Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Hidden in plain sight: The untapped potential of young ELLs in linguistically segregated schools
by Capitelli, Sarah, Ph.D., Stanford University, 2009, 229; 3382935
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I examine the challenges surrounding the increasingly severe problem of linguistic segregation for Latino ELLs in schools by looking closely at their experiences learning to read in English. Working under the assumption that language plays a role in the academic achievement of Latino ELLs, I consider broadly the challenges facing ELLs in school and then look more closely at the conditions for ELLs in California. I examine the impact first and second language acquisition theories play in the conceptualization of English language learning in schools and the role language ideology plays in our understanding of achievement for English language learners. I outline my original questions and study design and explain why my study ultimately changed. I then describe and justify the intervention I designed and detail the insights generated from the intervention. Finally, I discuss the insights my intervention study sheds on the learning contexts and opportunities for young ELLs.

This dissertation draws primarily on my documentation of the intervention in a linguistically segregated elementary school in urban area of Northern California over the course of the 2007–2008 school year. To gain insight into the experiences of young ELLs in linguistically segregated schools, I describe and interpret their experiences within this educational context and during both their whole class reading instruction and the small group intervention. The description and interpretation serve as a lens into their experiences. I highlight three important insights about their experiences that surfaced during the intervention.

One insight centers on the students' use of “I forgot” during the conversations about text. In this account, assumptions about participation among students who have been labeled as underperforming and underachieving are challenged. Another insight explores the challenges of working with young ELLs who can successfully decode text, but who do not understand what they have decoded. In this account, the critical role of meaning in the language and literacy of young ELLs is surfaced and the repercussions of instruction that ignore meaning is explored. The final insight examines the strengths of young ELLs and highlights how these strengths can be hidden in curricular contexts that privilege accuracy and native-like speech. The dissertation concludes with a summary of these insights and a discussion of areas for further research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Valdes, Guadalupe
School: Stanford University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: English as a Second Language, Elementary education, Curriculum development
Keywords: English as a second language, English language learner, Linguistic minority student, Linguistic segregation, Reading interventions, Scripted curriculum, Struggling student
Publication Number: 3382935
ISBN: 978-1-109-45012-5
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