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Superintendents' perceptions of English -only instruction in Massachusetts and Rhode Island public school districts

Jean McCrave Baxter, Johnson & Wales University


This descriptive study explores the perceptions of school superintendents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts public schools concerning English-only instruction. Whether approved by local school board committees or by statewide mandate, English-only instruction continues to be a much-debated policy in school systems throughout the United States. Policymakers who support English-only instruction argue that English should be the only medium of instruction for second-language learners in American public school systems (Leistyna, 2002; Lu, 1998; Torres, 2002). This study surveyed 74 superintendents of schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island regarding their perceptions of implementing English-only instruction as a replacement for bilingual and other existing ESL programs. The research questions examine: (a) the perceived value of English-only instruction in aiding ESL students to attain English proficiency; (b) legislation and court rulings; (c) perceived effects of English-only instruction on student achievement; and (d) the financial considerations of an English-only instruction policy in public schools. The purpose of this research study is to address best practice from the superintendents' perspective on how to practice from the superintendents' perspective on how to serve the needs of a growing English as a second language (ESL) student population. This study addresses whether or not English-only instruction is the solution to closing the achievement gap between English language learners and their English-speaking peers and maximizing achievement for ESL students. The study distinguishes areas where there is a consensus and where there is disagreement among superintendents in these two northeastern states.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Language arts|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

McCrave Baxter, Jean, "Superintendents' perceptions of English -only instruction in Massachusetts and Rhode Island public school districts" (2004). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3148906.