Standing our sacred ground: one school community's struggle to negotiate restrictive language policy
This is a qualitative case study using ethnographic methods of how one school community has been able to negotiate Arizona's restrictive English only language policies. Drawing from classroom and school-wide observations, extensive interviews, and document collection, this case study explores three key questions in relation to this school's negotiation process: 1) What characterizes the curriculum for English learners (ELs) and bilingual students at the case study school? 2) How do key actors, processes, and cultural practices at the case study school support the negotiation of Proposition 203 and House Bill 2064? and 3) What are the perspectives of key school community stakeholders in relation to the curriculum supporting bilingualism and the policy negotiation process? Findings show that by sharing certain key beliefs and practices, the school community has been able to work together, at times through struggle and perseverance, to negotiate for what they believe to be most important in school. They do so by sharing such key beliefs as the importance of seeing the whole child and teaching in ways that are real and meaningful. They also negotiate by engaging in a set of shared practices, which include: the use of Spanish campus-wide both for instruction and for the life and operation of the school, the cultivation of relationships amongst all school community members, and key curricular practices. These practices include providing a variety of learning experiences, especially those based upon the Arts, as well as a curriculum that focuses on providing opportunities to examine real world issues in an integrated and in-depth manner, to learn by integrating students' language, families, and experiences into the curriculum, and has a final goal of creating students who are critical thinkers, self-advocates, and agents within their own lives. All of these beliefs and practices contribute to a strong sense of community. It is this sense of community and the shared beliefs and practices, along with the increased agency this interconnectedness creates for all stakeholders, which has facilitated the successful use of parent waivers. These parent waivers have enabled parents to continue choosing alternative language education programs to those mandated by the state, namely integrated content and English instruction within the mainstream K-4 classroom and the Spanish/English dual language program option at the 5-8 grade levels.