A Study of One School's Barriers and Supports for Long Term English Learners

This study analyzes what supports and barriers are present for long term English learners (LTELs) to reclassify at a large suburban high school in North County San Diego. The purpose of the study is to increase the percentage of students who qualify to reclassify by indentifying ways that teachers and administration at Pacific High School can better support English learners. A review of the literature identifies themes in the existing research on the topic. These themes include the need for consistent identification of and response to the needs of LTELs, the need for primary language instruction, and the need for a focus on academic language across subject areas. The study uses a Mixed Methods Explanatory methodology, combining an analysis of extant quantitative data with further analysis of qualitative data, including surveys and focus groups conducted with both LTELs and reclassified students, in order to identify differences in supports and barriers to reclassification between the two groups. Findings show that LTELs at Pacific High School struggle significantly with three reclassification criteria: CST/CAHSEE scores, English grades and GPAs. The greatest differences in supports between the LTEL and reclassified groups were found to be the attitude that the students held toward their Academic Language and Literacy support class, as well as the perception that students have of their overall academic performance. LTELs were also found to face significant feelings of discouragement. A lack of parent participation in the students’ education was identified as a barrier in both groups. The research suggests that standardized tests such as the CST and CAHSEE should be reconsidered as reclassification requirements. Educators are also encouraged to explore ways to promote intrinsic motivation and build grit in LTELs. Finally, school leaders are encouraged to examine strategies for building relationships with and involving parents in students’ education.