Bordering on success: A portrait of the Calexico Unified School District since bilingual education, 1963–2000

Catherine L Belcher, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines the history, community and culture of the Calexico Unified School District from the inception of bilingual education (ca. 1963) through the present. This California border town of 27,109 graduates more Mexican American students than any other school district in the state. In light of the high drop out rate for Latino students in U.S. schools as a whole, Calexico's statistics are remarkable. This research project focuses on the question of what makes Calexico successful---in the eyes of the community, students, teachers, administrators, and outsiders who look to it as an example of Latino educational attainment. It considers how the unique aspects of Calexico's educational history and cultural identity have influenced local policy, educational practice, and student performance. As Calexico is a bicultural/binational community, the inception and progress of the bilingual program provides the timeframe of the dissertation. Through interviews, observations and careful examination of historical documents, this ethnohistory also seeks to place Calexico in a larger historical and theoretical context. Why is the graduation rate so high? What theories of success and failure inform the educational process in the town? How does Calexico's educational experience compare to that of other Mexican American communities? The story of the first academic program that directly addressed the biculturalism of Calexico's students provides a telling look into how schools and local communities might work together to create educational environments that support local culture and higher levels of student academic performance.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Education history|Hispanic Americans

Recommended Citation

Belcher, Catherine L, "Bordering on success: A portrait of the Calexico Unified School District since bilingual education, 1963–2000" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3246137.