Thesis

Relationship Between Adolescent Newcomers' Primary Literacy and their English Language Acquisition

Students from non-English-speaking countries who immigrate to the United States during the adolescent years are tasked with both learning a second language and meeting graduation requirements in courses taught in that second language. Forty years of research on second language acquisition documents that primary literacy (L1) impacts second language acquisition (L2). Yet, newcomer adolescents have been left out of this conversation. This study explores the question: What degree of relationship exists between adolescent newcomers’ primary literacy (X) and their rate of English language acquisition (Y)? This study follows a quantitative correlational research design, relying on two measures of primary literacy: the IDEA Proficiency Test and the Standards-based Tests in Spanish, and the longitudinal results on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). The participant population consisted of all (n = 34) native Spanish-speaking English learners who received instruction in the U.S. for five years or fewer. A very minimal positive correlation was found between primary literacy levels and the initial assessment of CELDT, and a moderate positive correlation between primary literacy levels and the first and fourth annual assessment of CELDT. This suggests that primary literacy levels do not predict the English proficiency levels at initial assessment. The moderate correlations at the first and fourth annual assessments suggest that those with higher levels of primary literacy acquire English at a faster rate. The moderate correlation will allow educators to predict those at-risk newcomer adolescents. Educators can then target intervention or provide differentiated instruction in order to support the students’ literacy development.

Students from non-English-speaking countries who immigrate to the United States during the adolescent years are tasked with both learning a second language and meeting graduation requirements in courses taught in that second language. Forty years of research on second language acquisition documents that primary literacy (L1) impacts second language acquisition (L2). Yet, newcomer adolescents have been left out of this conversation. This study explores the question: What degree of relationship exists between adolescent newcomers’ primary literacy (X) and their rate of English language acquisition (Y)? This study follows a quantitative correlational research design, relying on two measures of primary literacy: the IDEA Proficiency Test and the Standards-based Tests in Spanish, and the longitudinal results on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). The participant population consisted of all (n = 34) native Spanish-speaking English learners who received instruction in the U.S. for five years or fewer. A very minimal positive correlation was found between primary literacy levels and the initial assessment of CELDT, and a moderate positive correlation between primary literacy levels and the first and fourth annual assessment of CELDT. This suggests that primary literacy levels do not predict the English proficiency levels at initial assessment. The moderate correlations at the first and fourth annual assessments suggest that those with higher levels of primary literacy acquire English at a faster rate. The moderate correlation will allow educators to predict those at-risk newcomer adolescents. Educators can then target intervention or provide differentiated instruction in order to support the students’ literacy development.

Relationships

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