ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ KNOWLEDGE, PRACTICES, AND PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHING ENGLISH LEARNERS
Adams, Wauchilue D.
McLaughlin, Margaret J.
Fagan, Drew S.
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For decades, the academic achievement of English Learners (ELs) has consistently fallen below that of non-ELs on standardized achievement tests. The purpose of this inquiry was to examine the continuous achievement gap between ELs and non-ELs and to understand how the knowledge, practices, and perceptions applied when teaching ELs can impact the academic progress of ELs in elementary schools. This study focused specifically on teachers in Title I schools, because nearly half of the elementary ELs in the district attended a Title I school. Bay Shore Public Schools served as the site for this this study. During the data collection process, the researcher sent an electronic survey to the 50 intermediate teachers (Grades 3, 4, and 5) working at the four Title I elementary schools in the district. This effort resulted in a 50% response rate. The survey included 14 questions and 79 indicators that examined the following: teachers’ knowledge about the federal and state laws, policies, and assessments; specific instructional strategies and practices employed when teaching ELs; specific instructional materials used during instruction; available supports for ELs; and perceptions about the instruction of ELs. The survey revealed that (a) the majority of the respondents had little-to-no knowledge of the laws and regulations that governed their work; (b) most respondents used only 11 out of 20 recommended instructional strategies daily; and (c) the use of specific materials and suggested supports during instruction varied in frequency. The data also revealed that the demographic characteristics of the respondents did not seem to impact their responses, specifically in terms of their perceptions. The findings resulted in a number of recommendations for future studies, particularly for relatively small districts that may be considered low-incidence and have teachers with little-to-no first-hand experience teaching ELs. Based on the results of this study, future research studies should utilize case studies to examine the actual interactions between ELs and their non-EL peers and between ELs and their teachers. Researchers might also apply positioning theory to examine how the interactions change from situation to situation and the impact on the resulting academic outcomes for ELs. Additionally, future inquiries might involve the examination of local policies and practices to identify the types and degree of communication between ESOL teachers and classroom teachers that facilitates understanding ELs’ performance on ACCESS and what the outcomes mean.