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Changing Student and Teacher Demographics within the Current High-stakes, Standards-based, Assessment-driven Atmosphere of American Public Education: Mentoring Educators of English Language Learners

Dissertation
Author: Cynthia Armendariz Maxwell
Abstract:
This paper offers a window into the world of education through a criticalist ethnographic examination of a culture-sharing group that worked with a historically subjugated population in American public schools: English language learners (ELLs). All study participants worked in a pre-Kindergarten-12 midwestern suburban school district that, at the time of the study, served approximately 20,000 students. The 20 individuals selected as interviewees included male and female teachers and male and female paraprofessionals from across grades pre-Kindergarten-12 with experience in transitional bilingual education (TBE), transitional program of instruction (TPI), and dual language (DL) program models, central office administrators, and support personnel who worked with ELL students, families, and educators. The interviewees had worked among 16 of the district's 27 schools. During 40 hours of interviews, observations, and site visits, the educators described how their experiences or the lack thereof with official and unofficial mentoring affected their instruction. Additionally, study participants discussed current high-stakes standardized tests; which they felt were invalid measurement tools of ELL academic achievement. From among the entire interview group, the following 11 themes emerged: the necessity of having a mentor who has had experience working with ELLs, the lack of adequate ELL materials/resources, the high turnover of ELL educators, using data/lack of data to drive instruction/monitor program effectiveness, the importance of building a strong native language foundation, the magnitude of academic language/content vocabulary mastery, differentiating instruction to meet specific needs of students, the need for additional time, collaboration with administrators/general education staff as essential, the call for connections with institutions of higher learning, and the primary role of offering parental support. I reflect on current demographic trends in American public schools, which make the continued failure of educational policymakers and administrators to successfully address the specific needs of ELLs and ELL educators unacceptable. I conclude with future research recommendations.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................1

Background ..............................................................................................................1

Statement and Significance of the Problem .............................................................4

Purpose Statement ....................................................................................................7

Research Questions ..................................................................................................7

Definitions................................................................................................................8

Summary ................................................................................................................11

CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ...........................................................................14

Introduction ............................................................................................................14

Mentoring ...............................................................................................................15

Historical Perspective on Mentoring .........................................................15

Historical Perspective on ELL Education and ELL Educators ..................19

Current Practices in ELL Educator Mentoring ......................................................22

Implications for Further Research .........................................................................27

CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY .....................................................................................32

Introduction ............................................................................................................32

Research Design.....................................................................................................36

Research Questions ................................................................................................37

The Research Problem ...............................................................................37

Research Primary and Secondary Questions .............................................37

Ethnographic Methods ...........................................................................................38

Population ..............................................................................................................40

Sample Rationale ...................................................................................................41

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Data Collection ......................................................................................................42

Data Collection Activities ......................................................................................43

Background Survey ....................................................................................43

Interviews ...................................................................................................43

Observations ..............................................................................................46

Artifact Snalysis .........................................................................................47

Data Analysis .........................................................................................................48

Assumptions ...........................................................................................................49

Limitations .............................................................................................................49

Delimitations ..........................................................................................................50

Ethics, Human Subjects Protections, and Institutional Review Board ..................50

Summary ................................................................................................................52

CHAPTER 4. FINDINGS ..................................................................................................53

Introduction ............................................................................................................53

Major Themes ........................................................................................................53

Social situation ...........................................................................................53

Instruction ..................................................................................................88

Collaboration............................................................................................108

CHAPTER 5. IMPLICATIONS ......................................................................................125

Summary of Findings ...........................................................................................125

How Findings Relate to Other Research ..............................................................128

Implications for Practice ......................................................................................129

Limitations of My Findings .................................................................................135

Recommendations for Future Research ...............................................................136

REFERENCES ................................................................................................................142

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APPENDIXES .................................................................................................................147

Appendix A. Aurora University Institutional Review Board Informed Consent Forms .........................................................................................148

Appendix B. Surveys ...........................................................................................154

Appendix C. Ethics Tutorial Certificate ..............................................................163

Appendix D. Participants’ Demographics Charts and Forms ..............................164

Appendix E. District Artifacts .............................................................................169

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CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Background With the passage of the federal government’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (2002), American school districts were forced to consider the educational growth of their English language learner (ELL) populations. As a result of NCLB, the annual growth of English language proficiency of all ELLs would be computed as part of the district’s annual yearly progress (AYP) scores and overall state school report cards. In response to this legislation, its financial ramifications, and the publicly displayed AYP scores and state report cards, American school districts could no longer relegate their ELL students, their achievement—or lack thereof—to the shadows. ELLs, along with their general education peers, have been subjected to more standardized testing since NCLB (2002). Educators of all student demographic groups have felt increasing pressure from rigid federal and state accountability systems that rely heavily on standardized test scores. Educators, administrators, schools, and school districts have suffered increasing punitive sanctions if their students fall short of arbitrary targets required to make AYP. As Crawford and Krashen (2007) reported, ELLs rarely perform well on these types of “snapshot” standardized assessments that were predominantly designed for native speakers of English (p. 11). Arado (2008) reported in his article covering the previous year’s annual student achievement data that, “statewide, 66 schools and 18

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districts failed to make AYP solely because of their sub-groups of English-language learners” (para. 12). As a public school educator who has taught both general education and bilingual students, I have the ability to act as a bridge between these two distinct subgroups in public education. I feel the responsibility of sharing what has worked well within the general education arena with the realm of bilingual education. More importantly, I know I have the capacity to create and manipulate necessary accommodation strategies and practices to ensure success within the bilingual education framework. Upon reflection, I have determined that the most efficient and effective way to achieve success with teaching students from cultures other than the mainstream is for their teachers to engage in sound pedagogical practice. Sound pedagogical practice, in and of itself, signifies multicultural education. As Nieto (2004) opined, all high-quality education takes students seriously and helps them to develop into critical and empowered citizens. Students’ experiences, whether familiar or not to the dominant culture, are used as a basis for further learning. By engaging in sound pedagogical practice, teachers of students from diverse cultural backgrounds provide their learners with optimal educational experiences in which to flourish. Important to our high-stakes, standards-based, assessment-driven atmosphere in American public education, teachers who teach masterfully will have greater success with their students meeting and exceeding standards that are measured on district and state standardized tests. Although statistical data and real-life experiences show us that standardized testing does not provide accurate measures of educational growth due to the biases and inequalities they exacerbate; standardized testing (at least in some form—high

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stakes or otherwise) is currently inscribed in educational policy. Beyond the inherent benefits of students meeting and exceeding standards, which are measured on district and state standardized tests, administrators and school boards are more prone to listen to concerns regarding a student population that performs well. Although teaching students from diverse backgrounds remains challenging, if we offer these students highly educated and highly motivated teachers, the task becomes less difficult. If we provide these teachers with highly educated and highly motivated mentors, the difficulty of the task is minimized yet again. By reducing the difficulty of teaching students from diverse backgrounds, we will reduce our loss of experienced ELL educators due to burnout. We need to keep experienced ELL educators among our ranks so that they can mentor the newcomers. In this way, we are not constantly reinventing the wheel, which enables us to learn from past successes and failures. Danielson (2007) wrote, “[D]uring conversations about practice, particularly when such conversations are organized around a common framework, teachers are able to learn from one another and to thereby enrich their own teaching” (p. 6). Unfortunately, Sosa and Gonzalez’s (1993) research showed a disproportionately high attrition rate among certified bilingual education teachers. It is because of this correlation between teacher preparation and teacher attrition that researchers Darling- Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin, and Heilig (2005) recommended that states, school districts, and teacher preparation programs “develop and expand the reach of strong, efficient, and affordable preparation routes. . . that retain teachers as they become more effective” (p. 27). Torres-Guzman and Goodwin’s (1995) research revealed that many veteran bilingual teachers are denied the opportunity to serve as mentors because they do

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not hold NCLB’s mandated highly qualified (HQ) status. According to NCLB, in order to be highly qualified an elementary or secondary public school teacher must have at least a bachelor’s degree, have full state certification, and demonstrate subject-matter competency in the core academic subject areas. Elementary school teachers must pass a rigorous state test of subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum. Middle or high school teachers must pass a rigorous state academic subject test in each of the academic subjects, and must successfully complete, in each academic subject, of an academic major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate academic major, or hold advanced certification. NCLB does allow states to develop an additional way for current teachers to demonstrate subject-matter competency and meet HQ teacher requirements. Proof may consist of a combination of teaching experience, professional development, and knowledge in the subject garnered over time in the profession. Murnane and Steele (2007) lamented that teachers with the least preparation and the weakest academic backgrounds disproportionately teach poor children and culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students. This is significant; the Darling-Hammond et al. (2005) study found that “certified teachers consistently produce significantly stronger student achievement gains than do uncertified teachers” (p. 1). It is due to these sobering statistics that I proposed my study. Statement and Significance of the Problem Because our nation continues to increase the demand for higher standardized test scores from ELLs, I decided to research connections between mentoring practices of ELL

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educators and resultant classroom teaching strategies. In addition, an examination of the formation of educators’ attitudes and beliefs about ELLs is important. Using the critical ethnography research method provides an opportunity to investigate how these attitudes and beliefs are socialized in American public education. My goal is to use the data from my research to create recommendations for more effective ELL educator mentoring practices that could possibly enhance greater ELL student achievement. It is hoped that this ethnographic study will provide data that ELL educators in the field can use as they reflect upon their practice and continue in their quest to improve their craft by becoming more efficient with meeting the specific needs of their students. Additionally, I hope to use the data from the research to create recommendations for more effective ELL educator mentoring practices that could possibly enhance greater ELL student achievement. Menken and Antunez (2001) stated teacher quality plays an important role in student achievement. As a report by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (as cited in Menken & Antunez, 2001) noted, “Roughly ¼ of newly hired American teachers lack the qualifications for their jobs. More than 12% of new hires enter the classroom without any formal training at all, and another 14% arrive without fully meeting state standards” (p. 4). Clearly, these teachers and subsequently their students would benefit from a quality teacher mentoring experience. The number of students in U.S. schools who are ELLs has been growing at an average annual rate 5 times that of the total enrollment for over a decade. W. P. Thomas and Collier (2002) claimed that students whose language spoken at home is other than English are projected by the U.S. Census Bureau to represent 40% of the school-age

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population by the 2030s, or sooner. Kozol (2005) determined a 5-year gap in math and reading levels between minority high school students and their White contemporaries. Understandably, then, Murnane and Steele (2007) reminded us that “the changing demographics of American schoolchildren suggest an increasing demand for effective teachers of color in particular, and in general, for teachers who are effective at raising the achievement of students from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds” (p. 22). Although NCLB required all teachers be of HQ status by 2006, Murnane and Steele (2007) reported that this requirement has been the least thoroughly enforced. As a practitioner in the field, I can attest to the difficulty that schools and school districts face in finding HQ bilingual teachers. In an attempt to fill classrooms with HQ teachers, many districts have traveled to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Spain to recruit, interview, and hire ELL educators. Although this practice has solved one problem, that of finding bilingual teachers, it has opened the door to several others: culture shock, homesickness, and dialect discrepancies, to name a few. Providing ELL educators with a quality mentoring experience that is tailored to the specific needs of their students can reduce the disproportionately high attrition rate among this classification of educators and facilitate the success rate among the foreign contingency of this teacher subgroup, while increasing student achievement. As Darling- Hammond et al. (2005) discussed in their study on the relationship between teacher preparation and effectiveness, attrition among ELL educators in this country needs to be reduced. One way to do so is by providing a successful mentor who is able to assist a mentee with strategies for teaching content to students who have specific language needs,

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in addition to sharing the mentee’s expertise regarding classroom management and lesson planning. By using the critical ethnographic format, myriad ideas and problems reflecting the realities of teaching in a multicultural environment will most likely emerge. It is hoped my study provides ELL educators and their mentors with recommendations that can provide an effective framework and a foundation of a quality mentoring experience tailored to the specific needs of this group of educators. Such mentoring experiences could enhance greater ELL student achievement. Purpose Statement The purpose of this critical ethnographic study was to identify mentoring practices that have a significant impact on ELL educators’ efficacy along with their perceptions of their impact on student achievement. I followed ethnographic practice to capture events at hand, so that I could more effectively grasp what was happening in relation to finding the participating ELL educators’ meanings rather than using an existing framework for analysis. To accomplish this task, I moved from the general to the more specific, looking at the impact of external factors on the practice of teaching ELLs. Research Questions The following research questions were asked in the course of conducting this study: 1. What is the social situation to be studied? 2. What is the emerging cultural ethnography? 3. Looking more selectively, what observations can be made? 4. What themes emerge?

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5. What are current mentoring experiences among this cultural group? 6. What mentoring practices are evident in the culture-sharing group that either maximize or inhibit ELL student achievement? 7. What are perceptions of standardized testing among this cultural group? 8. What are ELL educators’ perceptions of their impact on student learning? Definitions For the purpose of this study, the following definitions will apply: Adequate yearly progress (AYP). “An individual state’s measure of progress toward the goal of 100 percent of students achieving to state academic standards in at least reading/language arts and math” (AYP, 2008, para.1). Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners (ACCESS for ELLs). A large-scale test that addresses the academic English language proficiency (ELP) standards at the core of the WIDA Consortium’s approach to instructing and evaluating the progress of English language learners. Basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS). Language ability necessary for casual conversation. Cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP). Language ability necessary for learning academic skills and concepts. Culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) student. A student whose culture and/or language is different from that of the dominant culture and/or language in U.S. society (Herrera & Murry, 2005).

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Dual language (DL). An additive or enrichment model that is designed to achieve bilingualism in both the minority and majority language; designed to cultivate the native language skills of both groups (C. J. Ovando, Combs, & Collier, 2006). English language learner (ELL). A student in the process of acquiring full English proficiency. ELL programs of instruction. A curriculum that can include dual language, transitional bilingual education, and transitional program of instruction. English as a second language (ESL). A method of instruction that enables students who are not proficient in English to acquire both BICS and CALP in all four of the language domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). Highly qualified teacher (HQT). A teacher who holds all mandated certification and credentials specific to the individual job assignment required by NCLB. Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English (IMAGE). State’s English language proficiency test used for ELLs until the 2007-2008 school year; at which time it was replaced by the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (with accommodations). Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). An annual examination administered to measure individual student achievement relative to the Illinois Learning Standards. Limited English proficient (LEP). Another term for ELL. Mentoring of ELL educators. Providing guidance with regard to meeting the specific educational needs of ELLs and sharing effective strategies for enhancing ELL student achievement. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Legislation that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to close the achievement gap and

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make sure all students, including those who are disadvantaged, achieve academic proficiency; it is built on four principles: accountability for results, more choices for parents, greater local control and flexibility, and an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research (NCLB, 2002). Special education (SPED). Services provided to qualifying students with disabilities per the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Student achievement. The ability of a student to demonstrate proficiency and/or mastery of specified learning outcomes. Student achievement measures. Standardized instruments developed to quantify students’ achievement, including ACCESS for ELLs, IMAGE, ISAT, and World-class Instructional Design and Assessment ACCESS Placement Test. Teacher/educator of ELLs. Educator of students classified as ELLs, in pre- Kindergarten through 12th grade, who are employed full- or part-time, holding state certification, emergency provisional certification, or long-term substitute classification. Transitional bilingual education (TBE). A compensatory or remedial model designed to prepare linguistic minority students to enter mainstream (all-English) classes. A portion of the overall instruction is in the child’s first language. The most common bilingual education model in the United States (C. J. Ovando et al., 2006) Transitional program of instruction (TPI). A model that provides for teachers to instruct students who are native speakers of any language other than English in a nongrade-leveled pull-out/push-in situation at attendance centers that do not have 20 or more students within the same grade level who speak the same non-English native language (a program-specific term for this school district based on Illinois School Code).

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World-class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA). In 2002, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction an enhancement grant to develop a K-12 English proficiency test. Under the leadership of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, three states originally formed the WIDA consortium: Wisconsin, Delaware, and Arkansas. WIDA ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT). A screening tool used to identify and classify ELLs. Summary Student achievement is affected by a combination of personal, cultural, familial, interactive, political, relational, and societal issues. Because each individual component is so complex in its own right, it is not surprising that our society has not yet been able to create a public education system that successfully supports ELLs. To move further along the path toward success, it is key for educators to remain cognizant of the varied and complicated issues over which we have so little control. To revise ineffective educational structures and practices to better meet the needs of our ELL students, we first need to learn how to work together with all the other social and political frameworks that contribute to our context. Secondly, although we have overwhelming research and statistics that illuminate supportive educational policies regarding ELLs and textbooks upon textbooks which to outline best practices of second language acquisition instruction, this country is still woefully behind in meeting the intellectual and material needs of ELLs. Impediments can be found when considering that teaching is a very demanding job; when special needs such as second language acquisition are added to the task, the job becomes exponentially

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more demanding. To address this situation, we need to investigate our ELL teacher mentoring programs to verify if they are adequately preparing our nation’s educators with the basic knowledge to successfully meet the specific needs of ELLs. Important to note is where I think our most serious concerns lie: the behaviors and beliefs that are ingrained in an educator’s consciousness formulated over years of socialization. Throughout my 5-year career as a bilingual teacher, I observed behaviors and beliefs commonly shared by my colleagues that demonstrated a general acceptance of the inequities relative to the quality of materials and resources offered to our ELL students. Contrary to this experience, during my 9-year career as a general education teacher, I never witnessed a “That’s just the way things are” frame of mind among my general education colleagues. Perhaps our efficacy with ELL instruction needs such improvement because the overwhelming majority of our federal, state, and local policymakers do not currently interact with ELL communities. When I pause to consider the many school board members and district administrators with whom I have worked, I notice one commonality: most of the people in these powerful positions are/have been Anglo and monolingual. Although persons who have neither experienced learning a second language nor worked with ELLs may have a high level of espoused readiness concerning accommodation, their typically low levels of practical readiness do not match. I do believe success can ultimately be achieved once attention has been focused on how individual schools and school districts can utilize community resources and develop interconnected, productive relationships with local, state, and federal agencies, offices, and resources. By including other agencies, the focus of which is on any of the individual

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components of our sociopolitical context, we can benefit from their expertise to heighten our overall success with ELL students and teachers. To summarize my introductory chapter; teachers are key to successful ELL student achievement. We, as professionals, must be sure to continually mentor ELL educators so that they can become masterful teachers. We must improve upon mentoring programs to make sure that we are meeting the specific educational, social, and emotional needs of all of our educator subgroups. In this ethnographic study, I hoped to “reveal the cultural context of individual lives through an engaged exploration of the beliefs, the values, the material conditions and structural forces underpinning the socially patterned behavior” (Walford, 2008, p. 59) of ELL educators and noninstructional school personnel who support ELL educators. As Carspecken (1996) encouraged, I will “use [my] research to uncover the subtleties of oppression so that its invisibility to those affected by it might be removed; so that oppression might become challenged, and changed” (p. 7). Additionally, I hope to demonstrate to ELL educators, their students, their students’ families, the pre-K-16 educational community, and school boards that we value ELL educators, their students, and their students’ achievement.

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CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction The purpose of this literature review is to explore the research concerning the significance of professional mentoring for educators of ELLs. Questions which will be addressed are as follows: 1. What is the definition of a mentor? 2. What is the definition of ELL education and ELL educators? 3. What are the current practices in the mentoring of ELL educators? 4. What changes are required to current practices in the mentoring of ELL educators to meet the specific needs of this demographic group as they strive to effectively educate their culturally and linguistically diverse students? 5. What are the implications for further research? An underlying theme inherent in the review of the literature concerning this topic is the existence and impact of racial prejudice and other biases. These elements must be considered to understand how they may affect the educational experiences of ELLs in America. Through the review of this literature, it is hoped that an understanding of the specific mentoring needs of ELL educators will be garnered to effectively ameliorate both content acquisition and English language proficiency of ELL students in this country. Subthemes presented are a historical perspective on mentoring, a historical perspective on ELL education and ELL educators, changing demographics that have

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increased the need for ELL educators and subsequently ELL educator mentoring, and implications for further research. Mentoring Historical Perspective on Mentoring “Mentoring can be traced back to Greek mythology and Homer’s tale of Odysseus. When Odysseus left home to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted his friend and advisor, Mentor, to protect, advise, guide, and train his son, Telemachus” (Sherman et al., 2000, p. 1). Historically and currently, mentoring programs, procedures, and protocol for determining participation eligibility vary to meet the needs of an individual organization. Sherman et al. (2000) further defined mentoring as a system that provides “on-the-job training that builds on protégés’ prior experiences and knowledge, and involves a ‘give and take’ between mentors and protégés” (p. 4). They compared and contrasted mentoring and peer coaching as follows: . . . both are non-evaluative models of staff development. Mutual learning, information sharing, and professional growth occur in both mentoring and peer coaching. A common differentiation, however, between mentoring and peer- coaching is that whereas in peer coaching both participants are perceived as being equal, in mentoring, the mentor has further developed their experience, has an advanced ability and a greater expertise in the area in which the mentoring occurs. (p. 7) Within the field of education, participation in a mentor program is commonly included under the umbrella of professional development. As the mentee is provided with an opportunity to develop and improve her craft, the mentor and profession as a whole are provided with an opportunity to improve. Data from M. N. Ovando’s (1994) study,

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which used open-ended surveys, indicates that “teacher participation in decision making increases teacher empowerment and advances professionalism” (p. 2) and when teachers participate in leadership roles, they “are in a unique position to make significant contributions to decision making about teaching and learning” (p. 4). The results from M. N. Ovando’s (1994) exploratory research support the idea that mentors of lead teachers need to address leadership related topics. Additionally, lead teachers’ mentors should develop and provide a follow-up component within their mentoring program in order to assure continuity. Most importantly, mentors must provide their mentees with assistance and support as they begin to apply their leadership knowledge and skills. Within the conclusions and recommendations from the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (1996) 2-year study, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, the authors noted, “Access to high-quality preparation, induction, and professional development must become a new teacher right. If we pay attention to supporting knowledgeable teachers [italics added] who work in productive schools, American education need suffer through no more dead-end reforms” (preface). Relative to the necessity of teacher mentoring, and more specifically to the mentoring of teachers of poor students who are disproportionately ELLs, are data collected demonstrating that in the nation’s poorest schools where hiring is most lax and turnover constant, the results are disastrous. Thousands of children are taught throughout their school careers by a parade of teachers without preparation in the fields that they teach inexperienced beginners with little training and short-term substitutes trying to cope with constant staff disruptions.

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In an attempt to enhance professional practice, Danielson’s (1996) empirical studies and theoretical research were used as the basis for her framework for teaching because “demands from the school, district, community, and state, leave many teachers— particularly novices—buffeted, confused, or discouraged” (p. 5). Danielson and her Educational Testing Service (ETS) research team conducted the most thorough study to date with regard to defining and creating a basis for a mentoring program. The research foundation conducted job analyses of beginning teachers from elementary, middle, and high school, as well as administrators. The staff prepared their surveys with assistance from the following eminent educational groups: the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, and the National Education Association. Additionally, the ETS researchers conducted an extensive literature review. The researchers summarized and synthesized the most consistent findings on effective teaching and analyzed state licensing requirements. Furthermore, drafts of assessment criteria were subjected to the rigors of pilot and field testing and then provided to expert panels for review. Analogous to Danielson’s (1996) analyses were those of Richard Ingersoll (2001). His analyses of the comprehensive, nationally representative survey of teachers and schools conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics highlight the importance of ameliorating the job satisfaction of our nation’s teachers. The survey data showed that teacher turnover is a significant phenomenon and a dominant factor in

Full document contains 178 pages
Abstract: This paper offers a window into the world of education through a criticalist ethnographic examination of a culture-sharing group that worked with a historically subjugated population in American public schools: English language learners (ELLs). All study participants worked in a pre-Kindergarten-12 midwestern suburban school district that, at the time of the study, served approximately 20,000 students. The 20 individuals selected as interviewees included male and female teachers and male and female paraprofessionals from across grades pre-Kindergarten-12 with experience in transitional bilingual education (TBE), transitional program of instruction (TPI), and dual language (DL) program models, central office administrators, and support personnel who worked with ELL students, families, and educators. The interviewees had worked among 16 of the district's 27 schools. During 40 hours of interviews, observations, and site visits, the educators described how their experiences or the lack thereof with official and unofficial mentoring affected their instruction. Additionally, study participants discussed current high-stakes standardized tests; which they felt were invalid measurement tools of ELL academic achievement. From among the entire interview group, the following 11 themes emerged: the necessity of having a mentor who has had experience working with ELLs, the lack of adequate ELL materials/resources, the high turnover of ELL educators, using data/lack of data to drive instruction/monitor program effectiveness, the importance of building a strong native language foundation, the magnitude of academic language/content vocabulary mastery, differentiating instruction to meet specific needs of students, the need for additional time, collaboration with administrators/general education staff as essential, the call for connections with institutions of higher learning, and the primary role of offering parental support. I reflect on current demographic trends in American public schools, which make the continued failure of educational policymakers and administrators to successfully address the specific needs of ELLs and ELL educators unacceptable. I conclude with future research recommendations.