bearing on educational outcomes of Mexican youth (Sawyer, 2014), that school enrollments in traditional immigrant communities in Mexico have expanded dramatically over the last couple decades (INEE, 2014), and that aspirations to migrate to the U.S. can have a negative effect on the academic achievement of Mexican students (Jensen, Giorguli & Hernández, 2016). Yet there is much we do not know about “American-Mexican” children and youth (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2013) –those in Mexico after living in the U.S.

Educational wellbeing of returnee children and youth in Mexico

Most of what we know about the educational wellbeing of returnee children in Mexico comes from research conducted by Víctor Zúñiga, Edmund Hamann, and their colleagues. Their team conducted nearly 54,000 surveys with elementary and middle school children in hundreds of schools in Nuevo León (2004), Zacatecas (2005), Puebla (2009), and Jalisco (2010) (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2013), as well as follow-up interviews with select students and teachers. They found that 2 to 3% of all children surveyed were “transnational”–i.e., having lived at some point in the U.S. Most (roughly two-thirds) of these were born in Mexico (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2009), though many (more than 2 in 5) continued to identify with their American affiliation (Hamann & Zúñiga, 2011). Returnee students reported feeling out-ofplace in Mexican schools (Zúñiga, Hamann & Sánchez García, 2008), struggling with the formation of their identities in a new place (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2009). They reported difficulties with speaking Spanish and uncertainty about where they would live and work in the future (Hamann, Zúñiga & Sánchez García, 2010). U.S.-born returnees were “more likely to aspire to go to college than either populations that identifie[d] mono-nationally” (Hamann & Zúñiga, 2011).

Institutional challenges

Most schools and teachers working with returnee students in Mexico reported a lack of preparation and resources to meet students’ particular needs (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2013; Zúñiga, Hamann & Sánchez García, 2008). This included language and cultural needs, curricular needs, and others associated with family mobility. Most teachers did not speak any English, and the schools did not have a practice for assessing what students learned and did in English. They failed to recognize the skills and knowledge returnee students brought with them to the classroom, similar to teachers of Mexican-origin children in the U.S. (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2013, p. 184).

Teachers were largely unfamiliar with U.S. schools and curricula, which contributed to a disproportionate amount of fracaso escolar [school failure] (Zúñiga, Hamann & Sánchez García, 2008, p. 61-78). Reprobación [retaining students] was a common response among Mexican teachers of returnee students (Hamann, Zúñiga & Sánchez García, 2010, p. 247). Returnee students were more than three times as likely to be retained than non-returnee students in the Zacatecas and Nuevo León studies, alarming given the already-pervasive practice of retention in Mexico (Reimers, 1999) as well as its association with higher rates of school dropout (Reimers, 2002) and academic underachievement (Jensen, Giorguli & Hernández, 2016).

The challenge of meeting the needs of returnees is compounded by more general issues that public schools in Mexico continue to confront. Whereas federal laws in recent years have led to impressive gains in school enrollments in Mexico (INEE, 2014), these reforms have coincided with greater inequities in school quality (Jensen, Pérez Martínez & Aguilar Escobar, 2016). Schools in lower-income communities have shorter days, fewer resources, and teachers with less preparation (Pérez Martínez, Ruiz Cuellar & García Cabrero, 2013; Schiefelbein & McGinn, 2008). Students in urban and private schools, on average, perform more than a full standard deviation higher than those in public and rural schools on academic exams (INEE, 2016).

These opportunity gaps are growing rather than shrinking, despite nationwide reforms in recent decades. In the early 1990s the Secretaría de Educación Pública [the Mexican Education Ministry] decentralized some administrative functions to empower local stakeholders to implement improvements (SEP, 1992). In the early 2000s the SEP launched initiatives to address poverty in rural and indigenous communities, as well as to emphasize student learning outcomes and the implementation of curricular reforms. The national curriculum was revised once again during the Calderón administration (2006-2012), coinciding with requires professional development programs for teachers and administrators (INEE, 2012). Most recently, the Mexican Congress passed constitutional reforms to democratize teacher hiring and promotion, as well as to implement regular teacher evaluations (INEE, 2015).

Equitable teaching in classrooms

To date, however, there is little work in Mexico on frameworks or measures of teaching quality for students in general (Martínez Rizo, 2012), and less so for culturally and linguistically diverse students like returnees. Jensen, Pérez Martínez and Aguilar Escobar (2016) identify three complementary elements of classroom quality in Mexico (see Figure 1): Instructional Time, Generic Quality, and Local Quality. These elements are comprised of process (e.g., social interactions, curricular implementation) and structural (e.g., instructional materials, student-to-teacher ratios) variables. Instructional Time refers to how often teachers engage children in deliberate practice of academic knowledge and skills (Creemers & Kyriakides, 2008; Stallings, 1980). Generic Quality refers to how well classroom activities are executed–how productive, how emotionally supportive, and how instructionally rich (Pianta & Hamre, 2009). Finally, Local Quality refers to how meaningfully classroom interactions and activities are instantiated–the extent to which they draw on what children know and do outside of the classroom (Jensen, 2014).

*Adapted from Figure 1 in Jensen, Pérez Martínez and Aguilar Escobar (2016).

Figure 1. A framework of interdependent elements of equitable teaching* 

This last element is especially important for nonmainstream students like returnees. Examining their prior knowledge and experiences outside of school –their routines, practices, interests, relationships and values– enriches opportunities for personal integration and learning in the classroom. In order for teaching to be “equitable” it must incorporate these three elements (Jensen, Chapman & Haertel, 2017) –provide enough instructional time and be high quality and meaningful in terms of children’s sociocultural histories. We argue, in other words, that the learning needs of returnee children in Mexico best met in classrooms that provide “equitable teaching.” Again, local quality –the extent to which classroom interactions respond to what students know and do outside school– is particularly critical to returnee children, as they constitute a minoritized group in Mexico (Zúñiga and Hamann, 2013).

Whereas some interpretive research in Mexico addresses these elements, there has been little measurement work conducted, and no studies of which we are aware addressing returnee students. Extant studies find, for example, that half of intended instructional hours were provided to children in sampled rural primary schools in Guerrero and Oaxaca (Ezpeleta & Weiss, 1996), as well as in urban schools (Rockwell & Galvez, 1982). Positive affect between teachers and children was associated with greater effort and enthusiasm of indigenous children in Guerrero (Schmelkes et al., 2010). And fostering children’s autonomy was associated with richer oral language skills for young children in Tamaulipas (González García, 2006) as well as for bilingual, indigenous students in northern Oaxaca (Ávila Meléndez & Muñoz Cruz, 2009).

Bryk, Harding and Greenberg (2012) argue that systemic improvement of teaching quality requires reliable and valid measures, which do not currently exist in Mexico (Martínez Rizo, 2012). Modes of assessing classroom quality vary. They include inventory checklists, logs, surveys, direct observations, teacher portfolios, and product analysis (Martínez Rizo, 2012). The assessment mode should fit the nature of the construct, and a single tool cannot capture all three of the elements described above. Strong measures can be used to support professional development programs, as well as to examine how elements of teaching correspond to dimensions of children’s learning and development across diverse classroom contexts (Haertel, 2013). Instrument development should follow rich conceptualization, rather than the other way around (Child Trends, 2009; Correnti & Martinez, 2012). We describe two measures we used to examine equitable teaching in K-1 classrooms in Aguascalientes, Mexico.


In this paper, we conduct two sets of analysis. First, using Mexican Census data, we briefly describe the nationwide distribution of returnee children in 2010 and in 2015. We examine differences in returnee concentration by age, state, and municipalities within states. Second, we provide a descriptive snapshot of K-1 classroom quality in the state of Aguascalientes, using video observations from public schools.

We use two sources from the Mexican Census, collected by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI): the Censo de Población y Vivienda (INEGI, 2010) and the Encuesta Intercensal (INEGI, 2015). The 2010 Censo was a universal sampling (28.2 million households), whereas the 2015 Encuesta was a representative sample (6.1 million households). The 2010 Censo included a module on international migration, which addressed emigrants and circular migrants between 2005 and 2010.

The study of equitable teaching analyzed video data from kindergarten (n=82 classrooms) and first grade (n=40 classrooms) public school classrooms in Aguascalientes. Using live videographers, we gathered 1,056 20-minute video segments during instructional activities–132 classrooms/teachers, two days per classroom, and four 20-minute video segments per day. Videographers were instructed to focus recordings on teacher-child interactions as well as peer interactions during small group work. Whereas classrooms were sampled from schools across socioeconomic strata, levels of urbancity, and from seven of 11 municipalities; it was a convenience sample. Teachers, principals, and zone supervisors were given the option to participate in the study. To examine generic and local dimensions of quality, we scored a subsample of video segments using two protocols: the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta, LaParo & Hamre, 2008) and the Classroom Assessment of Sociocultural Interactions (CASI; Jensen, Chapman & Haertel, 2017).

With the CLASS, two to three certified raters (graduate students certified through the process established by CLASS authors) scored six video segments within 58 classrooms for a total of 972 scored segments. With the CASI, four raters (undergraduate students certified through an exhaustive and careful training process) scored four segments within 30 classrooms for a total of 480 scored segments.

Classroom observation measures

The CLASS is a widely-used observation protocol that measures the generic aspects of classroom quality, structured into three domains: Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Framework 

The three domain scores are composites of ten dimensions: Positive Climate, Negative Climate, Teacher Sensitivity, Regard for Student Perspective, Behavior Management, Productivity, Instructional Learning Formats, Concept Development, Quality of Feedback, and Language Modeling. For each video segment, these dimensions are assigned a numerical score, from 1 (lowest quality) to 7 (highest quality). Inter-rater reliability on the CLASS varies by dimension (.79 to .97). Across dimensions, inter-rater agreement is .87. Internal consistency coefficients across 4 observation segments also fluctuate by dimension (.76 to .91), though most were in the mid .80s.

The CASI is an observation system designed to measure ten sociocultural dimensions of teaching quality at the classroom level, organized into three domains: Life Applications, Interdependence (Self in Group), and Agency (see Figure 3). The CASI uses 7-point scales as well. Life Applications address how classroom interactions explore and value children’s out-of-school lives (routines, practices, interests, relationships, expertise, and values), and associated dimensions include Language Use, Difference Appreciation, Equity, and Content Personalization. Interdependence (or Self in Group) addresses how classroom activities orient children to work and identify with others versus focus on individual accomplishments. Associated dimensions include Competition, Collaboration, and Social Organization. Finally, Agency addresses children’s choice and freedom within the classroom, and associated dimensions include Autonomy, Role Flexibility, and Equitable Expectations.

Figure 3. Classroom Assessment of Sociocultural Interactions (CASI) Framework 

The CASI was developed in the U.S. using video data from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project, in classrooms (4th and 5th grade) where Black and Latino students were the numerical majority. At the domain level it demonstrated adequate reliability (G coefficients = .75-.77) in the MET analyses, though greater reliability variation at the dimension level (Jensen, Chapman & Haertel, 2017). These indices improved somewhat in a recent study developing the CASI in early elementary classrooms in Mexico (Jensen & Mejía Arauz, 2017).


We examine three child populations (ages 6 to 17) using INEGI data. The first two groups we consider “returnees”: those born in the U.S. who lived in Mexico at the time of census or survey; and those born and currently living in Mexico who also lived in the U.S. within the previous five years. Though U.S.-born children living in Mexico would not be strictly identified as “returnees,” they are part of a broader trend of return migration, which, by and large, is a family phenomenon (Aguilar, 2014). The third group, which we are able to estimate only in 2010, we refer to as children “remaining behind”: those born in Mexico, with no personal migration experience in the last five years, and who lived in a household at the time of census where an adult family member either lived in the U.S. or had migrated to the U.S. within the previous five years (2005-2010). We estimated these three populations at state and municipal levels. Children ages 6 to 11 years old correspond to elementary school, 12 to 14 to middle school, and 15 to 17 to high school.

To explore equitable teaching for returnee students we describe average scores across CLASS and CASI dimensions at the municipal level. Given associations between teaching quality and socioeconomic resources in Mexico (INEE, 2016; Schiefelbein & McGinn, 2008), we present descriptive statistics alongside a municipal marginalization index–a standardized score at the municipality level that comprised of several socioeconomic indicators: literacy rate, educational attainment, household plumbing services, household electricity services, household with running water, overcrowded housing, household income, sanitation services, and extreme rurality.


Overall, we found that 4.5% (nearly 1.2 million) of the child population throughout Mexico in 2010 had recent (within previous five years) association with the U.S. vis-à-vis migration (see Table 1). This included 806,614 children “remaining behind,” and 383,832 returnees. Given decreases in Mexico-U.S. migration between 2010 and 2015 (Gonzalez-Barrera, 2015), the number of remaining-behind children likely diminished fairly dramatically during this period. The number of child returnees in 2015, according to the definition described above, increased to 444,766 in 2015 –by 14% or 60,934 children. Whereas the number of U.S.-born returnee children increased from 320,851 in 2010 to 412,246 in 2015 (a 22% gain), the number of Mexican-born returnees during this five-year period declined precipitously –from 62,981 in 2010 to 32,520 in 2015 (a 94% drop). Though this is at least partially attributable to the way migration experiences are operationalized in INEGI data, it also represents a new composition of returnees in Mexico. A decade ago most transnational students in Mexico were born in Mexico (two-thirds according to Zuniga & Hamann [2009]). In these data, the U.S.-born share of transnational or returnee students grew from 83.6% in 2010 to 92.7% in 2015.

Table 1. Numbers of returnee children and those “remaining behind” in 2010 and 2015 —by age 

Source: Original analysis using the Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010 and the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI).

We found important distributional differences of returnees by age as well. Whereas the proportional representation of children remaining behind was slightly higher for older children, the opposite was true for U.S.-born returnees: they were more concentrated in the younger than in the older age groups. Curiously, the population of U.S.-born returnees of middle-school age grew by 41% from 2010 to 2015 –from 58,461 to 99,001 children.

State differences

Table 2 provides the relative frequencies of returnee and remaining-behind students by state. It indicates that children with recent migration associations are not equally dispersed across the country.

Table 2. Relative frequencies of returnee and “remaining behind” children —by state 

Source: Original analysis using the Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010 and the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI).

Indeed, those remaining behind comprised 8.21% of the total child population in Guanajuato in 2010, compared to .40% in Baja California Sur. In 2015, 7.04% of all children in Baja California were U.S.-born returnees, compared to .17% in Chiapas and .27% in Yucatán. This table also shows how the number of Mexicanborn returnees decreased from 2010 to 2015, across all states except Chiapas and Tabasco. One the other hand, during this same five-year period, the number of U.S.-born returnees increased in all states but Tamaulipas.

Figure 4 provides maps of state-level concentrations of U.S.-born returnees in 2010 and 2015. The greater number of dark blue states in 2015 suggests statelevel increases of returnees. As expected, there is more concentration in northern than in southern states, but there is also significant concentration in central states, including Colima, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Source: Original analysis using the Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010 and the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI).

Figure 4. Mexico maps of US-born child returnee density by state 2010 and 2015 

Municipality differences

Yet there is also meaningful variation of returnee settlement within states. Table 3 provides the lowest and highest municipality-level concentration of U.S.-born returnee children within each state in 2015, to have a better sense of this variation across Mexico’s 2,457 municipios.

Table 3. Relative high and low frequencies of US-born returnee children —by municipality 

Source: Original analysis using the Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010 and the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI).

For the sake of interpretation, we should highlight that Mexican municipalities vary greatly in terms of population size, geographic size, resources, and migration history. Some states have many municipios, whereas others have few. Oaxaca, for example, accounts for 23.2% of all municipios nationally, though it represents less 3% of the national population. Thus, it may not be surprising that in more than a fifth of all municipalities there were no U.S.-born child returnees reported in 2015. Yet, in nearly a quarter of municipalities more than 3% of the child population were U.S.-born in 2015, and in 45 municipios more than 10% of children were U.S.-born returnees. That said, most were somewhere in the middle–over half of municipalities had some U.S.-returnee children, less than 3% of their respective child populations.

In Figure 5 we illustrate differences in U.S.-born returnee concentrations across municipios in the state of Aguascalientes, where we conducted the classroom video study. Once again, the darkening of municipalities between the two images represents increases in U.S.-born child populations from 2010 to 2015. In the municipality of Calvillo 6.95% of children were U.S.-born, compared to 1.55% in the municipality of Asientos. Whereas there was a statewide increase in the number of U.S.-born returnees during this period (from 1.54 to 2.08%), in three of the 11 municipios the population slightly decreased in size.

Source: Original analysis using the Censo de Población y Vivienda 2010 and the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI).

Figure 5. Aguascalientes municipality maps of US-born child returnee density —2010 and 2015 

Equitable classroom teaching

We provide municipality-level means and standard deviation scores for CLASS (see Table 4) and CASI domains (see Table 5) to describe equitable classroom teaching. In all cases, mean scores are interpreted in terms of 7-point scales. We include marginalization and U.S.-born figures at the municipio level to examine preliminary associations between classroom quality, migration concentration, and marginalization. In terms of Emotional Support –i.e., warmth, respect, and enthusiasm between teacher and students– the quality of classrooms overall was fairly strong. The quality of Classroom Organization –i.e., productive time and behavioral regulation– was moderate, and Instructional Support –i.e., problem solving, analytic feedback, and complex language skills– was fairly weak to moderate. Across all three of these domains, the strongest classrooms were in the municipality of Calvillo, which also had the highest representation of U.S.-born returnees. Calvillo classrooms were also among the least varied in terms of CLASS domains, acros video segments. Compared to other municipalities in Mexico, these were fairly well resourced. Marginalization was “low” to “very low.” We did not detect preliminary associations between classroom quality and municipio marginalization.

Table 4. CLASS domain means and standard deviations in Aguascalientes video study 

Source: Original analysis, including data from the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 and the Índice de Marginación by the Consejo Nacional de Población (CONAPO).

Table 5. CASI domain means and standard deviations in Aguascalientes video study 

Source: Original analysis, including data from the Encuesta Intercensal 2015 and the Índice de Marginación by the Consejo Nacional de Población (CONAPO).

In terms of “local quality,” CASI scores suggested that K-1 classrooms were largely disconnected (Life Applications), somewhat interdependent (Self in Group), and with a moderate amount of choice and freedom (Agency). Classrooms in Calvillo were among the most dis-connected, though slightly stronger than others we studied in terms of independence and agency. Once again we did not identify relationships between marginalization and classroom teaching quality.


We find that many children in Mexico –4.5% according to our estimates– have personal associations with the United States. Traditionally this has mostly been through the migration experiences of parents or siblings. But this trend is changing with increases of return migration to Mexico. We found a significant increase in U.S.-born child returnees from 2010 to 2015 –from 320,581 between 6 and 17 years old in 2010 to 412,246 in 2015. This growth was more dramatic for younger than older children, and for some states and municipalities more than for others. We expect future increases in the number of returnee children in Mexico with the new U.S. administration and their stated immigration agenda. For more than a quarter of the 2,457 Mexican municipalities we found that child populations were U.S.-born, and in 45 more than 10% were born in the U.S. Whereas resettlement patterns and their reasons are still somewhat ambiguous, returnee families appear to be making their homes in Mexican communities that are neither the poorest nor the wealthiest, and slightly better resourced than the average.

We have argued that teaching quality for returnee children should attend to a series of dimensions –i.e., generic quality, local quality, and instructional time. Local quality– the extent to which teaching is responsive to what children know and do outside of school –is particularly critical for returnee students, given the ways they tend to be marginalized at school in Mexico (Zuniga & Hamann, 2013). We found that K-1 classrooms in Aguascalientes were fairly strong in terms generic quality –even when compared to classrooms in developed countries (e.g., Stigler & Hiebert, 1999)– though weaker in terms of local quality. Of particular concern was the extent to which teaching in these classrooms failed to connect with what children knew and did outside of school. This disconnect is especially problematic for the learning and development of nonmainstream students, as is the case for indigenous children (Viramontes, Morales & Burrola, 2011) or U.S.born returnees whose experiences can differ widely from that of their teacher and classroom peers. Whereas classrooms in Calvillo –which, among municipios in Aguascalientes, had the highest density of returnees– demonstrated relatively strong Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support; they also demonstrated the lowest scores on Life Applications.

Interpreting these results is somewhat confounded by data limitations. Classrooms within municipalities, for one, were conveniently rather than randomly sampled. They are not “representative” of classrooms or children on any level. Moreover, in the Aguascalientes study we did not gather information on the migration experiences of children or their families. We do not know which or how many children in sampled classrooms were returnees. Nor do we know much else about their sociocultural histories. We did not gather information on Instructional Time, student-learning outcomes, teacher background, or on family experiences. All of these data are critical to paint a more complete picture of equitable teaching. Ours is a mere snapshot.

Yet, the descriptions we offer have important implications. Whereas our estimates of returnee and remaining-behind children in Mexico are fairly conservative –based experiences within the five years previous to the time of census surveys– they can be used to identify highly impacted communities and schools throughout the country. Broader and more complete evaluations of equitable teaching for returnee students should be conducted, and interventions to develop and test improvements where necessary can be realized. In many cases this will require refining existing or developing new measures of equitable teaching (Jensen, Pérez Martínez & Aguilar Escobar, 2016), including observation protocols, portfolio assessments, teacher reports, child reports, administrative surveys, and collection of classroom artifacts like student work samples (Martínez Rizo, 2012).


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Received: September 23, 2017; Accepted: February 03, 2017

Resume: PhD in Educational Psychology. Professor, Department of Teacher Education, Brigham Young University. Research interests: Culture and learning, teaching, classroom observation and migration.

Resume: PhD in Development Psychology. Researcher professor, Department of psychology, Education and Health, ITESO. Research interests: cultural processes, cultural variations within socio-cultural cognitive development.

Resume: PhD in Population Studies. He currently has a postdoctoral stay at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. Research interests: return migration to Mexico (socio-demographic characterization), return migration of children and adolescents to Mexico and its relationship with school integration, and return migration within households.

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