The Impact of Bilingual Verbal Ability on the English Reading Growth of English Language Learners
Reyes, Graciela 1977-
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The developmental interdependence hypothesis proposes that a higher level of proficiency in the first language is more likely to contribute to the acquisition of a second language and that threshold levels of language proficiency in both the first and second language must be attained to allow for beneficial effects for cognitive and academic functioning. The theory proposes that to have a full account of the lexical knowledge of English language learners (ELLs), measurement must address both languages. The current study tested the assumptions of the developmental interdependence hypothesis. The Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities and the Diagnostic Supplement was used to measure Bilingual Verbal Ability. To investigate the effects of instruction on language ability, the study controlled for length of program enrollment for a group of second graders and compared the Bilingual and English verbal ability of 34 ELLs who consistently received instruction in English in an English as a Second Language (ESL) program with that of 19 ELLs who had consistently received instruction in both English and Spanish in a dual language setting. It was hypothesized that the students receiving consistent dual language instruction would demonstrate increased Bilingual and English verbal ability. Reading curriculum-based measurement (R-CBM) was used to measure the English oral reading fluency growth of 77 ELL second grade students. R-CBM data was analyzed utilizing hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) in order to determine the within-year English oral reading fluency trajectories of the students. Bilingual verbal ability was hypothesized to positively influence the beginning-of-year oral reading fluency level and the rate of growth for English oral reading fluency of individual students. Results indicated that students’ verbal ability was not significantly different based on the type of bilingual program instruction they had received and that Bilingual verbal ability significantly and positively predicted Fall English oral reading fluency, but not growth rate, for a group of second grade ELLs. It was concluded that there was a relationship between Bilingual verbal ability and English oral reading fluency; however, the results of multilevel analysis indicated that there remained much unexplained variance in the model.