This study examines ideologies of language and orientations to bilingual education in California. Specifically, this study examines how three bilingually authorized first- and second-year teachers in one bilingual Oakland elementary school experienced professional development, and how that professional development connected, in multiple dimensions, to California’s bilingual authorization policy. The findings of this study are fivefold. The first finding is that the state of California’s legislative bodies and Commission on Teacher Credentialing promote an orientation toward bilingual education that does not match the visions of the bilingual teachers at the Oakland school, the English Language Learners and Multilingual Achievement office in Oakland Unified School District, nor subtle voices visible in California’s bilingual authorization program standards. The language-as-problematic resource orientation produced by the State is problematic. Any promotion of languages other than English in bilingual education as less “academic” than English, or as secondary in priority to English, devalues these languages, their speakers, and the teachers who teach in them. Early-career teachers in this study interpreted this unequal valuation with varying degrees of discomfort, from outspoken resistance to self-minimization. The second finding, that Oakland Unified’s model of distributed leadership may contribute to uneven and inequitable outcomes of teacher support, highlights the importance of professional development of teacher educators in bilingual settings. When left on his own to decide what he thought would be useful professional development, Olmeda’s monolingual (in English) instructional coach drew upon his own contextual understandings to plan and conduct professional development sessions. This context did not match the needs of teachers, specifically those who taught in Spanish. The third finding, that early-career teachers can access professional development and grow through it when they are able to work within their individual zones of proximal development, is not surprising. However, what is visible in this study is how the structures of California’s teacher induction requirement interrupted professional growth due to rigid timing and perceptions of English as the only language usable during induction. Connected to this third finding is the fourth, that when professional development tasks are viewed as interruptions to “real” professional growth – in other words, as hoops through which to jump – they also may position the requirers of development, i.e. the District or the State, as forces to oppose. This oppositional positioning runs counter to collaboration paramount to successful growth in a classroom, coaching, or other teaching and learning environment. Finally, the fifth finding, that English became the default language and English Learners became the default “struggling learners” during a BTSA induction project – even though the language of instruction was Spanish – connects directly back to the first finding’s hierarchizing of English in bilingual education. In this manner, I show how, to use Levinson et al.’s (2009) terminology, the State, via its orientation to bilingualism and biliteracy in education, defines reality, orders behavior, and allocates resources in ways that promote inequality. Important discussion topics around the importance of “critical consciousness” (Cervantes-Soon et al., 2017) in bilingual education arise from these findings.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2019. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Kendall King. 1 computer file (PDF); 252 pages.
Bilingual educational language policies in context: A multidimensional examination of California’s bilingual teaching authorization.
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