A study of the Spanish language fluency of first-grade bilingual teachers and its relationship to student achievement in Spanish language development and Spanish language arts



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One of the major problems facing educators has been that of meeting the needs of linguistically different children in the United States. Past attempts to solve these problems focused on remedial approaches, add-on multicultural programs, English-as-a-Second Language programs and bilingual programs. Since 1969, the implementation of bilingual programs expanded at a tremendous rate resulting in a mobilization of professional expertise in the areas of bilingual teacher training. Such training was primarily directed at classroom-related instructional techniques, with the assumption being made that "bilingual" teachers were able to communicate with their students in the native language as well as in English. An examination of related literature on bilingual education suggested the importance of continuing the sequence of the child's cognitive development in his native language while he was making the transition into a second language. The teacher's competency in the native language was therefore considered a crucial factor with respect to the child's cognitive growth. Other research in sociolinguistic theory also attested to the importance of teachers' verbal ability in developing alternative problem-solving strategies on the part of the student. With the need for training bilingual teachers corresponding needs of assessing their Spanish language fluency in areas directly related to bilingual classroom instruction was manifested. This study was an effort in that direction. It was regarded by the writer as one aspect of an inquiry which could help educators to focus on classroom-related teacher training and certification programs for bilingual teachers. Two hypothesis were tested: The administration of a diagnostic evaluation instrument which measures Dialect, Classroom Commands and Directions, Concepts, Professional Communication and Knowledge about the Language will discriminate among bilingual first-grade teachers at five different levels of Spanish language fluency on the basis of ethnicity, teaching experience, bilingual teaching experience, origin, first language learned and number of Spanish courses taken. There will be a relationship between teacher performance on a five-level diagnostic evaluation instrument and student performance in Spanish language development as measured by the Dos Amigos Test of Language Dominance (Spanish) and Spanish Language Arts as measured by Spanish Language Arts performance objectives. First-grade bilingual teachers in self-contained bilingual HISD classes were asked to participate in the study. All selected teachers had participated in the TEA-required training institutes and had passed the Spanish Language Fluency Examination which is given by HISD. Teachers were administered the Gonzalez Diagnostic Evaluation Instrument in May. Student data was collected from the HISD Bilingual Department. Such information was part of the district bilingual program evaluation design and has been planned for pre-post test administration. The statistical analysis of these data involved the use of a one-way analysis of variance to see if there was a difference between scores on the sub-tests for Spanish Language Fluency, and regression analysis to determine which of the five sub-tests contributed to student gain scores. Analysis of the data indicated that the Gonzalez Diagnostic Evaluation Instrument did discriminate among bilingual first-grade teachers, particularly in the variables of ethnicity, bilingual teaching experience, and first language learned. With respect to the relationship between teacher performance on the Gonzalez Diagnostic Evaluation Instrument and classroom achievement, the analysis of the data did not yield sufficient information from which to draw any major conclusions.