Educating Non-English-Speaking Hispanic Students on the Middle School Level

Recent studies conducted in the United States of America show that minority students in the country are underperforming in comparison to Caucasian students at the middle school level. According to the U. S. Department of Education the academic performance of minority students today is as poor as it was in the 1990s while Caucasian students have shown vast improvement (US Department of Education, 2003; Webley, 2011). Hispanic students, in particular, have continued to perform poorly in school. Another example of a recent study in this field is the one conducted by Reardon and Galindo (2009). In their study, Reardon and Galindo argue that the disparity between the academic performance of Caucasian students and minority students manifests itself in several ways. Drawing upon data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten (ECLS-K), Reardon and Galindo (2009) found that African American and Hispanic students tend to score lower on standardized tests compared to Caucasian students in Kindergarten through fifth grade. Reardon and Galindo concluded that at the kindergarten level, the math scores of Hispanic and Black students were 75% that of their Caucasian counterparts. The reading scores of the minority students were 50% that of their Caucasian counterparts. The two scholars argue that the disparities in academic performance between the two groups persist throughout their primary and secondary school education.

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Public schools in the United States are facing a problem with an increase in the number of minority non-English-speaking students. The US Census Bureau (2010) indicated the number of non-English speaking Spanish students aged between 5-17 stands at approximately 519,837. The number of English-speaking Spanish students is significantly lower, standing at approximately 89,217 (US Census Bureau, 2010: p. 1). According to Webley (2011), 2010 population census indicated that there are about four million Hispanic students enrolled in American public schools. A large number of these students do not speak English as a first language. For example, a Pew study conducted in 2007 found that 93% of Hispanic individuals born outside the United States of America do not speak English at home (Hakimzadeh, 2007). In 2006, Galindo and Reardon conducted a study that showed that 30% of kindergarten students drawn from Hispanic backgrounds were unable to communicate well in English. The kindergarteners were categorized as non-proficient in oral English (Galindo & Reardon, 2006).

Teachers and administrators struggle with teaching and accommodating non-English- speaking students. One way to address the challenge is to adapt pedagogy and curriculum to the needs of non-English-speaking students. According to Davis (2007).

….many methods of adapting pedagogy and curriculum can help students learn about multicultural democracy and develop more positive racial identities. Teachers can learn about their students’ racial and cultural identities by asking student-centered questions that apply what is being taught in class to the students’ lives. […] Teachers can assign reflective pieces that allow students to apply their present understanding of race and culture to historical events. […] If teachers provide accurate information about racial and ethnic groups, rather than stereotypes, students will be able to disregard many of the false understandings they have (pp. 210-212).

As a result, students from different racial backgrounds should be able and willing to accommodate each other. African-American students and Hispanic students on the one hand and the Caucasian students on the other hand should accommodate each other as a result of enhanced positive racial identities. Davis (2007) is of the view that if teachers and schools make efforts to create positive racial identities among the learners, the academic performance of the school will improve. The students, in such a case, are more likely to excel academically and associate well with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Such coexistence is likely to improve the academic performance of non-English-speaking Hispanic students as they develop a sense of belonging to the school system. The curriculum is changed to help students learn about other cultures. In this regard, teachers, and administrators can adopt what Slavin (2006) referred to as equity pedagogy. According to Slavin, equity pedagogy is the use of teaching techniques that promote the academic performance of learners from different ethnic and social backgrounds. Learning about other cultures can promote academic performance among students. It is expected that students from different cultures coexist peacefully after developing the positive racial identities alluded to by Davis. Minority students should not feel intimidated by the majority students.

There are several challenges faced in the implementation of equity pedagogy. For example, teachers are not aware of the different equity pedagogy techniques (Davis, 2007). As such, they are not adequately trained to teach students who cannot speak English (Davis, 2007). There is likely to be a breakdown in communication between the student and the teacher, which will negatively affect the capabilities of the student. Navarra (2006) illustrates the importance of equity pedagogy to the performance of students in public schools. According to Navarra, students from different racial backgrounds learn differently. If a teacher, for example, adopts a teaching technique that favors Caucasian students, such minority students as Hispanic may be disadvantaged. Administrators expect teachers dealing with a multicultural classroom to use various techniques that correspond to the learning styles of students with different ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. For instance, the teacher can use a highly personalized but demanding approach when teaching native Alaskan or American Indian students. In addition to personalization, equity pedagogy involves the use of cooperative learning methodologies in science and math instruction to enhance concept comprehension among non-Caucasian students (Slavin, 2006).

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To complicate matters further, teachers lack the capability to handle these students, regardless of whether the learners were born in the US or elsewhere, or whether they are the first, second or third generation to attend an American public school (Roekel, 2008). The issue of communication is significant for teachers dealing with ELL classes. There are other challenges associated with the practice. They include inadequate facilities to cater for the need of ELL students. Teachers also express frustration over the wide range of English language proficiency and academic levels and the fact they receive little professional development or in-service training on how to teach ELLs (Roekel, 2008, pp. 1-2).

Accommodating English Language Learners (ELL) is a legal requirement in the United States (Mentze, 2010). Mentze (2010) cites the 1964 Civil Rights Act as the basis for the legal rights of ELL’s. According to the act, “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” (Mentze, 2010). Public education is funded by the government, and as such, non-English- speaking Hispanic students should not be denied access on the basis of their race. Teachers cannot demand the exclusive use of English in their classroom, neither can they deny the use of or belittle the learners’ home language and culture.

Problem Statement

The general problem is that teachers and administrators lack training and awareness in multicultural education (Slavin, 2006). The lack of training and awareness has negatively affected the implementation of equity pedagogy in most public schools in the United States of America (Slavin, 2006). The inappropriate implementation of equity pedagogy has various consequences (Slavin, 2006). One consequence is that students from minority groups lack the opportunity to learn and improve themselves. The specific problem is that there is need to study how equity pedagogy can be effectively used by stakeholders to improve the learning outcomes of non- English-speaking Hispanic students (Rocha, 2008). There is a gap between acknowledging the value of equity pedagogy and its implementation in the classroom. Galguera (2011) state: states(?)

…the challenges facing teacher educators in preparing teachers with attention to language development for academic purposes are complex. On the one hand, thinking about teaching practice exclusively for ELL students is an approach that is both too broad and not sufficiently inclusive as well as possibly elicit deficit thinking (Valencia, 1997), among teachers and administrators. […] We can, however, help teachers conceive a set of learning goals and objectives as well as related curricula and pedagogy intended to apprentice students into the academic discourse community. Rather than ensuring that preservice teachers are able to distinguish between academic and non-academic varieties in order to teach the former, I propose that we concentrate our efforts in preparing teachers to consider the functions language plays in an academic setting. (pp. 89-90).

The current study will be conducted in Port Arthur Independent School District’s (PAISD) middle schools. The researcher is a resident of this region and has been involved in teaching non-English-speaking Hispanic students in the district. It is one of the reasons why the school district was selected for the study. As of 2012, the school district had nine elementary schools, two middle schools, and six high schools. The focus of the current study is the two Middle Schools (Grades 6-8). The two are Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Abraham Lincoln Middle School.

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There are no particular ESL programs for middle schools, and this is one of the reasons why they were selected for the study and not elementary or high schools. There are programs put in place for the elementary schools, where the students are required to learn English by third grade (Rocha, 2008). But there are no such programs for secondary schools, which include middle schools. The schools have the option of implementing their own programs. According to Faltis (2010), “Texas state law currently mandates the availability of bilingual education for elementary students and a choice of bilingual or ESL for middle school students” (p. 89). The researcher is a middle school teacher, and she has come across many non-English-speaking Hispanic students. The teachers, according to Rocha (2008), lack training in equity pedagogy. High school students will be excluded from the study because the same students are transitioning over from middle to high school.

The cultural diversity of the school district captured the attention of the researcher. According to New America Foundation (2012), the number of Caucasian students in the district as of 2011 was 31.2% as compared to 33.3% in 2010. African American students represented 12.9% of the total of students in 2011, compared to 14.0% in 2010. Hispanic students increased to 50.3% of the total of students in 2011, compared to 48.6% in 2010. The percentage of the other students was American Indian (0.5% in 2011, 0.4% in 2010) and Asian (3.6% in 2011, 3.7% in 2010).

According to Texas Education Agency (2012), Lincoln Middle School had a total of 457 students during the 2010-2011 school years. Out of these, 309 were African American, 124 were Hispanic of which 25 are LEP students. The school does not have any Hispanic teachers. Jefferson Middle School had a total of 763 students within the same period. African American students were 264, 407 were Hispanic of which 136 are LEP students. The school had only one Hispanic teacher. Given this scenario, the researcher was interested in discovering the difference between equity pedagogy and teaching non-English-speaking Hispanic students.

The study focuses on Hispanic students in the school district and not the students from other cultural backgrounds. The reason for this is that the number of Hispanic students in the district has been increasing over the past several years: 46.3% in 2007, 47.2% in 2008, 47.9% in 2009, and 48.6% in 2010 (New America Foundation, 2012). The number of students from other cultural backgrounds have decreased or increased only marginally within the same period.

One aspect of equity pedagogy involves multicultural education. According to Slavin (2006), multicultural education is a process that calls for the participation of the administrators, the teachers, and other stakeholders in the education system. The initial step in multicultural education is for the stakeholders to learn about the cultural background of their learners. From this, the stakeholders can understand their learners better. Understanding their learners will help the teachers and the other stakeholders identify their education related needs. The understanding will help in developing curricula suited to the individual students, which will in effect enhance equity pedagogy in the education system. Understanding the needs of the non-English-speaking students will help the teachers and other stakeholders to tailor education to meet the needs of a growing diverse student population. The stakeholders can effectively examine the policies, practices, and curriculum adopted in their particular school to identify any possible bias and come up with measures to address them (Slavin, 2006).

Multiculturalism not only targets ethnicity, but also age, gender, religion, disability, and economic backgrounds. Eteokleous and Christodoulou (2010) underscored this point by arguing that equity pedagogy should go beyond cultural diversity. There are other forms of diversities within the classroom and within the community such as gender and age. It is also important to note that the non-English Hispanic student population is not homogenous. Students representing various countries and cultures within those countries are classified as Hispanic. Studying multiculturalism with respect to non-English-speaking Hispanic students should go beyond generalizations and include culture specific education.

With the increasing cultural differences, society acknowledges that changes in the educational system are inevitable (Webley, 2011). With the population of minority students in public schools rising, the curriculum should change to reflect this and cater to a larger audience with varied educational needs (Webley, 2011). For example, the Texas bilingual program had an increase of 448, 917 students in the 2008-09 school years, translating to 84% increase from the 1992-2006 school years (Mentze, 2010).

Multiculturalism has brought with it many challenges as far as the teachings in class are concerned. The challenges arise from microcultural values that represent the different ethnicities in the classes and macrocultural values that are the teacher’s understandings of the students’ backgrounds (Mushi, 2004, p. 49). As far as microcultural values are concerned, it is noted that every student has learning needs that are different from those of students from other cultural backgrounds. For example, the learning needs of non-English-speaking Hispanic students vary from those of Caucasian students. Non-English-speaking students may find it hard to articulate issues orally and in English, something that is not as prevalent among Caucasian students (Mushi, 2004). In the case of macrocultural values, the teachers find it hard to understand the individual needs of students from different cultural backgrounds. Mushi (2004) is of the view that teachers dealing with a culturally diverse class face unique challenges compared to their counterparts dealing with culturally homogenous classes. A teacher in a middle school in PAISD needs to be aware of the individual needs of students from Hispanic, Caucasian, and African-American backgrounds among others.

The current qualitative study, which takes the form of an exploratory case study, explores the various challenges facing teachers dealing with non-English-speaking Hispanic students and how this affects equity pedagogy. The ability of a teacher to understand students from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds is very important. The understanding goes a long way in improving equity pedagogy and educating non-English-speaking Hispanic students. The results of this should inform stakeholders about possible gaps in training teachers and administrators in equity pedagogy. The results should also inform stakeholders on how to revise existing curriculum within the district to address the issue.

According to Gallo (2008), many educators feel that there is lack of support with regard to bilingual education training, district communications, and school site administration. The major obstacles in public schools concerning the development of students’ learning include students not understanding the language, not knowing how to write or interpret the language taught, and not understanding the different cultures introduced. With many non-English-speaking students entering the public school system, researchers, suggest that teachers should understand not only the student, but also the student’s background, community, religion, and economic backgrounds (Davis, 2007).

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this exploratory case study is to discover the possible challenges facing teachers at the middle school level with regard to educating non-English-speaking Hispanic students in Southeast Texas. Equity pedagogy helps in addressing the needs of non-English-speaking students. It is important to explore the challenges faced in its implementation. Such an understanding will help in addressing the various weaknesses of the equity pedagogy while exploiting the various benefits. The investigation specifically focuses on training challenges in the context of teachers and equity pedagogy in the district. The sample used for the study includes teachers and administrators dealing with non-English-speaking Hispanic students in two middle schools in PAISD. The exploratory case study was favored as it will provide insightful information about the phenomenon compared to other research designs. Data will be collected using face-to-face interviews.

Qualitative Research Questions

What are the various perceived challenges involved in training teachers dealing with non-English-speaking Hispanic students in PAISD in equity pedagogy?

Answering this question may help in identifying the shortcomings associated with training teachers to deal with non-English speaking Hispanic students.

How do teachers and administrators in PAISD perceive the challenges of teaching non-English-speaking students at middle school level?

Answering the question helps in gauging teachers’ attitudes toward addressing the needs of non-English speaking Hispanic students.

How can equity pedagogy be used to address the perceived challenges in PAISD public schools?

Answering the question will create a link between equity pedagogy and learning in public schools. It helps in identifying ways through which school administrators can use equity pedagogy to address challenges associated with teaching students from diverse backgrounds.

Significance of the Study

There are many studies conducted in a given field at any given time. As a result, the researcher of a new study needs to justify the importance or significance of their study to the field. The researcher needs to highlight the benefits of their study to the field (Eswell, 2008). In this section, the significance of the current study is highlighted.

Significance to field

Non- English-speaking Hispanic students face many challenges concerning academic performance in the United States of America (Walsh, Kemerer, & Maniotis, 2005; Tupa, & McFadden, 2009). The challenges include low performance and high rates of school dropout. Reardon and Galindo (2009) found that in the 2000-2001 academic year, 8.8% of Hispanic students dropped out of high school. Only 4.1% of Caucasian students dropped out within the same period. The studies conducted with regard to the relationship between equity pedagogy and non-English-speaking Hispanic students are very few. The knowledge gap is addressed in the current study. The results of this study may be used to inform practice concerning teacher training, professional development, and classroom curriculum. The findings may be of great importance to PAISD and other school districts in the country in extension. Further significance of this study is derived from Davis (2007) who argued that teaching controversial issues is beneficial to the students. Equity pedagogy may be regarded as a controversial issue in education. There are several reasons why the concept is controversial. First, it entails treating students from different backgrounds equally, which may be controversial in a country with people from different racial backgrounds like America. It entails teaching such controversiall issues as racial equality (Davis, 2007). Davis pointed out that teaching controversial issues opens the eyes of the learners to new perspectives on race and culture, to which they have not been exposed in the past. Awareness of cultural diversity may help students, teachers, and other stakeholders in PAISD learn how to communicate with other cultures. In this regard, awareness of cultural diversity gives individuals a broader outlook on what other cultures can bring to the school district and the community.

Significance to leadership

School administrators are known to face various challenges dealing with cultural diversity in their institutions. They find it hard to implement curriculum that caters to the needs of students from various socio-economic backgrounds. The challenge is faced by school administrators at Port Arthur and other school districts in the country (Davis, 2007). The study may help the administrators overcome these challenges. It may provide information that may help administrators formulate effective policies to address the challenge of cultural diversity. Such policies may include training teachers on equity pedagogy and helping students cope with the same.

The findings of the study will be provided to school administration to help them further understand how to best engage the community in equity pedagogy. The results of the study may give the city and the Independent School District information to help formulate policies for non-English-speaking Hispanic students and their families. The significance of this is gleaned from Tupa and McFadden’s (2009) arguments. They argue that a district’s attitude with regard to academic performance begins with the district personnel. Tupa and McFadden recognize the significant role played by the family and the community in a student’s educational life. Parties share the responsibility for a student’s academic success.

Nature of the Study

There are various questions that emerge with regard to the instruction of non-English- speaking students in the US. For example, should non-English-speaking students learn in the same classrooms as their English-speaking friends? Should they learn academic skills in their first language? Should they learn in English and receive explanations in their first language? Should they be instructed in English, but also have time to be instructed in their first language? Is the language of instruction the only thing that affects the learning process of these students? The questions are very important, and there is no way to provide an instant solution. Some of the challenges faced by non-English-speaking students are common among all students. For example, both non-English speaking and English speaking students may find it difficult to understand the history of other countries with cultures unfamiliar to the students. There may never be a simple way of educating non-English-speaking students. It is possible to come up with guidelines that will help ELLs attain the academic achievement that is comparable to that of their non-ELL counterparts. There is clear link between education policies with regard to non-English speaking students and the perceived challenges. The reason is that in most cases, policy makers will make efforts to come up with policies that address the challenges identified in the system.

In the proposed study, the researcher will gather information from teachers and administrators of the two middle schools in PAISD. The information will be used to find out how the teachers and administrators perceive the challenges of teaching non-English-speaking students and how equity pedagogy can be used to address such challenges.

Theoretical Framework

The increase in the number of non-English speaking students resulted in many challenges for both the learner and the school. The teachers and the students are not aware of and may not appreciate the cultural background and cultural values of each other. Teachers need to be trained on how to address cultural diversity and how to learn about their students’ background. They should also appreciate the individual needs of students from different cultural backgrounds. For example, they should be made aware of the need to learn English, the need to fit in with other students among others (Schultz, 2007). Theories are important as they provide the teachers with the hypothetical link between the various aspects involved in equity pedagogy, such as the need for equality. It is one of the reasons why the teachers should be made aware of these theories. The following theoretical frameworks will inform this study:

Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition

In 2007, Krashen provided a theoretical framework used to address cultural diversity in the classroom (Schultz, 2007). The Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition has five hypotheses:

  1. The Acquisition –Learning Hypothesis. Requires interaction with the target language. In the context of this study, the researcher is interested in the interaction taking place between the target students and the English language. These are the non-English-speaking Hispanic learners who are the target of this study and how they learn the language.
  2. The Monitor Hypothesis. Addresses the link between language acquisition and learning. It goes further to define the influence that learning has on language acquisition. Here, the researcher is interested on how the non-English-speaking Hispanic student acquires and learns the English language and how his or her acquisition affects the learning. This relates back to teachers learning different strategies and techniques to help the non-English-Hispanic student be successful.
  3. The Natural order hypothesis. Provides that the acquisition of grammatical structures progresses through a natural order that is predictable. For example, it can be predicted that the non-English-speaking Hispanic learner may start learning the English language before understanding class instructions given in English.
  4. The Input hypothesis. Addresses the issue of how a learner acquires a second language. To this end, the researcher will explore how non-English-speaking Hispanic learners acquire the English language and how teachers overcome the language barrier within his or her classroom.
  5. The Affective filter hypothesis. Suggest that a number of affective variables affect the process of acquiring a second language, such as English, for the target students in this study. The variables facilitate the learning process. However, Krashen indicates that the variables are not the cause of the learning. The affective variables in this case may be the desire of the student to learn the English language, the support they receive from their teachers and their family members among others. The importance of support from their teachers and family members help students become successful in their academics to move on to a higher education.

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Social Development

Erik Erikson provides eight stages of social development.

  1. The first stage (birth to 18 months) explains how a child depends solely on the mother, either trusting or not trusting her because the mother is the sole provider.
  2. Erikson’s second stage (autonomy versus doubt, ages 18 months to three years) provides that at age two, the child has developed enough language to communicate with others.
  3. The third stage addresses a child within the age bracket of three and six years. The children within this age bracket are developing language skills and motor skills. The children at this stage will express themselves, but parents should not punish them because of this. Pushing the child could cause a problem later in life, making the child to have self-doubts.
  4. Stage four is the time when the presence and influence of the teachers and peers increases and that of parents decrease. The child starts looking at his or her ability and how he or she feels about them. For example, the child will experience positive and negative feelings, which can determine the success of the student.
  5. Stage five (12 to 18 years) is the period within which the child turns away from the parent and toward his or her peers.
  6. The sixth stage addresses intimacy versus isolation. The stage is characterized as young adulthood. The ability to share their lives with someone else is an important aspect of the individual at this stage.
  7. Stage seven discusses middle adulthood and guides the next generation.
  1. The last stage focuses on late adulthood and integrity versus despair. The stage is the period when individuals start looking at their lives and what they have accomplished in their lives (Slavin, 2006).

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory

Vygotsky pointed out that social interactions precede development. According to him, cognition and consciousness are the results of social behavior and socialization. His work addresses three concepts:

  1. The first concept is that social interaction is essential for cognitive development. Vygotsky’s argument is quite different from that of Jean Piaget who points out that development precedes learning. He posited that cultural development among children occurs in two steps. The first is the social stage (between people). The second takes place at the individual stage (in a child).
  2. The next concept is the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). It refers to any other individual whose comprehension is enhanced than that of the student. It can be a teacher, an older adult or coach.
  3. The third concept is Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the zone where learning occurs. Vygotsky focuses on the interaction between people in a social and cultural context. In the context of the current study, the teacher is charged with the responsibility of promoting culturally relevant learning contexts.

The theoretical framework of the research study includes approaches adopted to further the understanding of people’s thoughts, habits, and their emotions. Students learning a new language could experience frustrations, anger, and embarrassment. The phenomenon is complicated for most stakeholders (teachers, administrators, and city leaders) in the education sector. The three theorists discussed above agree with the social and constructive nature of development. In extension, the three also support equity pedagogy. Steps needed to address challenges in equity pedagogy are partially identified using a social constructionist research approach.

Given the rising number of ethnic groups in our society, the outlined theories may help the city management and the school district in exploring and coming up with ways to approach and solve education related problems in the community. The important issues to explore here include communication between cultures, attitudes, and cultural beliefs. Such issues will be addressed in this research by interviewing individuals on non- English-speaking Hispanic students in the public schools and the effects of this on students, teachers, and administrators. The findings of the study may help the community and the school to understand each other’s ethnic backgrounds better. It will ultimately provide a better learning experience for non-English-speaking students.

According to Vural and Gomleksiz (2010), “if the value systems in a school can be formed as a lifestyle, by taking democracy and human rights as a basis, it may be possible to make important contributions in assisting students to gain democratic attitudes and behaviors with the help of a hidden curriculum” (p. 220).

The Learning Wheel Theory

In this study, the researcher will rely more on the learning wheel theory by Annabelle Nelson (1998). Nelson (1998) argued that the learning wheel model is a concrete and practical tool in the planning of a lesson. The wheel is applicable in a multicultural setting. The model helps teachers who are handling students from different cultures to design lesson plans. The main assumption of this model is that different cultures have different ways of processing information. The scholar refers to these differences as “intelligences”, which teachers can use to create mind maps. More information on this model will be provided in chapter two.

Definition of Terms

There are various terms used in this study. It is noted that the meaning of these terms as used in this study may differ from their normal or every day’s meaning. In this section, the researcher provides definitions for relevant terms. The definition given here is the meaning of that particular word within the context of this study. The definition may be different from the normal usage of the term on a daily basis.

  • Academic Indicator System. Pulls together a wide range of information on the performance of students in each school and district in Texas every year (Texas Education Agency, 2010).
  • Bilingual education. Instructional program for students who speak little or no English in which some instruction is provided in the native language (Slavin, 2006).
  • Differentiated teaching. The strategy is used in addressing the needs of students from varying backgrounds. It involves coming up with different teaching strategies to help learners with varying abilities, interests, and learning needs. The strategy helps the learners to gain skills and knowledge necessary in the learning process
  • English Language Learners (ELL). Are terms used for the much smaller number of learners who have not yet attained an adequate level of English to succeed in an English – only program (Slavin, 2006).
  • English as a second language (ESL). Subject taught in English classes and programs for students who are not native speakers of English (Slavin, 2006).
  • Equity. The state of quality of being just, impartial, and fair (Slavin, 2006)
  • Limited English proficient (LEP). Possessing limited mastery of English (Slavin, 2006).
  • Monolingual. Knowing or able to use one language
  • Multicultural education. Education that teaches the value of cultural diversity (Slavin, 2006).
  • Multiculturalism. The belief that a society should respect and promote the various cultures or ethnic groups of which it is composed.
  • National Education Association (NEA). The oldest and largest teachers union (PAISD, 2010)
  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS.). Prerequisite knowledge and skills in determining instructional goals and objectives (Tassell & Crocker, 2010)

Assumptions Made in the Study

There are various assumptions made in this study. It may not be possible to address each aspect of a given topic in one study. It is hard to explore all the variables present in a given study. To address this issue, it is assumed that the variables that cannot be explored will remain constant and unchanged throughout the study. If the variables happen to change, it is assumed that the change will have minor or no effects on the outcomes of the study. Following are the assumptions made in this study:

It is assumed that non-English-speaking Hispanic students do face challenges in learning English language and other subjects in the school. It is further assumed that the experiences of students at the three schools selected in Port Arthur School District are comparable to those of other schools in the district and in the whole country in extension. The researcher further made the assumption that teachers play a very significant role in educating non-English- speaking Hispanic students. Apart from teachers, other stakeholders such as the student, school administrators, and members of the community were also assumed to play a significant role in educating non- English speaking Hispanic students. Another assumption is made to the effect that equity pedagogy is an important policy adopted by schools in addressing the needs of non- English-speaking Hispanic students. Stakeholders in the education sector are aware that non-English-speaking students face challenges in learning English and other subjects in school. The problems and challenges facing PAISD involve the construction of solutions through community-developed knowledge. Involving the views and opinions of members of the community is important in achieving viable and sustainable solutions

Scope and Limitations of the Study

Scope of the Study

The scope of any given study is defined as the extent to which the study can go in addressing issues in a given field (Eisner, 2011). It is important to set boundaries within which the study will be conducted. The delineated boundaries within which the study is conducted comprise the ‘scope of the study’ (Eisner, 2011). The study is an exploratory case study whose scope is the Port Arthur Independent School District, which currently has 22 schools. What this means is that the study is conducted within the borders of PAISD.

Limitations of the study

The methodology of a given study is not able to address all aspects of the topic. The inability of the methodology to cover this is what is referred to as the limitations of the study. The study will be limited to non-English-speaking Hispanic students. English-speaking Hispanic students also face challenges in learning, but they will not be addressed in the current study. The study will be limited to Hispanic students alone. Students from other minority groups, such as Latino and African American, will not be addressed despite the fact that they also face challenges. The study will be limited to the public schools in the PAISD. There are non-English-speaking Hispanic students in private schools in the country and in the school district, but the researcher will limit themselves to PAISD. Other school districts in the state will not be addressed. The issue of equity pedagogy is not limited to this school district alone. The researcher will focus on non-English-speaking Hispanic students in middle school. Students from elementary and other school grades will not be addressed despite the fact that non-English-speaking students from these grades are also affected by equity pedagogy.

Delimitations

Delimitations are the justifications of how the limitations have been dealt with in the study (Eisner, 2011). The study will focus specifically on non-English-speaking Hispanic students. However, the challenges associated with equity pedagogy, and which are faced by English speaking students, are less severe compared to those faced by non-English-speaking Hispanic students. The English speaking students understand the language used by the teachers. The study focuses on Hispanic students because they are the largest group of non-English-speaking students compared to other groups of students, such as American-Indians. The number of non-English- speaking students in public schools is significantly higher than that in private schools. The number of schools in PAISD and the number of non-English-speaking students is comparable to that in other school districts. Hispanic students in middle school are affected by equity pedagogy more than their counterparts in other grades.

Chapter Summary

In this chapter, the researcher introduced the reader to the study that will be conducted in this paper. The researcher highlighted some of the issues that revolve around the study. The aim is to give the reader an idea of what the whole study is all about. Some of the issues highlighted include problem statement and background information, where the author provided an analysis of the issues revolving around the current study. In the purpose statement section, it was revealed that the main purpose of the study is to establish the link between equity pedagogy and teaching non-English speaking Hispanic students. Three research questions were provided. The significance of the study and nature of the study were also addressed. In chapter two, the researcher reviews the literature that exists in this field. The aim is to locate the current study within the larger field of educating non- English-speaking Hispanic students and equity pedagogy.

Literature Review

Introduction

Chapter two presents a review of the literature in this field. The findings of studies carried out in a given field are published in journals and articles, which forms the literature base in that field. It is important for a researcher to familiarize themselves with the literature that exists in their field of study before carrying out the new research. The critical review helps to identify agreements and disagreements among various scholars in the field. It also helps in identifying knowledge gaps in the field, gaps that the researcher may seek to address by the current study (Auch, 2003).Critical literature review also helps in locating the current study within the larger field of study regarding non- English-speaking Hispanic students in America by identifying its relationship to other studies carried in the field in the past. Critical literature review also helps in avoiding duplication of studies that have already been carried out in the field.

The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the possible challenges facing teachers at the middle school level with regard to educating non-English-speaking Hispanic students. The topics that the researcher will cover in this chapter include Texas legislation and how it relates to bilingual and multilingual education, Port Arthur Independent School District and bilingual programs, an analysis of the Lau vs. Nichols case in Texas among others. The Lau vs. Nichols case is important to this study as it will highlight some of the legal issues around bilingual and multilingual education in the context of equity curriculum in Texas and specifically in Port Arthur Independent School District.

The researcher accessed the literature to be reviewed in this study systematically. She searched the school’s database using key words. She also accessed some articles and books from the school library. The researcher also visited the local public library to search for articles to use in the literature review. Most of the articles used reported the findings of studies conducted, while others expressed the professional opinions of the authors. The same applied to the books that were used. Some of the journals used in the literature review include among others, the Pedagogy, and Professional Responsibilities, Academic Excellence Indicator System: District profile, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, Intercultural Education, Early Childhood Education Journal, Journal of Political Science Education, and Problems of Education in the 21st Century. The keywords entered into the databases are equity pedagogy, Non-English-speaking students, Hispanic students, and Bilingual programs. The databases used included Cochrane online library, JSTOR, and Elsevier.

Texas Legislation and Bilingual Education

Bilingual education is the form of education catering to students who have entered public schools in the United States of America but who do not speak English. This form of education provides the students with instructions to help them enter into the mainstream regular classes. The needs of the students in the classroom, the curriculum, the teaching, and training taking place are periodically evaluated to determine progress. The evaluators of this system wonder whether this is the correct placement for the students who are non-English-speaking. Some feel that mainstreaming and learning English as soon as possible will benefit the students. Students in bilingual programs outperform the students in an English- only program (Krashen, 1999). Krashen’s (1999) observations are supported by Gallo and his colleagues when they try to explain the effectiveness of bilingual education to the student. According to Gallo (2008), “……..bilingual education is a process, one which educates students to be effective in a second language while maintaining and nurturing their first language” (p. 1).

In 1981, Texas legislature made provisions for bilingual education. The law stated that any school district that has 20 or more LEP students in the same grade is required to have a bilingual education system at the elementary level (Walsh et al., 2005). This requirement does not include students at the secondary level.

The two Port Arthur middle schools have non-English-speaking students at the secondary level (middle and high school). The non-English-speaking students are not addressed in Texas State’s legislation regarding bilingual education. However, it is noted that teaching non-English- speaking students in this school is possible even if it is not covered by the law. ELL, limited English proficient, and English as second language (ESL) students can be successful. The teacher should not only be qualified but also have the proper materials to teach.

Mentze (2010) explained the pedagogical and professional responsibilities that a teacher should have to understand and provide his or her students with the best education. According to Mentze (2010), those responsibilities may help entry-level teachers understand the procedures and laws in Texas public school’s system. The same will apply to secondary level teachers even if the program is subject to the discretion of the district (Rocha, 2008). The Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed in 1965. It is an equal opportunity legislation aimed at helping all children to receive an education. The act was reviewed and renamed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2001. This act is to hold schools districts across the United States accountable for academic approval and every child receives an education regardless of his or her race or ethnicity. The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 (BEA) implemented different forms of bilingual education for example ESL, ELL and LEP, which later became ESEA and the needs of these bilingual programs are to be federally funded. Another program the Structured English Immersion (SEI), the ELL students are taught in main stream classes in English by teachers that are trained to meet his or her needs to help the students be successful.

Factors Affecting PAISD’s Bilingual Programs

PAISD faces some challenges that may hinder the implementation of the bilingual program. If these challenges are not addressed, the quality of education in the district may be affected negatively. Some of these challenges or factors are analyzed below:

Student to teacher ratio

The first factor is the student to teacher ratio. According to PAISD reports and Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), there are more Hispanic students in the district than teachers. According, to the Texas Education Agency (2009-2010) the AEIS reported that Thomas Jefferson middle school has 414 Hispanic students of which 153 are LEP and two Hispanic teachers. Wilson middle school has 143 Hispanic students of which 11 are LEP students. The school has no Hispanic teachers. Austin middle school has 221 Hispanic students with one Hispanic teacher and 16 LEP students in the program. The district has 1,293 teachers and only 57 Hispanic teachers which is 9.3% of the district staff. Table 2.1 shows the ethnic distribution between the three middle schools:

Table 1. Ethnic Distribution among selected PAISD Middle Schools

Middle Schools Ethic Distribution
Total Students 587 654 772
Austin M.S. Lincoln M.S. Thomas Jefferson M.S.
Student Count Percent Student Count Percent Student Count Percent
African American 297 50.6 493 75.4 277 35.9
Hispanic 221 37.6 143 21.9 414 53.6
White 22 3.7 4 0.6 28 3.6
Native American 0 0 2 0.3 0 0
Asian/Pacific Islander 47 8 12 1.8 53 6.9
Economically Disadvantaged 485 82.6 579 88.5 656 85
Limited English Proficient (LEP) 16 2.7 11 1.7 153 19.8
At Risk 58 41.2 302 46.2 525 68
Total No. of Teachers
African American 19 51 45.9 79.6 33.1 62.5
Hispanic 1 2.7 0 0 2.5 3.8
White 16 43.6 10.7 18.6 16.8 31.8
Native American 1 2.7 0 0 0 0
Asian/Pacific Islander 0 1 .7 1 1.9

Hispanic teachers are underrepresented when it comes to the quality of bilingual education offered. A large student-to-teacher ratio overwhelms the teachers and reduces the quality of education offered in the school. It is important to train and recruit more teachers in these programs to address this problem. Schhneider, Martinez and Owens (2006) argued that “by sharing a cultural identity with their teachers Hispanic students might benefit by seeing someone from their own cultural background succeed” (p. 4).

Program participation

The second factor or challenge affecting bilingual education programs in the district is program participation. There are middle school students who are not in the bilingual program because their parents have denied them the chance to participate. In the absence of legislations mandating participation, parents base their decisions on a small amount of little information. This is evident when one takes into consideration the number of non-English-speaking Hispanic students enrolled in public schools in a given district and the number enrolled in the bilingual programs. It is worth noting that the enrollment is not 100% despite that it is necessary for the students to be enrolled in these programs (Batalova & McHugh, 2010). According to the PAISD reports and Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), the enrollment is below 60% in public schools. The minority of students are LEP, ELL, and ESL at the middle school level. In spite of the fact that these students stand to benefit from the bilingual program, they are barred by their parents.

Smith, Stern and Shatrova (2008) argued that language barrier may be one of the most significant challenges facing Hispanic parents who wish to get involved in the school activities. In most schools, teachers speak little or no Spanish. As such, the teachers find it hard to communicate with the Hispanic parents with regard to the grades, behavior, and other issues that affect their children. To make matters worse, there are no interpreters during most school meetings. Spanish parents find it hard to understand what is going on in such school meetings.

Parents are concerned that if they participate in the bilingual program, their culture will be negatively affected. This challenge can be addressed by creating awareness among the parents on the benefits of the bilingual programs on the students. The school district should also endeavor to come up with programs that preserve the cultural diversity of the students to pacify the parents. The teachers should be trained on how to involve the various stakeholders in the program.

Funding

Rossell (2010) explained that the cost of the bilingual program to the state of Texas is more than ELL alternative programs. It is estimated that the program can cost between $200 and $700 per student per year (Rossell, 2010, p. 11). The implication is that funding the program is an expensive affair.

Funding bilingual and ESL programs is expensive, if the figures from the Texas Education Agency are anything to go by. The authorities use about $1.2 billion for all bilingual/ESL programs. The budget translates to approximately $253 per student. Cost is an important factor in bilingual education. It is especially significant in cases where the federal and state budgets are operating on a deficit (Faltis, 2010, p. 90). Port Arthur ISD general fund for the Bilingual/ESL education is $3,081,379 and the total required for each student is $338. The costs do not include teachers’ pay and teaching materials that the students will need. Moreover, the student will need the materials regardless of the program he or she is taking part in. The funds given to the schools in the district are enough to supply materials for 806 students only. Faltis (2010) further noted that “cost-effectiveness is especially important to the taxpayers and to schools, since it frees funding for other priorities in education and may prevent taxes from being increased or a teacher from losing pay” (p. 90).

Availability of materials

It is important to assess whether or not the fund is actually supplying materials to each student within the program. As already indicated in this paper, the availability of materials may be affected by several factors. First, the school district may not have enough financial resources to purchase materials such as textbooks for the students. Second, sourcing for the materials may not be a priority for the school (Batalova & McHugh, 2010). The school may prioritize other programs such as NCLB meaning that little or no attention is paid to the bilingual program. This will negatively affect the quality of the education availed to the students.

Parent involvement

Parental involvement is an important factor in the Hispanic community. Involving the student’s parents will let the student and the parent(s) know that the district cares for them. Sheffer (2003) explained how parent involvement is important to the success of the student. Sheffer suggested most bilingual students’ parents are not aware of what the bilingual program is all about. To determine their knowledge a survey was carried out to find out how many parents understands the program entirely. Sheffer found that in Texas, only 20% of parents had a full understanding of the program. According to Sheffer (2003), teachers concur that there is a communication gap between the various stakeholders. Some of the parents are not involved because of immigration problems. Sheffer also notes that some parents on the other hand do not participate simply because they did not know or understand the program. Alienating the parents will affect the quality of the bilingual program given that the students will not receive the crucial support needed from the parents.

Poverty

The sixth factor is poverty and how poverty affects the student’s learning ability. Poverty is characterized by reduced lunch and free lunch programs. Students who qualify for the program are identified using their parent’s level of income. Texas Education Agency (TEA) stated:

One of the six eligibility criteria for public prekindergarten services is that the child be educationally disadvantaged.

Poverty can affect the performance of the non- English-speaking student and English- speaking students in more than one way. For example, a hungry student will not be able to concentrate in class. Payne (2005) stated “Immigrant children are twice as likely to be poor as native-born children” (p. 4). The U.S. Census Bureau reported 10 states where the rate of child poverty increased by about 20%. Texas was one of these states. Out of the 8,898 students in PAISD, 7,527 are economically disadvantaged (Texas Education Agency, 2010-2011). Macartney (2011) states that “children who live in poverty, especially young children, are likely than their peers to have cognitive and behavioral difficulties, to complete fewer years of education, and, as they grow up, to experience more years of unemployment” (p. 1). The city of Port Arthur is projected to have an increase of 73% in the Hispanic race. The number of White residents will decline by about 6.81%, while the African American residents will remain stable at 40.31% (Van Zandt et al., 2012, p. 2). The increase in Hispanics will affect the school district, bringing in more Hispanic students that are non-English-speakers. Teachers and administrators will need to know how to accommodate these student’s needs.

Use of language

The student should be able to use his or her native language as well as English to understand the meaning of words that will help in comprehension. Hasson (2000) discussed how language in different generations evolves throughout the immigrant families. Hasson provided an intergenerational model that explains generation language dominance. In the first generation the language is usually monolingual based on their home language. In the second generation the individual is a bilingual who uses both home language and the language used by the people around him or her (Davis, 2007). In the third generation the individual is a monolingual who uses his or her native language. The latter is the dominant language (Payne, 2005).

The parents notice that the children are gravitating more toward the English language, and they fear the loss of their native language. With parents fearing that the children will lose their native language, they discourage them from taking part in the program. According to Farruggio (2010), Spanish preservation is important to immigrant parents because it strengthens family unity for survival in a harsh economic environment. Parents associate the loss of Spanish among their US-schooled children with a potential diminution of parental authority and a disruption of cultural values. Most parents in the study by Farrugio were concerned that their children were losing their Spanish language. Four of the parents were of the view that the issue needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency (Farrugio, 2010: pp. 7, 14). PAISD has 3,820 Hispanic students in the district, which is 42.2% of the student population. Only 806 (8.9%) Hispanic students participate in the bilingual program. The implication is that strategies should be put in place to encourage parents in PAISD to enroll their children into the program to address equity pedagogy challenges. The scenario is vividly illustrated in Table 2 below:

Table 2. Middle School LEP Denial Accountability

School Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade 8
Austin 6 13 0
Jefferson 22 17 4
Lincoln 18 3 1
Total 46 33 5

The History of Bilingual Education Programs in Texas

Overview

The Texas Bilingual Education law was signed by Governor Dolph Brisco on June 3, 1973. The legislators called this law the Bilingual Education and Training Act (S. B. 121). This law mandated elementary public schools with 20 or more students with limited English to provide a bilingual program. Before the bill was passed by the Senate as Senate Bill 121, members of the community and educators had shown their support for improvements in the education of Hispanic children (Rodriguez, 2011).

Lau v. Nichols (1974)

The case is an important precedent in this field. It contextualizes the legal issues surrounding the development of bilingual education programs in Texas. In 1974, Nichols enrolled Chinese students in all English classes but lacked proper instructions. The judgment made by the court was beneficial to the bilingual program. Guidelines were formulated to address the needs of learners with limited English skills. The aim of the guidelines was to plan for appropriate bilingual and ESL education programs. The United States v. Texas and Lau v. Nichols cases were the major drivers behind the expansion of the bilingual and ESL programs (Rodriguez, 2011). Providers of bilingual education in PAISD (including teachers) should familiarize themselves with the legal issues surrounding these and other cases to provide quality education. In the process, the teachers will avoid legal pitfalls that may derail the implementation of the programs.

Theories and Student Learning

Krashen and other theorists

There are several theories explaining the learning of the second language among the students. Theories presented in chapter 1 will be presented in greater detail in chapter two. The Krashen’s (1999) Theory of Second Language Acquisition has two independent systems of second language performance. These are the acquired system and the learned system (Schultz, 2007). Broom (2011) examined the effects of comprehension in the bilingual education system. The scholars discussed four issues that affect bilingual outcomes and which can affect the benefits of this program in our schools. These are as analyzed below:

  1. The first issue is the form of instructions offered to the students. The scholars theorized that the instructions may or may not include the student’s native language. This may negatively affect the comprehension of the student as far as the second language is concerned, especially if they are not conversant with the English language.
  2. The second issue is classroom differences. To this end, the scholars theorize that the students may be ignored in their classroom setting. It is noted that there are students from different socio- economic backgrounds in a given classroom in a public school. If one section of the students is ignored, the quality of education they receive and their level of comprehension will be negatively affected.
  3. The third is the impact of instructions given. This will include the instructions given both in the native language and the English language.
  4. In some cases, the scholars note that there can be cultural resentment concerning the different languages being taught. Consequently, the comprehension of the non-native language may be affected. This means if the students resent the language that is used to teach them, their comprehension will be negatively affected by this negative attitude.

Egan’s 1997 Imaginative Education (IE) theory “…informs (on) how we understand second-language learning with implications for classroom practice” (Broom, 2011, p. 98). Egan also includes the responsibility of the teacher and the classroom environment surrounding the student. Of particular importance is the type of relationship the teacher has developed with the student. Vygotsky explained the teacher’s responsibility and surrounding in the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky’s theory compared to Egan’s imaginative education (IE) helps the ESL student to understand by using levels that connect to real life situations for the individual student (Holland, 2006).

With respect to the needs of PAISD, it is necessary to give special attention to students who do not speak English. The special attention will ensure that the language used in instruction does not become a barrier to comprehension. The teacher should develop a working relationship with all students, which will make the learning environment conducive for all participants. Holland (2006) explained two things that can improve teaching diversity and the pedagogical factors that help with teaching students about different situations of different groups. The first is to identify the variables that correlate with the successful teaching of diversity; that is with what students learn. The second is to identify pedagogical factors that contribute to student resentment to learning about the history and/or contemporary situation of disaffected groups (Holland, 2006, p. 188).The scholar provides an insight into the resentment that students may have toward the course content.

Annabelle Nelson’s Learning Wheel Model

The learning wheel model has been used extensively to inform and explain learning in a multicultural context. Such a background makes the model relevant for the current study. It is a perfect model to understand the issues revolving around teaching non-English-speaking Hispanic students given that they are taught in a multicultural context. According to Annabelle (1998), the learning wheel model represents five intelligences and helps teachers to plan lessons to cater for learners from different cultural backgrounds. The model not only benefits learners of foreign descent; it also helps learners with the same cultural background. It helps students process learning in different modes referred to as intelligences (Nelson, 1998). The wheel is designed to meet individual differences of the learners. The figure below represents the learning wheel as envisaged by Nelson (1998)

The Learning Wheel
Figure 1. The Learning Wheel

According to Nelson (1998), the learning wheel should be conceptualized as a practical and concrete tool for planning lessons in a multicultural setting. It is important as it helps the teachers to create lessons and units that cater for the needs of learners from varying cultural backgrounds. Nelson (1998) argued that the underlying assumption of the wheel is that “……..different cultures teach different modes of processing information to interact successfully with the environment” (p. 5). This is what the scholar refers to as intelligences in the proposed model. The wheel above together with the accompanying five intelligences can be used by the teachers to construct a mind map. For instance, a group of teachers can collaborate develop a curriculum for non-English-speaking Hispanic students. They can use the ‘mind map’ strategy to come up with a curriculum. The figure below vividly illustrates how the wheel can be used to create a mind map:

The Learning Wheel and the Mind Map
Figure 2: The Learning Wheel and the Mind Map

The theoretical foundation of this study will be based on Nelson’s Learning Wheel Model. The model will be used because teaching non-English-speaking Hispanic students takes place within a multicultural setting. It takes into account the differences among the students and assists teachers to come up with lesson plans that benefit students from other cultures. Additionally, the model appreciates that there are differences in the way students from different cultural backgrounds process information. Understanding conceptual, practical, technical, and creative intelligences of students from different cultural backgrounds as presented by Nelson (1998) will help teachers in PAISD to plan lessons to meet the needs of non-English-speaking Hispanic students in the district.

Teaching ELLs

For a middle school level student who does not understand English, ELLs are expected to learn what the other students are learning. In addition, they are expected to learn “academic English,” the language of instruction. A student is expected to learn how to relate events and narrate them to others. They are also expected to compare things and justify choices, and know the different inflections and forms of words, and their appropriate applications. They are expected to correctly use content-specific lingo in such disciplines as social studies and mathematics. Moreover, the student is expected to effectively present himself/herself in written and spoken academic English. If one is not able to meet such expectations, they fall behind everyone else in class, record poor grades, get discouraged, and have very few occupational and educational choices. There are millions of children in the United States faced with such challenges, as evidenced by various studies in the field. One such study is the research conducted by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA), which found that by 1990, one in every twenty K-12 students was an ELL. Twenty years later, the number rose to one in every nine (NCELA, 2011). The NCELA estimates that the number may even increase to one in every four in the next 15 years.

The general academic performance of ELLs is quite low. According to, a report by the National Assessment of Education Progress in 2007, non-ELL students in fourth grade scored thirty six points below their non-ELL counterparts (NAEP, 2008). The disparity among eight grade students was even higher at forty two points. The main reason for the underperformance is the lack of English proficiency among ELLs. On the basis of available research, there are various ways to help ELLs. According to a National Literacy (NLP) meta-analysis conducted by August & Shanahan (2006), if children are taught to read in their first language, they will learn how to read in English easily. Whether ELLs should be taught in their first language or in English and the native language has been a source of controversy. The NLP meta-analysis reviewed 17 studies and found that ELL students learn their second language easily when they are first taught either in their first language or in two dialects simultaneously. They find it hard to learn the language if they are instructed in the second language. Mohr and Mohr (2007) explain that “some students lack the linguistic ability in English to express themselves clearly, but this does not preclude their comprehension of the material” (p. 466).

Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders & Christian (2006) conducted a similar study on behalf of the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE). In both the NLP and CREDE reports, it was reported that ELLs and non-ELLs learn in the same manner. If instruction is suitable for the general student, it will most probably be suitable for the ELL student too. The language of instruction may differ, but if a model is effective for English- speaking students, it will be effective for non-English-speakers. All that matters is the clarity of learning objectives. The objectives include motivating, challenging, and meaningful contexts as well as content-rich curricula. An effective curriculum is characterized by appropriately paced, clearly structured, and well-designed instructions. Other objectives, include active participation and engagement, response feedback, periodic practice, and review, and motivating interaction with other students (August & Shanahan, 2006; Genesee et al., 2006).

The two studies documented that to effectively teach non-ELLs, instruction models should be formulated taking into consideration the limitations of such students. Although most aspects should be similar for the two groups when it comes to instruction, modifications are necessary for English learners. However, during the earlier stages of learning (when ELLs are learning how to join letters to form words), their progress is quite comparable to that of non-ELLs. When the requirements of the language of instruction are low, the progress of ELLs is improved. As the language and content becomes more sophisticated, instructional modifications become necessary (August & Shanahan, 2006; Genesee et al., 2006).

The National Education Association and other Studies on distribution of Bilingual Education Programs

The National Education Association (NEA) provided guidelines on how to meet the needs of English Language Learners and improve their academic success (NEA, 2010). The PAISD (2010) article outlines six states that have 60% English language learners. Arizona, California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Alabama had a 300% increase in English language learners. NEA highlighted how these students are being treated and the gap is restricting the student’s achievement. According to the article, the students are receiving instructions different from those of other students in the school. The instructions received by these students may be poor considering the fact that the schools may not have prioritized bilingual education programs. The discrepancy is significant to the current study because it is important to identify how different policies in different countries affect the achievement of the learners.

Batalova and McHugh (2010) provided charts and maps demonstrating that Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the English language learners’ home. Batalova and McHugh (2010) showed the percentage of student’s home nations and those students who used English within their homes. Rocha (2008) explained that Latinos is the ethnic group that is increasing at a higher rate in the United States of America today. The scholar shows how this group of people will be the least educated in the country. The population is growing so fast that 8.5 million of students from this group are part of our public school system. Studies such as those done on NCLB Act are bringing more attention to the possible inequities among minority students.

Hispanic Population in Port Arthur District

The current study is addressing the provision of education to non- English-speaking Hispanic students in PAISD. This being the case, it is important to highlight the size of the population in this district as far as the Hispanic community is concerned.

According to the Census Bureau (2010) the population of the city of Port Arthur in Texas in 2000 was 57, 755. This decreased to 53, 818 in 2010. With the decrease in the population of the city the Hispanic population increased from 17.45% in 2000 to 29.6% in 2010. Port Arthur Independent School District has a Hispanic population of 3,820 with 57 Hispanic teachers in the school district. The School district is characterized by cultural diversity. The mission of the school district acknowledges this fact as it reads: “The primary objective of public education in the community is to meet the unique educational needs of their diverse population” (PAISD, 2010). The number of Hispanic students at district and state level is high. See Table 2.3

Table 3. Port Arthur Independent School District

Count Count
District 9,047 State 4,824,778
Students By Ethnicity n % n %
African American 4,368 48.3 676,523 14
Hispanic 3,820 42.2 2,342,680 48.6
White 322 3.6 1,607,212 33.3
Native American 14 0.2 18,890 0.4
Asian/Pacific Islander 523 5.8 179,473 3.7

With the current rate of Hispanic’s population growth in Texas, it is projected that this ethnic group will be the largest within 50 years. This increase in the size of Hispanic population will affect the education sector. It will affect teacher training and curriculum guidelines’ development. With this increase, the teachers in the country will need to either be bilingual are learn strategies for students to learn and comprehend lessons taught in the classroom. Van Roekel (2011) states:

There is a pressing need to close the achievement gap between ELL students and their native English speaking peers. Providing professional development opportunities for general education teachers at every stage in their career is a key step toward ensuring great teachers in great public school for all students. (p.3).

The curriculum will have to include Spanish material for the benefit of both the students and the teachers. This will not only be beneficial to the teacher and the student but also benefit the parents when helping the students at home.

Bilingual Education from an International Perspective

Countries like India, China, and Singapore are incorporating English into their schools because of the high technology in the world today and the international trades. India has set up a bilingual program that involves parents by sending materials home in both English and their native tongue. There are also parent questionnaires to gauge the literacy environment at home (Kalia, 2007). The programs help parents understand what their child is learning in school. The parents may take interest in learning English.

Dixon (2005) stated that “the Singapore government established a bilingual education policy. The prime minister of this nation argued that it is only mastery of the English language will bring Singapore the international trade” (p. 27). Not only were the students required to learn English but there were also schools set up for the students called English-medium schools. Schools were required to teach English starting with math and science, the two main subjects. The Prime Minister was of the view that learning English would take some years but the majority of the students (57%) are already enrolled in English medium schools. This has seen an increase in the number of English medium schools and decline in learning other languages. In 1983 the government passed a law that required students to be taught in English. According to Baoren (2011), the goals of bilingual programs in USA and China are relatively similar. Baoren points out that bilingual programs help students in developing fulfilling, productive, and purposeful lives. In addition, teachers should be retrained to adequately assist non-English- speaking students.

Dominant Native Language among ELL in USA

According to, the Migration Policy Institute, ELL “students around the nation speak over 150 languages, but Spanish is the language that is used and is considered most common in the students homes” (Batalova & McHugh, 2010, p. 1). See Figure 1.

Top Ten Spoken Languages in ELL Students’ Homes

Between 2008 and 2009, 77.2% of the 36 million ELL students enrolled in the United States spoke Spanish. The other languages spoken were Vietnamese and Chinese (Batalova & McHugh, 2010: p. 1). The United States is facing an increase in the number of individuals who speak Spanish only. However, it is important to note that ELL’s not only consists of Spanish- speaking students but also other languages such as Vietnamese. The map below shows Spanish is the main language spoken by ELL students in the United States.

Spanish Language among ELL Students
Figure 4: Spanish Language among ELL Students

This increase in the number of Spanish-speaking students in the country is impacting teaching especially, concerning ELL. This is given that the teachers may concentrate so much on the needs of the Spanish-speaking students because they are the majority ELLs and ignore those of other minority students. To this end, it is important to train the teachers and impart them with skills necessary to deal with a class made up of students from varying cultural backgrounds. Because of the large number of Spanish speaking ELL students, the federal government can hire teachers from Mexico as a short-term solution.

Multiculturalism and Public Education in USA

Multiculturalism in public education is an issue that educators and administrators should take into consideration to make sure that the curriculum addresses the diversity of students from different ethnic groups (Rodriguez, 2011). With the increasing population of students from different backgrounds in the United States of America, teachers need to learn how to communicate with these individuals verbally and nonverbally. Teaching in the classroom should reflect the different cultural backgrounds of the students by giving them an opportunity to learn. Teachers should learn their student’s family backgrounds to understand how each culture influences the decisions made by the students and how they handle conflicts. Davis (2007) states:

“For a multicultural education, cultural information is integrated into subject matter, knowledge is viewed as a social construction, democratic attitudes and values are supported, academic achievement for culturally diverse students is facilitated, and school environments are revamped to empower marginalized students” (p. 5).

Conclusions

Three conclusions are drawn from this literature review. The literature review reveals that school administrators and teachers should recognize the different attitudes of different students, how different students complete tasks differently, and even the difference in the way communication takes place. As educators, recognizing the differences among students and their cultural diversity is very important. The recognition helps students and teachers to respect the differences that come with other cultures (Rodriguez, 2011). Such understanding also helps students to be more open to different learning styles and techniques and to be more willing in learning about other cultures.

Chapter Summary

In this chapter, the researcher critically reviewed literature that to be found within teaching non- English-speaking Hispanic students. The review of the literature helped in locating the current study within the wider field of teaching these students. Among the topics covered includes Texas legislations touching on bilingual education, factors affecting bilingual education, learning theories, and bilingual education from an international perspective. In chapter three, the researcher will provide the reader with information regarding the steps that were followed in conducting the study. This chapter provided an idea of how data was collected, how data was analyzed and the limitations of the research methodology adopted.

Research Methodology

Introduction

In chapter two the reader was provided with a critical review of literature that exists in this field. The aim of this critical review was among others to locate the current study within the larger field by identifying the link between the current study and others that have been conducted. In chapter three, an analysis of the steps that will be taken to collect and analyze data for the study is provided. The chapter is divided into several sections, which include the problem statement, research design, research questions, research sample, and population, data collection, data analysis, and methodological limitations.

Purpose of the Study

The study will address the education of non-English-speaking Hispanic students at the middle school level. The general problem is that teachers and administrators lack training and awareness in multicultural education (Slavin, 2006). The specific problem is that there is need to explore how pedagogy equity can be effectively used by stakeholders to improve the learning outcomes of non- English- speaking Hispanic students. The purpose of this dissertation is to discover the possible challenges facing teachers at the middle school level with regard to educating non-English-speaking Hispanic students.

Research Design

In this section, an analysis of the research design and methodology adopted for the study is provided. There are various research designs and methodologies that the researcher could have adopted. In this section, the use of the research design and methodology adopted for the study is justified. The various aspects of the same will be highlighted and justified.

Appropriate Design

The research will include an exploratory case study of Port Arthur Independent School District. The research techniques employed are sampling, collecting data, and analyzing this data. Strauss & Corbin (1990) point out that it is not easy to select a specific research method when conducting a qualitative study. The presupposition is supported by the fact that all methods have their pros and cons. A case study is one of the qualitative research methods used by researchers. According to Zikmund (2010), a case study is a confined system that can refer to an organization, an event, a person, or even a location. A case study is used when a researcher wants to comprehend the dynamics of phenomena in a particular setting. In this study, the exploratory case study, which is a qualitative research design, was the methodology chosen because of various reasons. In a case study, the researcher can use qualitative data gathered using interviews, observations, and archives (Zikmund, 2010). The reasons the case study methodology was adopted are:

  1. Case studies are very effective when used in the field of developmental studies. Helping non-English speaking students to excel academically in a classroom full of English speaking students reflects a socially constructed reality that can only be understood when the social context is taken into perspective (Zikmund, 2010).
  2. The issue of educating non-English speaking students is not adequately studied. Case study method will aid generate knowledge to help in formulation of theories, testing, and description (Zikmund, 2010).
  3. The current study addresses a contemporary issue, which is closely related to its particular social context. Zikmund (2010) notes that case studies are effective in addressing such situations.
  4. The current study involves an exploration of the unknown or unstated (perceived) challenges in the implementation of equity pedagogy. An exploratory research design and methodology was needed to address this issue, and this is one of the reasons why an exploratory case study design and methodology was adopted.

As already indicated, the purpose of this study is to explore the possible and perceived challenges facing teachers at the middle school level with regard to educating non-English-speaking Hispanic students and equity pedagogy. The research will focus on the two middle schools in PAISD. The two are Lincoln Middle School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The researcher will use the teachers dealing with non-English speaking Hispanic students as the sample for the study. The researcher will use interviews with the teachers to collect data for the study (Ader et al., 2008).

There are various limitations associated with a case study, and which are significant to the current study. For example, the case study may fail to acknowledge the dynamics of factors external to the case. The study will concentrate on internal dynamics and only those external factors that have a direct bearing on the case.

Informed consent

The researcher will uphold the informed consent and confidentiality ethical standards. Before the study commences, teachers and administrators will be requested to participate in the study. It is expected that some of them will agree, while others will decline to participate. In such cases, the researcher will identify other teachers and approach them in a bid to create a sample of 10 teachers and 10 administrators. They will be informed that they have the option of accepting the request and becoming part of the study or declining it. They will also be informed that they have the option of dropping out of the study at any point, and it is not a must for them to provide explanations or justifications for the same. Informed consent means that the potential participants will be made aware of the nature of the study and the form of information that will be collected. They will also be informed of the benefits of the study. It is also noted that personal information will not to be disclosed to third parties without the consent of the respondents. Information about the study will be communicated to the participants both verbally during the interview and through the informed consent form. The Informed Consent Form sent to the participants is attached in Appendix d. The confidentiality and informed consent statements were derived from SASWeb.

Research Questions

Three research questions will guide this study. Data collection and analysis will revolve around these questions:

  • What are the various challenges involved in training teachers dealing with non-English-speaking Hispanic students in PAISD in equity pedagogy?
  • How do teachers and administrators in PAISD perceive the challenges of teaching non-English-speaking students at middle school level?
  • How can equity pedagogy be used to address the challenges in PAISD public schools?

Research Sample and Research Population

The research population for this study is those teachers and administrators working with non-English speaking Hispanic students in PAISD. The participants will be selected from a population of 80 middle school teachers (who teach non-English speaking Hispanic students) and administrators. The number of teachers is 56, while administrators are 24 in total. Ten teachers and 10 administrators will be randomly selected from the population. The researcher settled for 10 teachers and 10 administrators as it emerged that a sample of 20 will be easy to manage. A sample larger than this will prove hard to interview and process, while a smaller sample will fail to capture adequate information. Random selection is important to enhance representativeness of the sample. To this end, the researcher will come up with two lists. One of the lists will comprise the 56 middle school teachers teaching non-English Hispanic students. The list will further be divided into two, listing teachers in both middle schools. The same will be done for the list of 24 administrators. It is important to divide the teachers and the administrators into 2 according to the school they come from to make sure that both middle schools are fully represented. The listing will be done using the names of the teachers. Each of the teachers and administrators will be given a serial number, starting from 1. There will be 4 different sets of serial numbers (for the 4 lists made up of teachers and administrators from both middle schools). The researcher will label plastic discs according to the serial numbers. The plastic discs will then be put in a jar and mixed thoroughly. Five discs will then be drawn randomly from the jar. The teacher or administrator whose serial number in the list corresponds to the one drawn from the jar becomes the participant. The process will be repeated for all teachers and administrators from both schools.

Data Collection

Face-to-face interviews will be conducted with the teachers and the administrators selected for the study. All the 20 face-to-face interviews will be conducted within the 2 schools. An appointment will be made with the participant depending on their availability. Interviews will be conducted in a room that is not occupied to reduce chances of distraction. The researcher will walk with the participant from the staffroom to the interview room, as opposed to waiting for them in the room. The aim is to establish rapport during the walk to the interview room. Once in the room, the interviewer and the interviewee will seat on a table facing each other. The interviewee will place a recorder at the center of the table to record the proceedings. The interview will be conducted using an interview schedule. The questions will ask them to describe multiculturalism in the classroom. They will also be required to provide information on the challenges they face when teaching non-English-speaking Hispanic students in the classroom. The participants will be requested to describe the challenges facing the district as far as teaching non- English-speaking Hispanic students is concerned. Copies of the interview questions used are found in appendix b. After the interview, the interviewer will walk the interviewee to the door and bid them good-bye. They will thank them for participation in the study.

Data Analysis

The current study will make use of qualitative data as already indicated earlier in the paper. The researcher accepted a qualitative research methodology as the literature review revealed that it will provide insightful information on the phenomenon being studied than a quantitative methodology. A review of studies conducted in this field revealed a qualitative research methodology will provide insightful information as compared to the other qualitative methods.

A quantitative approach was not selected because this type of research requires a dependent and an independent variable and the data analysis is usually statistical. A qualitative design in this study will help the researcher gain insight on the experience of the stakeholders in teaching of the nonEnglish-speaking Hispanic students. The qualitative design was more appropriate given that the study did not have dependent and independent variables, or a hypothesis that needed to be tested for that matter. More specifically, the researcher will interview the teachers in their natural setting. Qualitative research collects narrative data whereas quantitative research collects numerical data (Eswell, 2008).

Qualitative data analysis methods will be used for the study. To this end, the researcher will rely on coding of data. The data will be coded using thematic analysis and content analysis. This is as opposed to the use of other qualitative data analysis methods, such as simple descriptive analysis (Eswell, 2008). Simple descriptive analysis is where the data gathered is described in a simple narrative without necessarily going into details about the link between the same and the research objectives or questions. In coding, the researcher will go through the questionnaires and interviews from the respondents. These will be analyzed and “coded” depending on how the information is related to the research questions and research objectives. The responses from the participants will be analyzed to determine which research question and research objective they are addressing. They will then be coded accordingly (Eswell, 2008). One major weakness of this data analysis method is that it tends to transform qualitative data into semi-quantitative data by giving it labels and tags. In this case, the qualitative data will be tagged and labeled according to the research question and research objective they address. In addition, the method is biased to some extent as it tends to leave out information that does not correspond to the themes identified by the researcher, in this case the research questions. However, in spite of this weakness, the methodology is appropriate for this study. The weakness of transforming qualitative data into semi-quantitative data will be addressed by combining thematic and content analysis models (Eswell, 2008).

Thematic analysis involves organizing the data collected to identify recurrent patterns and themes. According to Eswell (2008), a theme in this context can be defined as “….a cluster (of) linked categories with similar meanings (which) is made evident through an inductive analytic process” (p. 45). To this end, the researcher will go through the data collected trying to pick out patterns and themes related to the various research questions and objectives.

Another technique that the researcher will use to code the data collected is content analysis as already indicated. Eswell (2008) defines this method as “……..the research tool (applied) to identify the presence of particular words and concepts (in) texts or sets of texts” (p. 56). In other words, the researcher will study the texts from the data collected trying to identify the concepts that relate to the research questions and objectives. Content analysis and thematic analysis are closely related, especially in the context of the current study. Both of them are hinged on the research questions. The themes are derived from the research questions formulated, while the content of the interviews is organized and analyzed against the same research questions.

Other qualitative techniques, such as simple description, were not used. The reason is that simple description may fail to provide in-depth information about the case study. Unlike the methodologies adopted for this study, simple description may fail to provide a clear link between the various aspects of the study, such as the link between the data collected and the various 3 research questions.

Methodological Assumptions, Scope, Limitations, and Delimitations

Assumptions of the Case Study Methodology

The following are some of the assumptions that are related to the case study methodology used specifically, as well as those related to the study in general:

  1. The variables that cannot be controlled will remain constant and unchanged throughout the study. If the variables happen to change, it is assumed that the change will have minor or no effects on the outcomes of the study.
  2. Non-English-speaking Hispanic students are faced with challenges in learning English language and other subjects in the school.
  3. The experiences of students at the three schools selected in Port Arthur School District are comparable to those of other schools in the district and in the whole country in extension.
  4. Teachers play a very significant role in educating non- English-speaking Hispanic students.
  5. Apart from teachers, other stakeholders such as the student him or herself, school administrators, and members of the community also play a significant role in educating non- English speaking Hispanic students.
  6. Equity pedagogy is an important policy adopted by schools in addressing the needs of non- English speaking Hispanic students.
  7. Stakeholders in the education sector are aware that non- English-speaking students face challenges in learning English and other subjects in school.
  8. The problems and challenges facing PAISD involve the construction of solutions through community-developed knowledge. Taking into consideration the views and opinions of members of the community is important in achieving viable and sustainable solutions

Scope of the Case Study Methodology

The scope of any given study is defined as the extent to which the study can go in addressing issues in a given field of study (Eisner, 2011). It is important to set boundaries within which the study will be conducted. These delineated boundaries are what make the scope of the study. The methodology used in a given study also has its scope. The scope of the exploratory case study used in this research is equity pedagogy and teaching non-English speaking students in PAISD. The school district makes up the boundary of the case study. The study will also address ESL for non-English speaking Hispanic middle schoolers and not those of other cultures or nationalities.

Limitations of the Case Study Methodology

An exploratory case study has various limitations. The limitations are analyzed below in relation to the current study:

  1. An exploratory case study is limited within the boundaries of a given phenomenon. The current case study will be limited to non-English speaking Hispanic students. The case will not include English speaking Hispanic students, even though some may face challenges similar to those of their non-English speaking counterparts.
  2. The case study will be limited to Hispanic students alone. Students from other minority groups, such as Latino and African American will not be addressed despite the fact they also face challenges.
  3. The case study will be limited to public schools in the school district despite that there are non-English-speaking Hispanic students in private schools in the country and in the school district.
  4. Another potential limitation of a case study is transferability. To this end, it may not be possible to ‘transfer’ events that happened in the past to the present. Furthermore, the case may not always apply to all situations. To this end, the researcher is aware that the findings made in this exploratory case study may not apply to other schools beyond those in PAISD.
  5. A case study may also face problems related to confirmability. This is given the interpretive nature of this methodology. The issue can lead to personal biasness on the part of the researcher. In the current study, the researcher may be biased by providing their personal opinion, as opposed to reporting what was found in the case.

Delimitations

  1. The study specifically focuses on non-English-speaking Hispanic students. However, challenges related to equity pedagogy, and which are faced by English-speaking students, are less severe because they understand the language used by teachers. As such, the case study may not omit crucial information from these other groups.
  2. The case study focuses on Hispanic students because they are the largest group of non-English-speaking students compared to other groups of students, such as American-Indians.
  3. The number of non-English-speaking students in public schools is significantly higher than in private schools.
  4. The number of schools in PAISD as well as the number of non-English-speaking students is comparable to that in other school districts.
  5. Hispanic students in middle school are affected by equity pedagogy more than their counterparts in other grades.
  6. To address the problem of transferability, only the most recent data about the case study will be collected. For example, the researcher will use the latest data about the number of students in PAISD. Data collected in the past will only be used for comparative purposes, for example in analyzing the increase in the number of students in the district.
  7. To address the problem of confirmability, the researcher will ensure that they avoid providing their personal opinion when interpreting the data. All the information provided will be backed by data accessed from the various sources used in the study.

Triangulation, Credibility and Dependability of the Methodology Used

Triangulation, credibility, and dependability are some of the crucial elements of a qualitative study, such as an investigative case study. The three issues will be addressed in the current study as follows:

Triangulation

Triangulation is a common procedure in qualitative studies. Scholars use it to improve the validity of their research. It is achieved by assessing the research question from a number of different perspectives. There are several types of triangulation. They include data, theory, methodological, investigator (read researcher), and environmental triangulations.

In the current study, the researcher will use data triangulation to enhance the validity of the study. To this end, data will be collected from a number of sources. The researcher will interview teachers dealing with non-English speaking Hispanic students and school administrators. The researcher will also carry out a critical literature review.

Credibility

Credibility is another important aspect of qualitative study. The credibility of a given study enhances its trustworthiness. To address this aspect, the author will employ several techniques. One of them is data triangulation, which is discussed above. To this end, data will be collected from a number of different sources. The aim is to generate different layers or sets of data for each of the research questions posed. There will be data from teachers, as well as data from the administrators. These are two sets or layers of data for the study. The data generated using such techniques is more credible compared to data generated from one source.

Secondly, the researcher will consult with her chair and committee members. To this end, the researcher will consult the dissertation chair and follow instructions in conducting the study. Each chapter of the dissertation will be submitted to the instructor, and later to the committee, for approval. The supervisor and the committee members are experienced individuals in this field.

Dependability

Dependability is closely related to triangulation and credibility. It enhances the reliability of the data. The aim here is to ensure that the results of the current study can be duplicated by another researcher in the future, following the same steps. In the current study, the researcher will use several strategies to enhance dependability. One of them is data triangulation, as already indicated above. The other strategy that will be adopted is expert review, which is also discussed under credibility above. Here, the researcher will enlist expert review from her dissertation chair and committee members.

Conclusion

An exploratory case study will be used for this study. Participants will be sampled from a total of 80 teachers and administrators in the school district. Random selection will be used to select 10 teachers and 10 administrators for the study. Data will be analyzed using coding, thematic and content analysis. It was found that the case study has several limitations. Among others, the case study has problems to do with confirmability and transferability. The most recent data will be used in the study to address the problem of transferability. Confirmability will be addressed by making sure all the information used by the researcher is backed by data (Eswell, 2008).

Summary

In this chapter, the researcher took the reader through the steps that will be followed in collecting and analyzing data for the study. The population sample was identified as 80 teachers and administrators dealing with non-English speaking Hispanic students in PAISD. A sample size of 10 teachers and 20 administrators will be selected. The data analysis techniques to be used were highlighted. To this end, the use of coding, thematic analysis, and content analysis in the study was justified. The scope, limitations, and delimitations of the methodology were highlighted. In chapter 4, the findings made in the study will be presented. These are the findings that were made using the methodology highlighted in this chapter.

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