Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP
Multidisciplinary Approaches in Language Policy & Planning Conference (OISE)
August 23-25, 2018
U.S. institutions reproduce ideologies where speakers of minority languages are c/overtly encouraged to shift to (only) English (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000, p. 301). Schools socialize minority youth to assimilate, yet students “resist the school’s investment in their cultural and linguistic divestment” (Valenzuela, 1999, p. 226).
Despite supplemental language instruction for immigrant/non-immigrant ELLs, they still lag behind in graduation rates and academic achievement (Fry, 2007). In Arizona, the ELL graduation rate is 18% (NCES, 2017). This failure to graduate ELLs requires an urgent investigation into: What leads to ELLs’ increased risk of dropping out in Arizona schools?
This case study documents the language diversity management (Spolsky, 2009) experiences of ELLs who dropped out from 2008 to present. Semi-structured interview data compare participants with experience in structured English immersion (SEI) to those mainstreamed. The presentation ends with a call to action to critically reflect on the role of language policy arbiters
(Johnson, 2013; Menken & García, 2010; Menken, 2008).
Abstract for Lay Audience
Arizona schools graduate less than one in four of their English language learners (ELLs) according to recent National Center of Education Statistics (2017). No other state boasts this low of a graduation rate for its ELL population. Why then does Arizona’s graduation rate lag behind those of the other 49 states? One notable difference is that Arizona after 2000 effectively eliminated bilingual education when it comes to ELL schooling. Without support in students’ native languages, English proficiency and the learning of academic content in monolingual English schooling for these ELLs is extremely impaired.
The question remains, what effect/s does this learning environment have on ELLs’ decisions to drop out of high school in the state of Arizona? Through a case study that interviews several recent ELL dropouts from Arizona schools, it is apparent the harmful roles monolingual or English-only language policies play in shaping the experiences of ELLs, and especially in their ultimate decision to drop out of high school. This research is imperative to understand the deleterious environments that are inherently fostered in English-only classes and the damaging effects these have not only on students’ language learning, but on their academic achievement and socioemotional well-being.
While past studies demonstrate the harmful effects of schooling (see subtractive schooling), there has been little focus on the influence of language and of the influence of language in Arizona’s structured English immersion classes in particular on ELL students’ language proficiencies, academic success, socioemotional well-beings, and the interconnectedness of these three variables. My research illuminates the interrelatedness of these phenomena in order to contribute to the larger discussion that advocates for asset pedagogies-based education, which centers students’ cultures, experiences, and linguistic backgrounds in order to help ELL students achieve academically. To do so involves awareness and discussion regarding the ways in which the current lack of bilingual education provided to ELLs (Proposition 203, 2000) hinders ELL learning. Further, pre-service teachers must be taught to critically reflect and examine how traditional ahistorical, culturally-devoid, and colorblind schooling disproportionately affects students of color and linguistic minority youth (ELLs).