A Longitudinal Study of a Bilingual Education Program versus English as a Second Language (ESL) Program: a Study of Two Programs
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The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) holds every state, district, and school accountable for students’ academic progress. It has also revealed the extent to which schools have failed non-English-speaking students by requiring states and districts for the first time to disaggregate their reading and math scores on annual assessments. The large achievement gap has moved educators, scholars, and policymakers to try urgently to reverse decades of neglect, and the scale of the challenge is growing exponentially (Russakoff, 2011). According to Russakoff (2011), “How to teach academic English is a growing focus of research, but there is insufficient evidence to determine which approach best raises student achievement” (p. 3). The purpose of this study was to determine whether a statistically significant difference existed longitudinally between the reading achievements of students who participated in a bilingual program versus an English as a Second Language (ESL) program as measured by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). This study examined the academic achievement of 86 non-mobile, economically disadvantaged Hispanic students who were currently or previously identified as limited English proficient and were enrolled in either the content-based English as a Second language program or the English Language Acquisition Model of bilingual education. A paired samples t-test was conducted for each year of data to compare the two groups’ raw scores on the STAAR in the area of reading. Additionally, Pearson chi-square procedures were conducted to determine whether a statistically significant difference was present in the percentage of students who met the Satisfactory, Commended, or Advanced Performance standard by the type of ELL program in which they were enrolled. The findings revealed the academic outcomes of the students enrolled in the content-based English as a Second Language program and the English Language Acquisition Model of bilingual education and served as information for the district as to which program model was more beneficial for the instruction of English language learners. A statistically significant difference was present in the STAAR Reading scores between students enrolled in the Bilingual program and students enrolled in an ESL program for the three years in which the measure was applied. Students in the ESL program outperformed students in the Bilingual program. In addition, though not statistically significantly different, more students in the ESL program met the Satisfactory, Commended, and Advanced Performance standard than did students in the Bilingual Education Program for the three years evaluated. A second purpose was to survey campus principals, district teachers, and parents of LEP students to examine the beliefs of the quality of the bilingual education program versus the ESL program as well as to examine the teacher beliefs of the quality of staff development being offered to educators in the field. The data collected for campus administrators indicated a value of native language instruction support, however, a more favorable support for English language. Teacher survey responses indicated a favorable response for the bilingual program’s use to assist in the transitioning of the native language knowledge to the secondary language of English and a support for the ESL program’s ability to provide necessary support in the process of learning the English language. Furthermore, the study found that the majority of teachers did find the staff developing favorably and believed there was benefit to the staff development offerings in the district; however, not all teachers felt that it assisted them in the classroom with their ELL students. The data collected in this study for parents of the student participants, indicated that the program was beneficial, Spanish spoken in the home was supported, and native language was not lost.