U.S. SCHOOLING: PERCEPTIONS OF INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT & BIO-ECOLOGICAL CHALLENGES FOR CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS
Gonzalez, Maritza E.
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The purpose of this study was to understand the factors shaping the language learning and schooling experiences of nine fourth-grade elementary school students initially classified as English Language Learners (ELLs) when they first enrolled in school in the Mid-Atlantic region. While a growing body of research exists on factors shaping the language learning and schooling experiences of children of immigrants, and particularly in middle and high school levels, few studies have focused on the language learning and schooling experiences of students particularly at the elementary level. Three research questions guided this study: How do students originally classified as ELLs understand their English language learning experiences and schooling? What school factors contributed to students' ELL classification/ESOL placement/maintenance? How do the home and school environment interaction influence students' language learning and schooling experiences? In this qualitative study, I used a case study design and employed the use of ethnographic techniques for data collection. The cases were nine fourth grade students attending one elementary school (Maravilla) in a Mid-Atlantic state. Additionally, they met the following criteria: 1) from Spanish speaking household; 2) classified ELL when they began school; and 3) Salvadoran or Mexican heritage. Students' respective parent(s), teachers (fourth grade classroom and ESOL), the principal and parent liaison served as secondary participants. Several conclusions were drawn from this study about the nine participants' language learning and schooling experiences, most who continued with an ELL classification beyond the fourth grade: 1) several macro factors including immigration and state education policies shape the experiences of the participant's language learning and schooling experiences; 2) home environments foster the transmission of various funds of knowledge but also present several social, cultural and economic challenges which hindered participants' language learning and schooling experiences; 3) school environments prescribe state mandates addressing ELL students, but various factors limit the services provided and supports perceived; and 4) home-school collaborations are sustained by, but primarily limited to, a bilingual parent liaison at Maravilla. Language barriers, parents' formal schooling, immigration policies, and racial tensions are among several factors limiting partnerships between home and school as well as limiting access to information pertaining to participants' language learning and schooling experiences.