Policy as practice: the experiences and views of learners and teachers in restrictive language contexts
This study reports on research that explores local manifestations of Arizona's English-only language education policy by investigating the experiences of selected English language learners (ELLs) with reclassification into mainstream classrooms and four of their classroom teachers. In this study, I employed ethnographic methods (participant observation, document collection, interviewing, and focus groups) to investigate what practices emerge after ELLs are reclassified as "Fluent English Proficient" (FEP) students and moved from "the four-hour English Language Development (ELD) block" into mainstream classrooms. With a focus on the perspectives and experiences of twelve 5th and 6th grade elementary school students and four of their teachers, I examined how students and teachers viewed and responded to restrictive language policies and the practices that accompany them. One finding from this study is that students and teachers believed that the four-hour ELD block helped prepare students to learn English, but "proficiency" in English as determined by the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA) did not always indicate a solid understanding of the language used in the mainstream classrooms. A second finding from this study is that ideologies of language that position English over multilingualism are robust and further strengthened by language policies that prohibit the use of languages other than English in ELD and mainstream classrooms. A third finding from this study is that, in part because of the language restrictive policies in place, particular groups of students continued to engage in practices that enact ideologies of language that devalue multilingualism (e.g., "language policing"). At the same time, however, a close examination of student-to-student interaction indicates that these same students use their multiple linguistic and communicative resources in a variety of creative and purposeful ways (e.g., through language crossing and language sharing). The close examination of policy as practice in a restrictive educational language policy context conducted here has implications for debates about English-only as a method and medium of instruction, about how the ideologies of language operate in situated interactional contexts, and about how youth might use existing resources to challenge restrictive ideologies and policies.