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Language policy, teacher beliefs, and practice: implications for English language learners in mathematics

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In 2007, Arizona voters passed House Bill (HB) 2064, a law that fundamentally restructured the Structured English Immersion (SEI) program, putting into place a 4-hour English language development (ELD) block

In 2007, Arizona voters passed House Bill (HB) 2064, a law that fundamentally restructured the Structured English Immersion (SEI) program, putting into place a 4-hour English language development (ELD) block for educating English language learners (ELLs). Under this new language policy, ELL students are segregated from their English-speaking peers to receive a minimum of four hours of instruction in discrete language skills with no contextual or native language support. Furthermore, ELD is separate from content-area instruction, meaning that language and mathematics are taught as two separate entities. While educators and researchers have begun to examine the organizational structure of the 4-hour block curriculum and implications for student learning, there is much to be understood about the extent to which this policy impacts ELLs opportunities to learn mathematics. Using ethnographic methods, this dissertation documents the beliefs and practices of four Arizona teachers in an effort to understand the relationship between language policy and teacher beliefs and practice and how together they coalesce to form learning environments for their ELL students, particularly in mathematics. The findings suggest that the 4-hour block created disparities in opportunities to learn mathematics for students in one Arizona district, depending on teachers' beliefs and the manner in which the policy was enacted, which was, in part, influenced by the State, district, and school. The contrast in cases exemplified the ways in which policy, which was enacted differently in the various classes, restricted teachers' practices, and in some cases resulted in inequitable opportunities to learn mathematics for ELLs.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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English language learners in Arizona public schools: challenges and opportunities for achieving quality language development

Description

Arizona's English Language Development Model (ELD Model) is intended to increase and accelerate the learning of English by English Language Learners (ELLs), so that the students can then be ready,

Arizona's English Language Development Model (ELD Model) is intended to increase and accelerate the learning of English by English Language Learners (ELLs), so that the students can then be ready, when they know the English language, to learn the other academic subjects together with their English speaking peers. This model is part of a response to comply with the Flores Consent Order to improve services for ELLs in Arizona public schools. Whether or not it actually has improved instruction for ELLs has been the subject of much debate and, in 2012, after four years of the requirement to use Arizona's ELD Model, the ELL students who were identified as reclassified for the six districts in the study did not pass the Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) test. The model's requirement to separate students who are not proficient from students who are proficient, the assessment used for identification of ELLs, and the Structured English Immersion four hours of English only instruction are at the nexus of the controversy, as the courts accepted the separate four hour SEI portion of the model for instruction as sufficient to meet the needs of ELLs in Arizona (Garcia, 2011, Martinez, 2012, Lawton, 2012, Lillie, 2012). This study examines student achievement in Reading and Math as measured by AIMS standards-based tests in six urban K-8 public school districts between 2007-2012. This period was selected to cover two years before and four years after the ELD model was required. Although the numbers of ELLs have decreased for the State and for the six urban elementary districts since the advent of the Arizona ELD Model, the reclassified ELL subgroup in the studied districts did not pass the AIMS for all the years in the study. Based on those results, this study concludes with the following recommendations. First, to study the coming changes in the language assessments and their impact on ELLs' student achievement in broad and comprehensive ways; second, to implement a model change allowing school districts to support their ELLs in their first language; and, finally, to establish programs that will allow ELLs full access to study with their English speaking peers.

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Date Created
  • 2012