Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

ELL Parents' Perceptions Matter

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

ELL Parents' Perceptions Matter

Article excerpt

This article describes an action research study that examined nine parents' perceptions of an English-as-a-Second-Language program at a high-performing elementary school. A large number of English language learners were enrolling in the school, and their parents were refusing language support services for their children. Data were collected through pre- and postprogram surveys and audio-taped interviews. The study revealed that parents were initially unclear about the purpose of the ESL program, yet they became better informed, more positive, and more supportive as the year progressed after receiving information from the ESL teacher.

As a veteran English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher with 17 years of classroom experience, I recently transferred to a high-performing elementary school with 650 students in a large urban city in central Texas where most parents are actively engaged in their children's education* The ESL program is successful based on achievement scores from federal, state, and locally-mandated assessments* Despite this success, I noticed the parents of English language learners (ELLs) were refusing language support services that would benefit their children* I wondered if misinformation about the program was influencing parents* To explore the issue, I conducted an action research project that investigated the question; What were the parents' perceptions of the ESL program? I hoped deeper insights would lead to improvements in the program.

Literature Review

Amarai (2001) captured the importance of parental perceptions, finding that, overall, parental perceptions of ESL programs directly affected student success. Importantly, recent research studies reported parents' perceptions of ESL programs depended on how informed the parents were about the available programs. Informed parents were better equipped to choose the best program for their ELL child; as they became aware of what was available for the ELL, they made what they perceived to be the most appropriate decision. The best way for parents to become informed was for the school to allow them to participate in the selection process and to communicate directly with teachers and administration. Accordingly, both state and federal governments required districts to provide sufficient information in order for parents to make informed decisions (Garcia, 2000).

Varied programs are available to ELLs in the United States. The Bilingual Model is a curriculum developed as a result of the 1965 Bilingual Education Act (BEA), Title VIL The intent of BEA was to improve the performance of Limited Englishproficient (LEP) students of low socioeconomic families by creating a transitional program for LEP students to become proficient in English before they transition into general education (Linton, 2007). The bilingual model presents content in English to students in small amounts, with the amount increasing exponentially each year. The goal of the program is for students to transition within a 3-year period to a class in which instruction is conducted only in English.

The program used at the school in this study incorporates aspects of three other models that are widely used in the United States, The first is the English Immersion program, which was initiated by a movement in California called English for the Children. Structured English Immersion allows LEP students to be taught in simplified English in all subject areas. LEP students are mainstreamed into regular classrooms. Students are pulled out of the class if additional help is needed (Linton, 2007). The aspect that is implemented in the school in this study is the pulling out of students from class for additional support.

The second model is the Mainstream English Program, in which ELLs receive the same curriculum as those who are not ELLs. This program is Englishonly, and modifications or accommodations for ELL students are not required (Amarai, 2001). The aspect used from this model in the study school is that all students receive the same curriculum; however, ELL teachers modify or accommodate for each ELL. …

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