THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN TEACHER VARIABLES AND OUTCOMES FOR LANGUAGE MINORITY LEARNERS IN GRADES 3-5 ON MEASURES OF VOCABULARY KNOWLEDGE AND READING COMPREHENSION
Gray, Jennifer Letcher
Dreher, Mariam J
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Researchers have examined the relationships between teachers' preparation, educational attainment, and teaching experience and the overall academic achievement of their students. However, little attention has been given to the relationships between these variables and the achievement of language minority learners (LMLs) in mainstream classrooms. Likewise, though researchers have measured teachers' beliefs and attitudes related to the inclusion and instruction of LML students, researchers have yet to address how these teachers' beliefs and attitudes might relate to LML students' academic achievement. This study was designed to examine relationships between teachers' preparation, teaching experience, educational attainment, and beliefs and attitudes and the achievement of LMLs in the areas of vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. Participants in the study were LML students in grades 3-5 (n=173) and mainstream classroom teachers (n=51) from three schools from in the Mid-Atlantic region and three schools from the Northeastern region of the United States. Students were assessed at the beginning and end of the 2010-2011 school year using the Passage Comprehension and Vocabulary subtests of the Woodcock-Muñoz Language Survey-Revised (Woodcock et al., 2005). In the spring of 2011, teachers were asked to complete a survey designed to collect information related to their backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes. I used ordinary least squares regression with robust standard errors to explore relationships between students' outcomes and teachers' backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes. The results indicated that teachers' level of teaching experience was significantly and positively related to their LML students' achievement in vocabulary knowledge. I found that teachers' level of preparation for working with LML students and their attitudes toward the inclusion of LML students in their classrooms were significantly and positively related to their LML students' achievement in reading comprehension. I also found a significant, negative relationship between teachers' beliefs about school support and their LML students' outcomes on the measure of vocabulary knowledge. These findings suggest that teachers' backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes related to the inclusion and instruction of LML students may in fact influence their LML students' academic achievement. Additionally, these findings provide insight into the complex relationships between mainstream classroom teachers, LML students, and students' academic outcomes.