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Perceived effectiveness of middle school English language learner programs

Kathleen M Mellor, Johnson & Wales University


The purpose of this research study was to investigate the perceived effectiveness of middle school programs for English language learners (ELLs). Federal and state legislation mandates that programs provide for students' English language proficiency and academic achievement. The current emphasis on accountability in education and the success of this student population has become a pervasive educational concern throughout the nation. There are more that 14 million language minority students enrolled in American public schools, with five million actively serviced in specialized ELL programs. The literature suggests that despite previous legislative attempts to provide equitable programs, there is a significant achievement gap between ELLs and their native-English-speaking peers (Beilenberg & Wong-Fillmore, 2004; Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders & Christian, 2006; Hamayan & Freeman, Goldenberg, 2008). Policy has not informed practice to affect improved ELL student performance. The challenge for educators is to address both aspects of the legislative mandates: English language proficiency and academic achievement. Most of the research in the field focuses on the elementary level. It is not applicable to middle level ELL programs, where the linguistic and academic demands are greater. Much is at stake for the future of these students and the economic future of the country if the academic achievement of such a sizable population is not improved. This mixed methods cross-sectional descriptive, study surveyed a sample of Rhode Island middle school teachers (N=108) regarding their perceptions of ELL program effectiveness in their schools. Follow-up interviews with middle school teachers (n=9) were conducted to add qualitative data to provide a deeper understanding of the quantitative survey data of the indicators of successful ELL programs. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS, 2007) software was used to analyze the data. Descriptive statistics, frequencies, percents were reported. Data were tabulated as frequencies and percentages and converted to graphic representation in the form of tables. Survey and interview data were analyzed to compare perceptions among teachers. Major findings indicate that there are insufficient numbers of ELLs teachers and that although ELLs are integrated into mainstream content area classrooms, most mainstream educators teaching them are not adequately trained to do so. A major recommendation of this study is to require all content area teachers to have an ELL endorsement in addition to their teaching certification. The results of this study may help inform practice, in proximally similar settings, on the indicators of effective ELL programs and provide recommendations on how these findings can be incorporated into educator training programs and ELL program development at the middle school level.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Mellor, Kathleen M, "Perceived effectiveness of middle school English language learner programs" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3355871.