Chapter 1: Introduction

Students with low or no proficiency in English must overcome enormous achievement gaps. This has been reported in numerous reports focusing on achievements in English tests and in the school achievement assessment tests (Thomas & Collier, 2003).  The results of these assessments have shown they are among the underachieving youth in United States (U.S.) schools. Schools and districts have continued to develop many programs that cater for learners of the English language. Through the implementation of programs that deal with the special requirements to English language learners, U.S. schools have achievement data that identify effective models of successful instruction for English language learners (Thomas & Collier, 1997). These programs can be dynamic models for school reform for all students, specifically those who speak Spanish, French, or American Native Indian dialects.

In Northeast Florida, the same achievement gaps have been evidenced.  Northeast Florida is one of the main areas in the U.S. with a constant influx of refugees and immigrants, who are mostly sponsored through Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, and the Department of Children and Families.  Over 49% of these refugees and immigrants are Spanish speaking, making the Spanish language the number one language spoken among English language learners (DCPS, 2010). The district has implemented a model which has proved to be successful in the instruction of English language learners. This model has also closed the achievement gap among the Spanish population (Thomas & Collier, 1997).

Statement of the Problem

Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) has become the state determiner of academic achievement.  The level of achievement is measured on both scale scores and developmental scales scores, which range from one (lowest) to five (highest) (http://fcat.fldoe.org/fcatpub3.asp).  It is necessary in a high stakes test environment to evaluate the effectiveness of program models.  Language minorities, students whose native language is other than English, historically have attained results which are equal to or below the national average on the normal reference tests (NCELA, 2006).

The Hispanic student population has increased, and many parents have continuously inquired about additional language offerings in elementary schools (DCPS Accountability Report, 2008).  An increase in the achievement gap has also been evident as the target for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) continues to increase.  According to Collier and Thomas (2003), the student who participated in a Dual Language Program scored higher on standardized assessments than one who was in the mainstream program. A dual language program was established during the school year of 2008-2009 to cater for the academic and language needs of students and parents.

Oftentimes, minority students have felt inferior to their classmates, and one way to counter these feelings is to empower them through education.  As stated by Banks (2003), multicultural awareness and understanding should begin by educating students on becoming multicultural citizens.  The Dual Language Program will provide both Spanish and English speaking students the opportunity to learn another language and explore multiple cultures.

The topic.  As a result of the increase in the Hispanic population, the decrease in high stakes testing scores and the continuous request by parents, a Dual Language Program in two elementary schools was implemented during the school year of 2008-2009.  In order to create understanding and awareness of different cultures, students should be educated on how to become multilingual citizens (Banks, 2003).

The research problem. Through the Dual Language Program, both Spanish speaking English Language Learners (ELL) and English speakers will acquire cognitive and linguistic competencies. The students will eventually acquire proficiency in the second language in order to make the necessary achievements in accordance to NCLB. The research will evaluate the district’s Dual Language Program by comparing it to other programs having English as a second language.

Background and justification. Since Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) increases each year, schools with a large number of English language learners have found it more and more difficult to reach this target.  It is necessary to find out what the scores on reference exams tell us about Dual Language effectiveness in the county.  The reference exams to be used will be the Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) and Language Assessment Scale Spanish (LAS Links Español).  Of 124,370 students in the 2000-2001 school years, 3.7% were of Hispanic origin, compared to 6.6% in the 2007-2008 school years (DCPS Accountability Report, 2008); thus, Hispanic enrolment doubled from 2000 to 2008.

Deficiency in Evidence. A limited number of researchers have conducted empirical studies in the area of bilingual and/or dual language education programs (Thomas & Collier, 2003).  Most of the research and program evaluations conducted are done in-house or in-district by private consultants.  Researchers who have the desire to delve deeper into the study of bilingual education or dual language programs are few, as evident in the resources included in this evaluation (Wiley, 1997).

Many of the published studies evaluate the program and how students perform within the program.  This evaluation will take it a step further by comparing Spanish speaking ELLs in three programs: sheltered English program, immersion English program, and Spanish-English dual language program within two of the district’s schools (Garcia & Jensen, 2006).

Audience. Choices in program design and instruction must be made when Dual Language programs are being planned. This study will address the scores of ELLs in Dual Language groups at two elementary schools to determine the program’s effectiveness.  The Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) and Language Assessment Scale Spanish (LAS Links Español) exams will be the measurement tools that will evaluate the program.

It is anticipated that parents, students, and district/school administrators will benefit from this study. According to previous research, ELLs who are enrolled in a dual language or bilingual program learn English faster and their academic performance is equal to or better than in a traditional ESOL program (Thomas & Collier, 2003).

Definition of Terms

Terms defined for use in this research include:

Dual Language (DL): It refers to an enrichment bilingual/multicultural education program. In DL, language equity is defined as equal exposure to two languages, i.e., the 50/50 model.  These programs are often called developmental programs. They are called developmental programs as labeled by their funding sources, Title VII, and Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. They are also called developmental programs because linguistic, psychological, social, cognitive, and developmental issues are taken into account in program design (Torres-Guzman, 2002).

ESOL (Meaning English for speakers of other languages): It is a strategy used to teach students with a limited proficiency in English. It is also used by the Florida Education Finance Program and listed under English for Speakers of Other Languages (2006 Florida Statutes, Title XLVII K- 20 Education Code, and Chapter 1003 K-12 Education Code).

Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR):  It is available to K-12 public schools for free. It is developed by Just Read and the Florida Center for Reading Research. It is an assessment system that provides information on teachers screening, progress monitoring, and diagnostics to guide instruction (FLDOE, 2010).

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT):  This is part of the overall plan by Florida which aims to increase the achievement of students by introducing higher standards. This test for 3rd to 11th graders has three basic elements:

Criterion-referenced tests (CRT), Writing from the Sunshine State Standards (SSS), and norm-related tests (NRT). CRT measures selected benchmarks in mathematics, reading, and science, while SSS and NRT measure individual student’s performance (FLDOE, 2009).

Language 1(L1): It refers to the first language than an individual speaks (FLDOE, 2009).

Language 2 (L2): It refers to the second language that an individual learns to speak (FLDOE, 2009).

Limited English proficient or Limited English proficiency (LEP): When used with reference to an individual, it means;

(a) A person whose native language is not English, and was not born in America;

(b) A person who originates from an environment where English is not spoken; or

(c) A person who is an Alaskan Native or American Indian. This person may also come from an origin whose environment had a language that affected his or her English language proficiency level; and

(d) It also refers to a situation where an individual who has difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or listening to the English language, is denied the opportunity to learn successfully in a classroom because the language of instruction is English (2006 Florida Statutes, Title XLVII K-20 Education Code, Chapter 1003 K-12 Education Code).

Language Assessment Scales Spanish: Abbreviated as LAS Español (FLDOE, 2010).

Purpose of the Study

This study aims to evaluate qualitatively the district’s Dual Language Program by comparing it to other programs having English as a second language.  The Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR), scores of English Learners, Language Assessment Scales Spanish (LAS Links Español), and English proficient students at two elementary schools will be used to measure proficiency in the English language and in reading.  These assessments will measure and indicate academic achievement and program effectiveness.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Introduction

Dual language programs are relatively new in the United States. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) occurred in 1994. After this, the federal state launched a large effort which was concerned with the education of dual language students (Garcia & Jensen, 2006).  The department of Education in the United States promoted the development of educational programs, which had an aim of enhancing competency in dual languages.  Dual language programs differ from other language programs. This is because they provide high-quality instruction for students who cannot speak English. They also provide instruction in a second language to English speaking students.  Garcia & Jensen (2006) found that dual language immersion is an excellent model of academic achievement for all children.  They refer to a study conducted by the Center for Applied Linguistics that found that students had achieved oral English fluency by third grade. The English writing samples of fifth and sixth graders were also undistinguished from those of native English speakers. With this information, it is evident that students became fluent in more than one language.  Through dual language programs, English students can perfect their Spanish language at an early age without abandoning the English language. Spanish speaking students learn a second language, English, while still improving in their native Spanish language.  Therefore, all students will have a chance to improve their social skills that will help them live in a multicultural and multilingual country.

Review of Literature

In order to create the understanding and awareness of different cultures, students should be trained on how to grow as multicultural citizens (Banks, 2003).  According to Banks, a multicultural citizen is a person who can recognize and legitimize the rights and needs of other citizens and maintain a commitment to both their individual and national culture.  In the current state of multicultural growth, students should be educated on the national and global effects that their cultures produce. Students should also be educated on how international events affect them.  According to Banks (2003), the development of a cohesive nation may be prevented by unexamined and nonreflective cultural attachments. This development is hindered even when the country has clearly defined policies and national goals. The United States has always been a country of diverse cultures; however, with the large influx of Hispanic immigrants, cultural changes have occurred.  Some may believe that by becoming more culturally aware, the nation would be betrayed; on the other hand, others believe that becoming multicultural citizens would strengthen the country.  Banks (2003) stated that a nation that alienates cultural groups runs the risk of creating hostility and causing these groups to concentrate on their own needs, rather than concentrating on the goals of the nation.  Education is the foundation of any great nation. Students must be given the chance to acquire the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to function within this culture that continues to be diverse in race, ethnicity, culture, language, and religion. A dual language program will facilitate the blending of cultures and the acceptance of persons from both cultural groups.  Students, who participate in a dual language program, do not only become bilingual, but also become bicultural. This expands their cultural knowledge and acceptance of other cultures.

Wiley (1997) examined four myths of language diversity and literacy and used historical and contemporary data to disprove them.  The first myth is that the English language is threatened.  Through U.S. Census data, Wiley (1997) found that, in 1990, 13.8% of the population spoke a language other than English.  Based on this information, it is clear that English is the most common language in America and that the United States is better described as a multilingual nation.  The second myth is that English literacy is the only literacy. Many people confuse not being literate in English with being illiterate. Many immigrants may not be literate in English, but they are literate in their native language.  These people are not illiterate, they are limited in English proficiency. Wiley (1997) states there are three patterns of literacy among the minority groups in America: bi-literacy, second language literacy, and native language literacy. The third myth states that English illiteracy is high because language minorities are not eager to learn English.  It is assumed that many non-English speakers are too loyal to their native languages and cultures, and they do want to acquire literacy in English (Wiley, 1997).  When Proposition 63 was passed in California, there were more than 40,000 adults on the waiting lists, eager to learn English. This happened not only in California, but across all the country (MacKaye, 1990).  The final myth is that the method of promoting English would be by immersing people in English-only instruction.  This myth has been disproved with time. Current research on bilingual education for children and adults shows that the English-only approach is less effective than the bilingual education approach (Wiley, 1997).  Wiley (1997) says that many other language scholars agree that the minority children should be taught to become adults who are bilingual.

Through Dual Language education, students can be taught to become bilingual and bi-literate. Dual language education gives students the opportunity to acquire a second language, while maintaining their native language. Collier & Thomas (2004) clearly defined two methods of dual language learning education.  The first method is the one-way programs. In these programs, only one language group is taught with the two languages.  For example, a group of students may be proficient in English, having lost their heritage language, and the other proficient in Spanish and beginning to learn English. Collier & Thomas (2004) also indicated that these programs did not only take place in Spanish communities, but also along the U.S.-Canada border (Franco-American heritage) and American-Indian schools.  The second dual language learning method is the two-way programs. These programs have the statistics to call the native-English speaking students to join them in their bilingual and English Language Learner (ELL) peers in an integrated bilingual classroom. These programs permit enrolment of all students, including those who only speak English. These programs prefer to have students with a 50% background in each language (Collier & Thomas, 2004).  Although both programs are different in their classroom dynamics, their basic principles are similar.  For either of these programs to be effective, a student must complete a minimum of 6 years in bilingual instruction. The two languages of instruction must also be separated, and the core academic curriculum should be used. In this core academic curriculum, the use of high cognitive demand of grade-level lessons and collaborative learning should take place (Collier & Thomas, 2004).

Students participating in dual language programs benefit academically more than students who are monolingual. Schools can expect the achievement gap for 5th and 6th grade English learners to close each year by implementing the dual language programs (Aguirre-Baeza, 2001). According to Thomas & Collier (2003), native-English speakers, who participated in a dual language program, scored higher on the Stanford9 than those in the mainstream program. English learners, who were enrolled in the program for 5 years, scored in the 51st percentile on the Stanford9 (reading), compared to other English learners in other English programs, who scored in the 34th percentile. Native English speakers scored between the 63rd and 70th percentile on the Stanford9, compared to mainstream English speakers, who scored around the 50th percentile (Thomas & Collier, 2003).  Being enrolled in a dual language program benefits students both academically and socially. Students experience each other’s worlds and cultures and widen their world views and knowledge.

The most vital part in a dual language program and multicultural education are its leaders.  Aguirre-Baeza (2001) mentioned some key leadership traits for principals, administrators, and teachers who work within a dual language program.

1)Leaders should be constructivist: sharing leadership with teachers, staff, students, and community members.

2)Educators should ensure that everyone shares in the vision of the program.

3)Faculty and staff should participate in community events: attending meetings and participating in rituals and ceremonies.

4)Leaders should consider various ethnicities when hiring personnel. A diverse population will enrich the dual language program.

Aguirre-Baeza (2001) stated that denying the United States the benefits of being bilingual would deny it the existence of a global economy of production. It would also deny its citizens their ethnicity and the chance to enrich their cultures.

Conclusion

Social realities such as multilingualism and multiculturalism have become part of the current processes of globalization. Because immigrant students often have diverse linguistic backgrounds, it has become increasingly relevant to seek approaches to validate this and other forms of diversity within the classroom. Traditionally, teachers and administrators have applied low academic expectations to ESL and second language learners. They have collectively failed to appreciate and acknowledge nondominant language knowledge and skills. This negatively affects immigrant children’s academic achievement and also translates into other social inequalities among the school culture, as mentioned by Banks (2003). Considerable research in the US and other countries consistently shows that both ELL students and native English speakers benefit from instruction through two languages.  This research shows that adding more English-only instructional time does not result in greater achievements measured in English for English learners. It also shows that those students who achieve the highest levels in their home language also achieve the highest levels in English. Therefore, research proves that students who are provided with a solid base in the home language achieve more in the English language (Aguirre-Baeza, 2001; Collier & Thomas, 2004; Garcia & Jensen, 2006; Thomas & Collier, 2003). There exist many myths about learning a second language, whether the language is English for ELLs or Spanish for English speakers. However, although some people disagree with bilingual education, they agree that learning a second language (not necessarily Spanish or English) benefits the learner academically, personally, and professionally (Thomas & Collier, 2003).

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