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Latino English language learners' experiences at a low-incidence high school

Erika L Bruening, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

This study examines the experiences of two Latino English language learners in one low-incidence high school in the High Plains region of the United States. The students' experiences illuminate larger patterns of education policy about how schools with very low numbers of English language learners attempt to meet their needs, in a setting where they comprise a very small percentage of the total student population. Using qualitative methodology including interviews with student participants, teacher participants, and administrator participants, as well as classroom observations, this study uses an insider perspective to illuminate larger patterns of education policy through the experiences of two Latino English language learners in a low-incidence high school. ^ Findings of this study include the ways in which Latino English language learners struggled academically in their mainstream courses, particularly in those courses that required a significant degree of advanced reading comprehension skills and written expression skills. Additionally, interviews with teacher participants revealed that they often felt confused about what they could specifically do to assist the English language learners, and the teachers' understanding of who was responsible for meeting the English language learners' needs varied. Interviews with administrators at the school and district level revealed a limited understanding of the challenges teachers faced in meeting English language learners' needs in mainstream courses. Finally, this study revealed the ways in which one low-incidence context attempted to meet English language learners' needs by placing them in the existing special education program, after following the referral and placement process. ^ Insights gained from this study raise questions about teacher preparation for meeting English language learners' needs, as well as the formal policies needed in a low-incidence context for meeting English language learners' needs. Findings are relevant to school districts in Nebraska, where at the end of the 2010–2011 academic year, 21.7% of the districts qualified as having low-incidence populations of English language learners. Findings also have nationwide implications, as 4,117 districts had low-incidence populations at the end of the 2010–2011 school year.^

Subject Area

Education, English as a Second Language|Education, Policy|Education, Teacher Training|Hispanic American Studies

Recommended Citation

Bruening, Erika L, "Latino English language learners' experiences at a low-incidence high school" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3502350.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3502350

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