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The Crucial Role of Teachers of Latino ELL Students: Enactment of Language Policy in Two Urban High Schools

  • Author(s): Rosekrans, Kristin Marie
  • Advisor(s): Warren Little, Judith
  • et al.
Abstract

Through this embedded case study I examine how ELL policy is enacted in two under-resourced high schools where 40% of students are classified as ELL, 90% of whom are Latino. I explore how ELD and Sheltered Instruction teachers perceive and respond to academic and social needs of their students in two different schools in the same district. I analyze how a district that has a language policy that promotes bilingualism and biliteracy plays out in these two schools. Specifically, I detail how policy messages are interpreted and enacted at a district and school level and the interplay of district and school level actors’ beliefs and the various district mandates.

Findings indicate that district and school administrators respond to policies and external demands and compensate for their constraints differently. One school emphasizes a sheltering approach for Latino immigrant ELL students that creates a safe environment, emphasizes students maintaining their primary language, and prioritizes that ELL students graduate. The other school has an inclusive (non-segregated) approach that emphasizes rapid acquisition of English and holds the same expectations for ELL and non-ELL students, including meeting college entry requirements as well as graduating from high school. At each school, there are variations among teachers regarding their beliefs about students’ cultural practices and learning potential, perceptions of their own constraints and opportunities, responses to the disparity of resources and support systems for ELL students, ability to draw on students’ linguistic and cultural resources, and compliance with district mandates.

Implications are that program structures and school-level approaches for shaping ELL students’ opportunities must be examined. Additionally, further research is needed on how to organize schools that are both safe yet not segregated to create a favorable context of reception for Latino immigrant ELL students. Finally, preparation and ongoing instructional support for teachers of ELL students must help teachers develop pedagogical strategies that are effective within constrained conditions as well as foster cultural understanding, caring, and ways to build on students’ linguistic and cultural resources.

My study contributes to research on education for immigrant ELL students and the role of teachers in shaping their educational and social opportunities.

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