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“Most of the Time, I Just Don’t Know What to Do”: Attitudes and Assessment Practices of Rural Secondary Teachers Toward Their English Learners

Heidi Jo B Bartlett, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


English learners (ELs) have been a significant part of K-12 education for many years, and, although present in fewer absolute numbers, are widespread in rural spaces. Many students who are still classified as an English learner in high school encounter greater difficulties with graduating as they work to overcome the academic challenges associated with greater linguistic and content requirements in assessment. In rural spaces, teachers with fewer numbers of ELs may be unprepared to address the needs of such students. This study utilized multiphase research to answer the question What are rural, secondary teachers’ attitudes and perceptions of good assessment practices for English learners in the content areas? The first part consisted of a quantitative closed-ended survey (n = 54) and the second part of individual qualitative case study interviews (n = 5). All participants for this study were secondary content-area teachers who teach in rural Nebraska schools and who have taught at least one English Learner in the past year. A key conclusion of this study was that teachers overall welcomed the ELs in their classes. However, the pleasure of working with ELs did not necessarily translate to appropriate assessment modifications for them. Assessment modifications were utilized, on average, less than half the time with ELs, aside from the non-structural modification of providing extra time. Teachers expressed challenges in their work, citing a lack of pedagogical knowledge about how to accurately assess their students and a lack of resources (material, personnel, and time). Teachers relied on technology such as online translators when multilingual personnel were not available at their schools. In these rural Nebraska schools, many teachers also used the expertise and resources of their local Educational Service Unit, including attending professional development.

Subject Area

English as a Second Language|Secondary education|Bilingual education

Recommended Citation

Bartlett, Heidi Jo B, "“Most of the Time, I Just Don’t Know What to Do”: Attitudes and Assessment Practices of Rural Secondary Teachers Toward Their English Learners" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30574847.