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According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2012), the number of children ages 5 to 17 who spoke a language other than English at home rose from 10 to 21 percent of the population between 1980 and 2009. (NCES, 2012) Teachers must now accommodate their bilingual students despite those students English proficiency rates and change their manner of teaching to help those students. (Hite & Evans, 2006) Bilingual students, due to their language deficiency, are not as prepared as their English dominant peers and even though they are capable of learning and improving. Han in his 2012 study found support that the teacher's effort in the classroom makes the most difference in the student's ability, despite their language barriers. The teachers' themselves are at a disadvantage since their typical teaching styles will not necessarily be as effective with bilingual students who are not yet fluent enough in English to understand concepts that English dominant peers would (Keibler, 2011). This adaption on the teacher's part begins as soon as the student steps into the first grade where the teacher will use ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) techniques such as visualizations, repetition, manipulations, and simplification of speech in order to connect with their bilingual students (Hite & Evans, 2006). There has been some research that suggests that those bilinguals who are not first generation, and who have more experience in American culture with greater English proficiency do not show a significant difference in academic achievement compared to their non-bilingual peers (Mouw & Xie, 1999). Despite all of this research on how bilinguals are affected in classrooms and how their teachers strive to adapt to the new situations this brings, there is no widely accepted standard of testing for comparing bilingual student's language proficiency to their academic achievement in school (Cummings, 1984).
Han in his 2012 study "Bilingualism and Academic Achievement" looked at what role, if any, bilingualism plays in plays in children's academic developmental trajectories during their early school years, and whether the school environment makes a difference in these trajectories for children who speak non-English languages. Children in this study were recruited from the ECLS-K survey on longitudinal data on nationally representative children who entered kindergarten in the fall of 1998. The sample was diverse 58% was non-Hispanic white, with 14% of the children speaking another language apart from English at home.
A brief Oral Language Developmental Scale was given to children with non-English backgrounds. Phone interviews were used to gather family demographics as well as parental involvement in school work at home. Teachers and administrators completed surveys distributed by researchers. There was no reported reliability or validity of these strategies, which would have been useful for the reader. The authors detailed the procedure for these assessments, and the Oral Language Development scale, and how non-English language background subjects were determined.
They used a three level growth curve model to show the associations between language and children's trajectories. These levels included time, individuals, and school. Also an unconditional means model was determined first to show the amount of outcome variation that occurred at each level within the model. The growth model was then investigated to see what the within-person variations were in regards to time.
Reading results for Latino children showed that the trajectories showed a score of 50.42 (p<.001) and had a strong positive slope of .21 (p <.001), showing that reading scores increased through all grades. The average reading scores changed significantly over time, with approximately half of these variations determined to be differences among children and 22% was determined to be differences among the schools investigated. The reading score for the average English Monolingual child was 51.53 (p <.001). The average Latino child's math score was 50.83 (p<.001with a strong positive slope of .07 (p<.01) Children's language background explained 7% of the variation in between person initial status. This study did not include all of their data, and on one occasion data was not presented but significant results were claimed.
The Han study specifically looks at the trajectories for elementary students. Since there is no trajectory for high school students of a similar population it would be useful knowledge to have beforehand. The trajectories are useful to have a projected idea of how a student's language background affects their academic performance. It also gives a good idea of how bilingualism can affect their performance as well in multiple ethnicities. This study shows where the gap in language and academic performance lies since there is no study for high school students with such significant results.
While the previous study looked at trajectories for first grad students Hite & Evans' 2006 study looked at how different instructional strategies used for ELL students in first grade. Hite & Evans wanted these strategies to be compatible with the teaching literacy and content strategies already in place but applicable to ELL students. The sample size for this study was relatively small but they surveyed and semi-structured interviews were performed with 19 first grade teachers in a large, ethnically diverse Florida district. The survey was designed to determine "information about the teacher's experience, the languages spoken by their students, the physical classroom arrangement, and general instructional delivery." (Hite & Evans, p. 94) The second part of the survey contained three open-ended questions about how the teachers adjusted their teaching for English language learners, how or if they created their own class assignments and materials, and what strategies or concepts related to these students would be helpful for training teachers to learn. Follow up semi-structured interviews probed the participants for more detailed responses to open ended survey questions. Also they asked three additional questions on the use of peers as tutors or "teacher assistants" for the ELL students: "1) Do the English speaking children in your class assist the second-language learners? If so how do they do it? 2) If children assist one another, are the pairings spontaneous, teacher directed or both? 3) If you use teacher directed pairings, how do you decide which children to pair? What are your criteria?" (Hite & Evans, p. 95)
After data was transcribed and read individually they developed categories using an inductive approach which resulted in a list of 12 initial categories. Six categories emerged from the data after discussion and collapsing: adjustment of teaching approach, modification issues, parent interactions, affect and classroom philosophy, peers as teacher, and use of L1 (native language.) (Hite & Evans, p. 96) Teaching approach changes for these teachers included: visuals, manipulatives, repetition, and simplification of speech. (Hite & Evans, p. 96) Also they mentioned the need to be aware of figurative language and idioms used. Materials were modified as well by changing them to be more appropriate or by creating original materials. Teachers discussed how they could be frustrated due to the school, parent, and student when the parents were unable to help in school task because of lack of proficiency in English or illiteracy in their native language. One teacher conducted evening training to help parents learn strategies they could use to help their children in reading and writing. They had to use an interpreter quite frequently to talk to their parents. All teachers reported using peers to assist the English language learners. Children were generally assigned to English speakers who were "responsible and confident in themselves and the subject." (Hite & Evans, p. 100) The teachers reflected a student-centered rather than teacher-centered philosophy of learning. Teachers also mentioned using another child with some proficiency in both English and the ELL's native language to provide assistance, particularly in translating. They found that these strategies are compatible with strategies for teaching language, literacy, and content to ELL students. These teachers also held positive feelings about, and high expectations academically of, their students. They also found no evidence that any teacher expected less of their students because of low opinions of the student's ability. Teachers found definite benefits from student-student interactions, even though teachers do spend most of their time in general class instruction. They could not generalize the results to other groups of teachers who had more or less training than those included in this study. This study indicated that teachers do not perceive their ELL students to be less capable than their English proficient students. Again it indicates a gap in research for continuing education in middle or high school students.
Mouw & Xie in their 1999 study addressed eighth grade students and how the idea of bilingualism is important in a transitional sense because it enables immigrant children to communicate effectively with parents who are not proficient in English. In their study they wanted to find evidence to support one or multiple theories of bilingualism on achievement and social mobility. If the cognitive model was correct, they wanted to observe a positive effect on academic achievement for fluent bilinguals as compared with English dominant students. If the cultural perspective was correct then increased native-language use between parents and children should have a positive effect on academic achievement. If the transitional perspective was correct then bilingualism has no overall influence on academic performance except when parents are not proficient in English. This is a large sample that had been taken from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS.) They took these data sets and determined a sample from the Asian American racial category reported and contacted them for this study. Data was recorded through self-reports about language, gpa as well as already reported math scores. A regression analysis was conducted to test the various effects of bilingualism as well as descriptive statistics like percentages for each of these categories. The coefficient for native-language use between parents and children was found to be significantly positive for students whose parents have limited English proficiency, coefficient=.317, S.E. =.075). The effect of fluent bilingualism on academic achievement (math scores) was estimated to be significantly negative. Native language use had a positive effect on achievement if parents were not proficient in English and virtually no effect if parents were proficient in English. Like the previous study, they do find their sample from a large survey. This article shows how even the use of the same study population, can give widely different results in a different age group. It is that difference in results that makes this article particularly interesting in the field.
Bilinguals who are still lower in English proficiency could still be integrated in core classes in certain high school across the country. In Kibler's 2011 study they sought to look at how emergent bilinguals interact with their teachers in such a setting. They suspected that students will gradually assume more active roles in writing conferences than verbal conversations. They followed five native Spanish speaking ESL learners in California who were selected for course placement, available records and certain test scores which could not be determined. Data was collected through audio recordings of informal conferences in the biology and humanities classroom. All handouts and drafts of writings were collected on a daily basis for a year. An open coding process indicated a set of codes generated by labeling each topically related set. The initial codes were consolidated into four macro topics: word-level language use, generating ideas for writing, factual knowledge, and conceptual issues.
These two teachers used multiple strategies to interpret their student's responses and move informal conferences forward. Most common was that of a rephrasing strategy where you rephrase the information given into a more collective interpretation. Secondly suggestive tags like "right?" helped student agreement or assurances and teacher acceptance was beneficial but left unresolved student ideas. Finally the use of student's primary language when accessible was useful for such conferences. These teachers did not have a lot of time to work individually and most of the efforts assume that the student understands the language being presented. This study did not report the percentage of each strategy limiting its usefulness in the field. It does provide complex classroom examples of how ESL learners adjust to a normal classroom setting and their teacher interactions.
One major reason for the confused state of the language proficiency assessment in bilingual programs comes from the failure to develop an adequate theoretical framework for relating language proficiency to theoretical framework. Cumming's in his review of assessments (1984) showed exactly how confused the theoretical framework can be. He determined that older immigrant student's whose academic proficiency in L1 was well-established, developed L2 academic proficiency more rapidly than younger immigrant students (Cummins, 1981a). Of 46 tests examined by DeAvila & Duncan (1978) only four included a measure of phoneme production, 43 claimed to measure various levels of lexical ability, 34 included items assessing oral syntax comprehension and nine attempted to assess pragmatic aspects of language. The most commonly-used tests of language proficiency and dominance for minority students clearly embody different theoretical assumptions in regard to the relationship between language proficiency and achievement. The previous studies do use different theoretical framework and even the Mouw & Xie article attempted to put this issue to rest. Their study gave credit to the transitional theory of bilingualism and academic achievement but there still not a widely accepted view of academic achievement and bilingualism
The results of the studies above give evidence to how bilingual students' interactions with peers and teachers can have a significant effect in their academic performance. This effect is not widely accepted as either positive or negative and seems to depend entirely on the classroom setting and the teacher's willingness to devote time to the student. Teacher's willingness and possible attention they give each ESL student still needs more study. Only the nature of those interactions was determined in the above studies, the amount of time spent with each bilingual student and their academic achievement would greatly contribute to this topic. This study will attempt to address this problem by asking is there a difference in level of interaction between non-bilingual high school teachers (grades 9-12) and their perceptions of all bilingual language students with three varying bilingualism levels (passive, conversational, and fluent).
The current study seeks to address this issue both in terms of time the teacher spends in class and in conference with a bilingual ESL student, and the varying levels of bilingualism in those students.
There are two hypotheses that will be tested in this study. First if there is a difference in the level of interactions between non-bilingual teachers and their bilingual students, these teachers will spend more time with the students who are least proficient to better explain the concepts, compared to spending less time with them to avoid the difficulty of explaining to them. Secondly, if there does seem to be an interaction between student's bilingual ability and the teacher's interactions with those students, teachers will have a preference for a specific language (Spanish) over others.
The teacher interactions in this study are defined as time spent with the student answering and explaining questions, as well as individual time spent at the student's desk or availability of the teacher after class for explanations, also taking into account the time the teacher spends ignoring the student's question, or postponing the student's question until later or after class.