An Exploratory Study of the Standards Movement and ELLs: Teacher Agency and Autonomy in the Age of Accountability
Author(s)Mortenson, Leah Marie
KeywordsEnglish as a second language
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AbstractThis study aims to better understand the effects of the standards movement both on ELLs as well as the people who work closely with them on a daily basis, namely regular classroom and ESL teachers. More specifically, it aims to understand the ways that the standards movement limits teacher agency and autonomy in the age of accountability. In order to do this, the study utilized qualitative interviews that the researcher transcribed, coded for themes, and organized into a data set in order to compare findings across interviews. In this way, the researcher was able to both understand commonalities across the data, as well as highlight the differences between participants’ experiences working with ELLs under the standards movement—differences related to the schools where they taught, the socioeconomic status of their students and the resources available to them, the amount of testing their schools utilized, and/or their students’ individual language levels and abilities. Recommendations for future policy regarding the standards movement and working better with ELLs that emerged from the interviews include: better support systems for ELLs who are new to the U.S. such as newcomer programs, more collaboration between ESL teachers and mainstream classroom teachers, additional help from para-educators in both the ESL classrooms as well as regular classrooms, and better records of ELLs’ progress on standardized tests through year-by-year tracking. This study points to the need for continued empirical studies on the complex relationship between the standards, accountability, ELLs, and their educators in order to develop better practices for working with this population of learners and meet their needs so that they are truly “college and career ready” once they leave the American K-12 system.