Panel Paper: English Learner Labeling: Teacher Expectations, Student Outcomes & the Moderating Role of Bilingual Programs

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Hoover - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ilana Umansky, University of Oregon and Hanna Dumont, German Institute for International Educational Research

English learner (EL) classification has been found to be consequential for students, altering their educational opportunities and outcomes in both positive and negative ways (Callahan, 2005; Callahan, Wilkinson & Muller, 2008; Robinson-Cimpian & Thompson, 2016; Umansky, 2016). Theory suggests that EL classification impacts students through various mechanisms, including programmatic effects and status effects (Link & Phelan, 2013). A primary status effect through which EL classification may alter students’ opportunities and outcomes is teacher perceptions including teacher expectations of EL-classified students, and teacher biases (Blanchard & Muller, 2015). Specifically, research suggests that teachers may at times have diminished educational expectations of EL-classified students, for example by associating limited English proficiency with limited academic capacity. Teacher responses to EL classification vary, however, and may moderated by contextual factors. In this study we examine one key hypothesized moderating variable: language of instruction. Specifically, we hypothesize that teachers in bilingual programs are less likely to hold negative expectations for and biases toward their EL-classified students. This is because teachers in bilingual programs are more likely, we posit, to be engaged with and knowledgeable about EL-classified students’ linguistic, social, cultural, and academic assets (Slavin, Madden, Calderon, Chamberlain, & Hennessy, 2010).

In this study we ask: 1) What is the impact of EL status on teacher perceptions and student academic outcomes?; 2) Does EL status effect student academic outcomes through teacher perceptions and if so, how and to what degree?; and 3) How do these relationships vary for teachers in bilingual versus monolingual programs? With few exceptions (see for example, Spomer & Cohen, 2001 and Blanchard & Muller, 2015), status effects have primarily been examined through qualitative and ethnographic studies (Valenzuela, 1999; Walker, Shafer, & Iiams, 2004). We address this gap in the literature by drawing on a unique nationally-representative dataset, the 2011 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten (ECLS-K: 2011). Using propensity score matching and structural equation modeling, we exploit the fact that students with the same English proficiency levels can have different language classifications due to regional variation in EL classification rules (Linquanti & Cook, 2013). Importantly, this dataset includes an indicator of whether a student receives EL services, a direct assessment of student English proficiency level, teacher perceptions of individual student abilities, and variables related to bilingual and monolingual instructional context. Together, these data allows us to examine teacher perceptions of students who have the same English proficiency (and other background characteristics) but who in some locations are classified as EL and receive EL supports and in other locales do not. We can also examine how this relationship is moderated by the presence or absence of bilingual programming.

Analyses are ongoing and results too nascent to report in this proposal; however we have secured the ECLS-K:2011 restricted-use dataset for this IES-approved research funded by the Jacobs Foundation. After reporting results, our presentation will share policy implications of our findings, specifically identifying lessons learned with regard to innovations, such as bilingual programming, that support teachers as they build asset-based perceptions of EL students.