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Reaching Out: Advice and Information Networks within a Middle School English Language Development Program

  • Author(s): Penuliar, Jonathan Bernard
  • Advisor(s): Hopkins, Megan
  • et al.
Abstract

English learners are one of the most rapidly growing student demographics in the United States. However, school systems have historically fallen short in providing English learners with adequate academic support. A review of the literature sheds light on academic tracking as a major factor in restricting access to the rigorous coursework English learners need to achieve at levels commensurate with their English-only speaking peers. Students tracked into the English language development pipeline have difficulty exiting. Those who do not reclassify and persist in this track experience lower levels of high school graduation and college completion. Several recent shifts in educational policy are seeking to address this problem. New language and curriculum standards, as well as detracking practices, have given rise to a more distributed approach to teaching English learners where all teachers have a responsibility to support this population. Through an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, this study examined the social networks a school has built around teaching English learners and how those networks impact the flow of social capital used to support this demographic of students. Research questions include: 1. Who do educators turn to for advice and information regarding the education of English learners? 2. How do social networks shape opportunities for educators to build social capital around teaching English learners? The first phase collected survey data in order to highlight advice and information seeking behaviors. After social network analysis, the results from phase one informed phase two. The second phase included interviews from salient actors to provide further depth into creating a rich description of the ELD networks at the research site and how they impact the English learner experience.

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