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The Impact of Second Language Acquisition and Student Achievement from Teachers' Perspectives

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Kori T Floyd
Abstract:
The purpose of this study is to understand, from teachers' perspectives, how students with a language immersion background score higher on standardized tests than non-immersion students from a similar demographic. In order to examine teachers' perspectives on language immersion education, the following areas were explored: (1) The various concepts behind language immersion education and how those concepts differ from traditional education concepts; (2) The benefits of language immersion teaching methodology; and (3) The connection between language immersion education and higher scores on standardized tests. The research method consists of a mixed methods approach with both quantitative and qualitative aspects. This research method will also include both descriptive and comparative analyses of data collected through structured interviews with language immersion teachers; standardized test results from a large school district in Oklahoma; and research contained in the review of literature. The district has two language immersion elementary schools. The interviews will be audio taped with notes taken for clarity and transcribed into text. The transcriptions from the recorded interviews were analyzed for content and emerging themes. The results of the language immersion teacher interviews demonstrated that language immersion education positively affected student achievement. The teacher interviews regarding the positive effects of language immersion education further substantiated elevated test scores made by students from both language immersion schools on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT). Language immersion students produced elevated scores while meeting Federal achievement benchmarks named in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 , despite learning in the target language the majority of their instruction time (Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTERS Page ABSTRACT ....................................................................................................................... viii I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................ 1

Statement of the Problem ....................................................................................................... 2 Purpose of the Study .............................................................................................................. 3 Significance of the Study ....................................................................................................... 4 Research Questions ................................................................................................................ 5 Definitions of Terms .............................................................................................................. 5 Conceptual Underpinnings of the Study ................................................................................ 7 Limitations of the Study ......................................................................................................... 9 II. REVIEW OF LITERATURE ........................................................................................ 10 Foreign Language Teaching in the United States ................................................................ 10 Cultural Aspects of Language Immersion ............................................................................ 14 Language Immersion Education.......................................................................................... 18 Student Assessment and Achievement ................................................................................. 26 Summary .............................................................................................................................. 32 III. METHODOLOGY ........................................................................................................ 33 Interview Questions.............................................................................................................. 33 Participants ........................................................................................................................... 33 Research Design/Data Collection Procedures ...................................................................... 34 Data Analysis ....................................................................................................................... 35 Dependability of the Study ................................................................................................... 35

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IV. DATA ANALYSIS ....................................................................................................... 36

Procedures for Data Collection ............................................................................................ 36 Analysis of Emerging Themes from Teacher Interviews and Standardized Testing Data .. 37 Summary .............................................................................................................................. 65

V. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS ................................ 67

Summary .............................................................................................................................. 67 Participants ........................................................................................................................... 67 Results of the Study.............................................................................................................. 68 Conclusions .......................................................................................................................... 69 Recommendations for the District........................................................................................ 73 Recommendations for Future Study ..................................................................................... 74 REFERENCES ..................................................................................................................... 76 APPENDICES ...................................................................................................................... 82

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ABSTRACT

KORI T. FLOYD. The Impact of Second Language Acquisition and Student Achievement from Teachers’ Perspectives (under the direction of DR. CAROLE A. de CASAL.)

The purpose of this study is to understand, from teachers’ perspectives, how students with a language immersion background score higher on standardized tests than non-immersion students from a similar demographic. In order to examine teachers’ perspectives on language immersion education, the following areas were explored: 1.) The various concepts behind language immersion education and how those concepts differ from traditional education concepts; 2.) The benefits of language immersion teaching methodology; and 3.) The connection between language immersion education and higher scores on standardized tests. The research method consists of a mixed methods approach with both quantitative and qualitative aspects. This research method will also include both descriptive and comparative analyses of data collected through structured interviews with language immersion teachers; standardized test results from a large school district in Oklahoma; and research contained in the review of literature. The district has two language immersion elementary schools. The interviews will be audio taped with notes taken for clarity and transcribed into text. The transcriptions from the recorded interviews were analyzed for content and emerging themes.

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The results of the language immersion teacher interviews demonstrated that language immersion education positively affected student achievement. The teacher interviews regarding the positive effects of language immersion education further substantiated elevated test scores made by students from both language immersion schools on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT). Language immersion students produced elevated scores while meeting Federal achievement benchmarks named in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, despite learning in the target language the majority of their instruction time (Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

The academic achievement gap in America’s public education system is growing rapidly despite Federal initiatives to improve student achievement results. The U.S. Department of Education’s Fiscal Year 2007-2012 Strategic Plan data has confirmed that student achievement in reading/language arts, and mathematics has been in decline (Warder, 2011). Federal initiatives like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 were created to bridge the achievement gap, but have proven to be ineffective (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 has disproportionately affected children from low-income families and English language learners (U.S. Department of Education, 2001; Huntington, 2004). Children with low socio-economic status often suffer from poor physical and mental health which dramatically impacts their ability to learn (Suzuki, Fujino, & Isozaki, 2007). Despite physical and mental health concerns, NCLB continues to place additional responsibility on teachers to educate students from low-income families with few exceptions. English as a Second Language students have also been negatively affected by NCLB. Under NCLB, English as a Second Language (ESL) education has failed to provide children with effective assistance to overcome deficits developed in core academic subjects (Myhill & Brackley, 2004; Garcia & Ortiz, 2004).

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In addition to low achievement rates, many districts require students to fulfill a secondary language requirement to graduate from high school. Second language acquisition can be difficult for both native and non-native English speaking students (Creese, 2010). Difficulties in second language acquisition can negatively affect graduation rates and cause schools to face government intervention as many states require students to have at least two years of a foreign language to graduate from high school. A possible solution to counteract difficulties faced by native and non-native English- speaking students in second language acquisition is the language immersion model (Genesee, 1987). Language immersion education has many benefits that could improve achievement outcomes for all students in America’s public schools (Cummins, 1998). Snow (1987) stated that language immersion education was introduced to North America when a group of psychologists from McGill University created a French language immersion program in 1965, in the Montreal suburb of St. Lambert, Quebec, for English-speaking students. St. Lambert’s one-way French immersion program was implemented at the kindergarten level. The Canadian French language immersion model consisted of three major variants: 1.) early immersion; 2.) middle immersion; and 3.) late immersion (Cummins, 1998). These variants coincided with stages of student introduction to language immersion. Statement of the Problem As student achievement continues to decline, public schools in the United States fail to adequately utilize second language development to increase student achievement (Warder, 2011; Creese, 2010). Cummins & Swain (1986) stated that teachers with

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backgrounds in traditional education do not understand the impact of language acquisition and its relationship with improving student achievement. Language immersion teachers are appropriately trained in language immersion methodology and understand the importance of second language acquisition as well as its positive impact of student achievement (Cummins, 1998). Therefore, the critical question is how can public schools in the United States utilize language immersion education effectively to increase student achievement on standardized tests? This question will be answered by gaining language immersion teachers’ perspectives on their teaching practices which contribute to increased scores on achievement tests. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to investigate teachers’ perspectives on how students in a language immersion program perform on standardized tests. Cummins (1996) stated that students with two or more languages perform better in school than students who only speak one language. The principle of language immersion education is to increase student achievement through second language development. Students are expected to make normal progress in achieving objectives and standards in elementary curriculum; maintain normal linguistic progress in the development of their native language; develop native-like proficiency in target language skills such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking (Cummins, 1996); develop a positive mindset toward themselves as English speakers; and celebrate the diversity of other cultures (Snow, 1987). Diversity is one of the major components of language immersion education. One manner in which children benefit from language immersion is by learning in an

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ethnically-diverse setting (Klingner & Edwards, 2006). Through language immersion education students score as well or higher on standardized achievement tests in English than their monolingual counterparts even though the content has been taught in the second language (Snow, 1987). By fourth grade language immersion students score on par with their monolingual counterparts when English language arts has been introduced in the curriculum; even though language immersion students experience a delay in their English language development in early years (Snow, 1987). Toward the end of language immersion education students score higher on standardized tests than their monolingual counterparts and experience greater proficiency levels in the second language than those students in traditional foreign language classroom setting (Genesee, 1987). Significance of the Study This study was significant as it allowed several groups to benefit from its findings. The participating district benefitted from this study as it showcased the district’s efforts to increase linguistic diversity, cultural awareness, and student achievement through its language immersion program. The success of language immersion education in the district will serve as an example for other school districts throughout the United States and Canada. The teachers within the participating district will benefit as they will have the opportunity to incorporate aspects of language immersion pedagogy into their traditional classroom settings, which will enhance learning outcomes for their students. Students will benefit from this study as they will acquire second language skills, enhance existing native language proficiency, and develop multicultural awareness through peer interaction. Students will learn about people who speak other languages which will

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strengthen cultural diversity and sensitivity. This study will benefit proponents of language immersion education as its findings will strengthen the argument that language immersion education can not only help students acquire a second language, but improve and strengthen students’ language skills in their native language. The study will benefit society as it will create a positive climate for linguistic diversity in America while promoting social awareness and tolerance of those who share different cultural values. This benefit will enable the United States to produce a class of people who will be equipped with skills necessary to compete in a global society. Research Questions The present study addressed the following research questions: 1.) What factors do teachers believe make the language immersion model a successful option for educating students? 2.) What challenges do teachers face in teaching the language immersion model? 3.) What changes have teachers observed in their students both academically and socially after their first year in the language immersion program? 4.) How does language immersion education affect positive student educational outcomes through standardized test scores? Definition of Terms The following terms have been used in this study and defined by researchers: Bilingualism- The ability to speak or gain proficiency in two languages (Connor & Boskin, 2001).

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Bilingual Education- any program which teaches students in both the native and target languages (Crawford, 2004). Convergent assessment- a closed form of assessment which is generally used in traditional classroom pedagogy (Huang, 2011). Divergent assessment- an open-ended form of assessment which encourages group performance/interaction through an emphasis in communication (Huang, 2011). Dynamic assessment- a means of assessment which is used to determine if a student has the ability to learn a new skill. This is done through a pretest and intervention period, which is then followed by a post-test (Vygotsky, 1978). English as a second language (ESL), English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), English as a foreign language (EFL) - the use or study of English by speakers with a different native language. These terms are most commonly used in relation to teaching and learning English, but they may also be used in relation to demographic information (Abedi, 2009). Foreign Language Experience (FLEX) - a program that introduces elementary school students to different languages and cultures for the purposes of enrichment (Grimes, 2008). Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES) - a program in elementary schools where students learn a foreign language for a minimum of two years. Classes are taught for a period ranging between thirty minutes to an hour each day (Grimes, 2008).

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Language Acquisition Device (LAD) - is a postulated organ of the brain that is supposed to function as a congenital device for learning symbolic language. An example of this is language acquisition (Chomsky, 1965). Language Immersion- a method of teaching a second language in which students from one language background are taught totally in a second language for an extended period of time (Cummins, 1998). Monolingualism- The ability to speak or gain proficiency in one language (Genesee, 1987). Native Language (L1) - refers to the language learner’s original language (Krashen, 1984). Scaffolding- using previously acquired knowledge to teach a new set of skills or concepts (Vygotsky, 1978). Second Language/Target Language (L2) - refers to the language(s) that the language learner is attempting to acquire (Krashen, 1984). Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) - a theory whose premise is to provide learners with maximum support for optimal learning. It is generally facilitated by the teacher, but it encourages peer teaching and learning through increased interaction and discussion (Vygotsky, 1978). Conceptual Underpinnings for the Study The conceptual underpinnings for this study are based on multiple theoretical approaches relative to effective second language acquisition. Krashen (1984) believed in a more natural approach to language acquisition in a classroom setting. He spoke of the

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Language Acquisition Device (LAD), which enables each person to learn language and develop language learning skills. The idea of the Language Acquisition Device was first proposed by Noam Chomsky in 1965 and has been used to explain a human’s ability to acquire language (Chomsky, 1965). Chomsky stated that language dealt with an input/output process. This process allows a person to develop his/her ability to synthesize language and then reproduce it (Chomsky, 1965). A second language learner will undergo a silent period which is used to develop his/her language synthesis abilities and overcome their fear of language learning (Krashen, 1984). During this period their confidence builds, which allows them to express their second language abilities without fear of social pressures or humiliation (Krashen, 1984). According to Krashen, second language learners will begin to develop utterances in the target language. These utterances are the beginning of spoken language development. During this process it is important for teachers to understand that students must be corrected carefully. Krashen argued that it is beneficial for the teacher to allow the second language learner to make mistakes as learners are permitted to use the second language without fear of penalty or criticism. This process is crucial in the development of learners’ second language skills because if criticism is not given carefully, the second language learner will shut down emotionally and not be receptive to any further language development (Krashen, 1984). Teachers should use the natural approach, which is a non-traditional classroom approach to second language acquisition, in place of the traditional classroom approaches which have proven to be ineffective (Krashen, 1984). The natural approach allows teachers to work with second language learners in a natural language setting which is more

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conducive to second language acquisition than learning in a more structured traditional classroom environment. This approach enables second language learners to study the target language in a more relaxed, natural environment where they are free to express the target language fluidly; in a setting more relative to real life. This allows learners to build their comprehensible input and naturally improve their language comprehension abilities due to a lowered affective filter (Krashen, 1984) which affords second language learners more opportunities to develop language acquisition skills naturally. Limitations of the Study

This study was limited to one urban school district in the state of Oklahoma. This urban district has two language immersion schools which provided the participants for the teacher interviews. The interviews were conducted using a limited number of teachers who were not chosen at random. The goal of interviewing teachers from this district was to investigate their perspectives on how children from language immersion backgrounds in their district scored well on standardized tests. The interviewer did not interview teachers from other non-immersion schools in this urban school district. The study was also limited to elementary education teachers as the district does not have language immersion schools at the middle or high school levels. The data observed was limited to third, fourth, and fifth grade results on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT).

CHAPTER II

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

In order to gain an understanding of teachers’ perceptions on language immersion and how it can increase test scores, this review of literature will explore the following areas: 1.) history of foreign language teaching in the United States; 2.) types of foreign language programs in U.S. schools; 3.) description of language immersion education; and 4.) student assessment and academic achievement. Foreign Language Teaching in the United States Grimes (2008) gave a historical context for teaching foreign languages in U.S. schools. He stated that initially, foreign languages were taught during the pre-civil war period in U.S. schools. He indicated that schools taught Greek and Latin because those languages were considered classic and it was believed that learning these languages would enhance students’ intellectual development. Shortly after this period the Modern Foreign Language Association was established in 1883 to support the spread of foreign language teaching and learning in U.S. schools (Taylor-Ward, 2003). She stated that establishing the Modern Language Association changed the focus of foreign language teaching and learning in U.S. Schools. Emphasis shifted from a traditional focus on reading and translation to listening and speaking (Shaw, 2010). This shift proved to be

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more practical as German and French were taught in U.S. schools to accommodate the influx of immigrants from Europe (Grimes, 2008). Grimes (2008) stated that during the 1920s, U.S. schools experienced a decline in teaching foreign languages. He believed that much of this drop was due to negative sentiments toward Germany as a result of World War I. Taylor-Ward (2003) stated that after World War I, the United States began a shift in ideology that embraced isolationism. As a result, both the political and academic landscape were altered and education became a vocational tool rather than philosophical in nature (Taylor-Ward, 2003). After World War II and the Korean War there was a renewed focus on teaching foreign languages in American schools. Grimes (2008) stated that teaching foreign languages in schools would benefit national security. This idea was introduced in William Riley Parker’s 1954 publication called The National Interest and Foreign Languages (Grimes, 2008). The focus on foreign language development in schools continued during the Cold War period between Russia and the United States. This focus intensified due to the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik in 1957, which caused great concern in the United States. The launch of the Russian satellite legitimized American concerns that the Soviet Union had advanced in both educational philosophy and technology beyond the United States. Taylor-Ward (2003) stated that Congress established the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958 to focus on improving mathematics, science, and foreign language education. Grimes (2008) stated that the National Defense Education Act was the first government initiative established to promote foreign language education in American schools. Grimes also revealed that

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during the 1960s there was a shift in foreign language teaching methodology. He stated that educators switched from a focus on translation to the Audio-Lingual Method of teaching. This method was established by B.F. Skinner who believed foreign language education should focus more on aspects of listening and speaking rather than traditional aspects of reading and writing (Grimes, 2008). During the 1970s foreign language education began to decline in American schools (Grimes, 2008). As a result, Grimes stated that declining enrollment statistics in foreign language classes prompted President Jimmy Carter to establish the President’s Commission of Foreign Languages and International Studies in 1979. This federal initiative helped establish foreign language programs in elementary schools (FLES). According to Grimes, the first conference on Second Language Acquisition by Children (SLAC) was held in 1985 which led to the creation of the National FLES Institute the following year at the University of Maryland. The National FLES Institute provided in- service training opportunities for teachers to receive training on FLES teaching methodology (Lipton, 1998). Foreign language education in the United States remained steady during the 1990s, but the tragic events of September 11, 2001 immediately affected American society and public policy creation. The terrorist attacks made foreign language education a matter of national security as government officials believed that those tragic events could have been prevented if the United States had more CIA agents that spoke Arabic (Taylor-Ward, 2003). Prior to 9/11, President George W. Bush urged Congress to pass The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This federal initiative helped strengthen foreign

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language education at the elementary school level as it provided federal funding to schools that had been previously funded by individual school districts (Grimes, 2008). President Bush’s efforts were expanded in 2006 creating the National Security Language Initiative which dedicated 12.9 million dollars to increase the number of foreign language programs across 22 states (Grimes, 2008). One goal of the National Security Initiative was to promote the teaching of specific foreign languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Chinese, and Russian (Grimes, 2008). In his study, Grimes also noted that these particular languages would not only enhance the United States’ national security, but strengthen economic ties with nations in the Middle and Far East. This initiative was combined with the Foreign Language Assistance Program to total 22 million dollars that year (Grimes, 2008). Foreign Language Programs in U.S. Schools There are several types of programs that focus on teaching foreign languages at the elementary school level. These programs include Foreign Language Experience (FLEX), Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES), Bilingual Education, English as a Second Language (ESL), and Language Immersion (Shaw, 2010; de Casal & Armstrong, 2011). The FLEX model exposes students to a variety of foreign languages. In the FLEX model there are no expectations of language proficiency. This model is designed to give each student the opportunity to learn a limited amount of content in each language offered until students are able to choose (Grimes, 2008; Shaw 2010). The FLES model permits students in elementary school to learn a foreign language as an additional subject (Shaw, 2010). Under the FLES model students learn one language for a period of

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30 minutes to an hour a day at a minimum of two years (Grimes, 2010). In bilingual education students are taught academic content in both the native and target languages (Crawford, 2004). According to Crawford, there are several bilingual education models used in U.S. schools. The most popular models are English as a Second Language (ESL) for English language learners and Language Immersion (Crawford, 2004; de Casal & Armstrong, 2011). The ESL model is generally reserved for those non-native English- speaking students who are gaining English language proficiency (Crawford, 2004). The language immersion model permits students the opportunity to learn their academic subjects mostly in the target language (Shaw, 2010). According to Shaw, there are three primary objectives for language immersion which are: 1.) helping ESL students succeed academically; 2.) helping native English-speaking children acquire a second language without compromising their studies in the native language; and 3.) promoting linguistic and ethnic diversity among learners to celebrate cultural differences. Cultural Aspects of Language Immersion Language immersion students come from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Some teachers fail to consider students’ previous cultural and environmental experiences which impact their academic achievement (Blanchett, Klinger, & Harry, 2009). These cultural and environmental experiences may impact a student’s ability to communicate with teachers who have limited experience working with students from diverse backgrounds (Cohen, 1994). One important solution is that teachers of a multicultural classroom (i.e. Foreign language or English as a Second Language) should take into consideration using nonstandard English as a language or

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languages other than standard English (Driscoll, 2005). This conclusion was justified because Driscoll believed that children from predominantly black or ethnic neighborhoods typically speak English in a manner which would not be deemed as ‘correct’ to most English teachers. She cited the fact that it would be considered ‘wrong’ because their manner of speaking does not adhere to the traditional rules of Standard English. She argued that many of these people with limited English proficiency do not always follow the rules of Standard English, however the majority of them who speak foreign languages do not adhere to the standard rules of their own languages either. Driscoll (2005) also suggested that it is important to take the structure of their native languages into consideration because it is possible that these children are speaking in a grammatically-correct fashion within the structure of their native languages. Creese (2010) argued that traditional pedagogy methods relating to English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction should be altered to accommodate students and further their language development. He believed that bilingual children should be taught using bilingual teaching strategies. This is best achieved by using both the native and target languages simultaneously in the classroom (Creese, 2010). Using both languages simultaneously is an important component to bilingual education as it facilitates meaningful learning for the bilingual students by demonstrating the correlation of linguistic capabilities and cognitive production between both languages (Creese, 2010). The process of modeling has been beneficial to second language development. According to Creese (2010), research has indicated that one of the most effective ways to learn or acquire a second language is by modeling speech and behavior patterns of native

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speakers as well as social behaviors which are included in that process. The modeling process demonstrates the correlation between language and culture, which substantiates the importance of sociolinguistics in the language learning and development process (Creese, 2010). Weinstock (2009) stated that biculturalism is a subject which should be addressed in respect to bilingualism as it combines both aspects of language and culture, which many believe are one in the same. Many instructors of second language learners have failed to consider these factors, which has made it difficult to reach second language learners from different cultures. Weinstock stated that disconnects exist between the structures of the target and native languages. This disconnect is evident as previous studies have indicated that meaningful learning takes place when second language learners connect grammatical structures and usage from their native languages to structures within their target language. Social dynamics are significant in this theory as they allow learners to assimilate to new cultures without losing their own cultural and ethnic identities. Weinstock (2009) examined developments in bilingual education between Yiddish/English bilinguals, Spanish/English bilinguals, and English-speaking monolinguals in the New York City Public Schools System. She found that monolingual English-speaking students on the primary level outperformed their bilingual counterparts. The higher performance was attributed to monolingual students’ familiarity with the English language as it was spoken in the home since birth. Weinstock (2009) demonstrated that once these students reached the latter years of primary education they began to experience a decline in growth with their English language abilities and

Full document contains 158 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to understand, from teachers' perspectives, how students with a language immersion background score higher on standardized tests than non-immersion students from a similar demographic. In order to examine teachers' perspectives on language immersion education, the following areas were explored: (1) The various concepts behind language immersion education and how those concepts differ from traditional education concepts; (2) The benefits of language immersion teaching methodology; and (3) The connection between language immersion education and higher scores on standardized tests. The research method consists of a mixed methods approach with both quantitative and qualitative aspects. This research method will also include both descriptive and comparative analyses of data collected through structured interviews with language immersion teachers; standardized test results from a large school district in Oklahoma; and research contained in the review of literature. The district has two language immersion elementary schools. The interviews will be audio taped with notes taken for clarity and transcribed into text. The transcriptions from the recorded interviews were analyzed for content and emerging themes. The results of the language immersion teacher interviews demonstrated that language immersion education positively affected student achievement. The teacher interviews regarding the positive effects of language immersion education further substantiated elevated test scores made by students from both language immersion schools on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT). Language immersion students produced elevated scores while meeting Federal achievement benchmarks named in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 , despite learning in the target language the majority of their instruction time (Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2001).