Masters Thesis

Institutional Factors and Bias Effects on English Language Learner Academic Achievement

A persistent and significant equity gap exists between the academic achievement of English Language Learners and their peers in English Language Arts. Research has demonstrated the negative effects of bias on achievement within marginalized student groups. This study chose to look deeper by examining the system preventing achievement based on both institutional factors and bias. In this narrative case study, the researcher used qualitative data from interview questions to elicit input from general education teachers responsible for teaching English Language Learners in English Language Arts. Responses were used to answer the question: In what ways do institutional factors and bias affect academic achievement of marginalized students, specifically English Language Learners? To initially understand achievement gaps experienced by marginalized groups or non-white and socio-economically disadvantaged students in education, a review of literature with a focus on bias was conducted. Later, during research, teacher interviews were coded using holistic, in vivo, and pattern coding methods, along with school documents and testing data to triangulate the data and validate the findings. The findings reveal a school system based on leadership decisions influenced by institutional factors creating an ineffective system of support for ELL students to improve academic achievement. One of the more critical changes recommended to address the problems within the current school system is the immediate and comprehensive need for teacher training in designated and integrated English Language Development as well as the use of relevant curricular resources. Making these changes alone would better equip teachers to be prepared in providing differentiated instruction based on various levels of language proficiency and improve alignment with the California ELD standards of education. The major conclusion determined is institutional factors have a direct relationship to the creation of significant barriers to needed changes for the improvement of English Language Learners’ academic achievement. This study can further research regarding the considerations beyond bias preventing higher achievement in marginalized groups.