Identifying the Supports and Challenges of High School Latino English Language Learners
Hanks-Sloan, Alison Elizabeth
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Two out of three English Language Learners (ELLs) graduate from secondary schools nationwide. Of the nearly five million ELLs in public schools, more than 70% of these students’ first language is Spanish. In order to understand and resolve this phenomena and in an effort to increase the number of graduates, this research examined what high school Latino ELLs identified as the major external and internal factors that support or challenge them on the graduation pathway. The study utilized a 32 quantitative and qualitative question student survey, as well as student focus groups. Both the survey and the focus groups were conducted in English and Spanish. The questions considered the following factors: 1) value of education; 2) expectations in achieving their long-term goals; 3) current education levels; 4) expectations before coming to the United States; 5) family obligations; and 6) future aspirations. The survey was administered to 159 Latino ELLs enrolled in grades 9-12. Research took place at three high schools that provide English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes in a large school system in the Mid-Atlantic region. The three schools involved in the study have more than 1,500 ELLs. Two of the schools had large ESOL instructional programs, and one school had a comparatively smaller ESOL program. The majority of students surveyed were from El Salvador (72%) and Guatemala (12.6%). Using Qualtrics, an independent facilitator and a bilingual translator administered the online survey tool to the students during their ESOL classes. Two weeks later, the researcher hosted three follow-up focus groups, totaling 37 students from those students who took the survey. Each focus group was conducted at the three schools by the lead researcher and the translator. The purpose of the focus group was to obtain deeper insight on how secondary age Latino ELLs defined success in school, what they identified to be their support factors, and how previous and present experiences helped or hindered their goals. From the research findings, ten recommendations range from suggested policy updates to cross-cultural/equity training for students and staff; they were developed, stemming from the findings and what the students identified.