The influence of sociocultural interactions on literacy identity development in Latino high school English learners

This case study investigated effects of sociocultural interactions on literacy identity development in Latino high school English learners in a small urban charter high school. Students, from the site, designated English fluent by testing later in academic careers scored lower on state exams in English Language Arts than their peers identified as initially fluent upon entering California schools. Also, this site has a small population of long-term English learners at risk of dropping out or graduating CSU/UC ineligible. This work built on elementary and middle schools case studies that examined sociocultural interactions including leveled reading, student choice reading, peer discussions, and teacher-student conferences. In these studies, sociocultural interactions reinforced students to embody or take agency against “struggling” reader labels or embody successful reader identities. This case study compared student and teacher perspectives on sociocultural interactions, teacher labels, and opportunities for interpretative discussion and student participation using anonymous voluntary survey methods. Student and teacher opinions differed on teacher labels and matched on opportunity occurrences and low student participation. Teachers answered additional questions on familiarity with English Language Development (ELD) strategies. Teachers reported some to no familiarity with strategies they implemented. Teachers’ novice ELD experience belied their high expectations and positive labels resulting in low student participation. Teachers in urban high schools must improve their understanding and implementation of ELD strategies to successfully communicate positive labels, engage, and advance students within their zone of proximal development. This study recommended professional development using collaborative inquiry groups in combination with coaching. This model will improve teachers’ diagnosis of student needs and responsive instruction to close EL achievement gaps.