Characterization of Proficiency Levels and Balance among Middle School English Learners with Reading Difficulties: Relations to Reading Outcomes



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As the linguistic diversity of the United States and the world continues to increase, the impact of bilingualism on important outcomes has been an area of interest within the domains of psychology, neuroscience, and education. Although many studies have considered group differences between bilinguals and monolinguals, the importance of examining individual differences is an emergent area of study. Specific variables of interest include language proficiency as well as balance between languages, as both have shown promise in explaining variability for outcomes such as executive function. Identifying predictors of key cognitive outcomes among bilingual samples is particularly important among at-risk groups of children and has the potential to inform intervention efforts. Although executive function is commonly studied, reading is also a promising and perhaps more important outcome to study because it is heavily rooted in language and is amenable to intervention. However, evaluating the ways in which individual variability in language proficiency and balance impacts reading in an at-risk, developmental context presupposes a strong framework by which to characterize these processes. There is currently no gold standard through which bilinguals can be characterized in terms of proficiency and balance, particularly among at-risk, younger samples. Therefore, the overarching aims of this project are twofold: 1) to compare approaches for the characterization of proficiency and balance among an at-risk sample of children (English Learners in middle school who are further identified as struggling readers); and 2) to use these to evaluate the roles of language proficiency and balance in various reading outcomes. This work will inform theoretical and empirical gaps within the bilingual and reading literatures and holds promise for informing intervention in this at-risk context. The following chapters therefore provide literature review, hypotheses, and methods for each aim separately (i.e., characterization of bilinguals in Chapter 1; relations to reading in Chapter 2). As noted in Chapter 2, there are aspects of the second aim that were informed by findings from Chapter 1.



Bilingualism, Language, Reading, English learners


Portions of this document appear in: Macdonald, K. T., Francis, D. J., Hernandez, A. E., Castilla-Earls, A. P., & Cirino, P. T. (2022). Characterization of English and Spanish language proficiency among middle school English learners with reading difficulties. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1-14.