Bilingual in a Monolingual District: Stakeholder Perspectives on Equitable Access to Dual Language Programs

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This qualitative comparative case study explores the perspectives of 30 critical stakeholders, including parents, school administrators, and central office personnel, on perceptions of dual language education (DLE) programs at two public dual language schools in a large Mid-Atlantic metropolitan district. This study also explores how these different stakeholders access and perceive access to these programs. Grounded in a conceptual framework that includes Ruiz’s orientations of language (1984), interest convergence (Bell, 1980), critical consciousness (Cervantes-Soon et al., 2017; Palmer, et al., 2019), and equity (Espinoza, 2007; Monk, 1990; Murphy, 1988), this study uses semi-structured interviews to demonstrate converging and diverging views on equitable access to dual language programs.

In the focal district of this study, a lottery system offers a mechanism for school choice, but this process does not always lead to access to dual language programs due to high demand and long waitlists. Latinx families choose a bilingual program for different reasons than their English-speaking counterparts. For the Latinx population, dual language represents a way for these families to maintain a connection to their language and heritage. For English-speakers, the DLE program decision is connected to attending their neighborhood school, the idea of their children having early exposure to a language, and the diversity of the community.

This study contributes to the current body of literature that explores Latinx and English-speaking parents’ reasons for choosing a DLE program. This study differs from current literature because it includes multiple stakeholder perspectives to understand different interpretations of access to these highly sought-after programs. This study concludes with implications and suggestions for policy, practice, and research. As part of the Memorandum of Understanding with the focal school district, this work will be shared with central office personnel. This research has important implications for policy decisions regarding equitable access to DLE programs, particularly in terms of program intentions and communication between stakeholders.