The number of African American students in Two-Way Spanish Immersion programs is small but growing. However, the research literature reports limited information about the perceptions and experiences of African American students, particularly those students who speak African American vernacular (also referred to as Ebonics), and their parents. There is a need to understand how the unique and cultural and linguistic realities of African American students interface with their academic experiences and acquisition of a second language. The purpose of this study was to examine the perspectives and experiences of African American upper elementary and middle school students and parents in a Two-Way Spanish Immersion to obtain insight into the factors that contributed to student perseverance in the program and the role of language and culture in the lives of the students. The study considered that this new insight could provide information to educators about practices that may optimize achievement and create equitable opportunities for bilingualism, bi-literacy and multiculturalism among the study participants.
A qualitative research methodology was used for this study of participants in a Northern California charter school comprised of approximately 90% Latino and 6% African American students. Research questions were developed to guide the dialogues with students and parents of African American descent about their perspectives and experiences regarding their participation in the program. Nine students and 11 parents from seven families participated in two dialogues each, followed by a parent group meeting and individual follow-up meetings with students for member-checking purposes. Language use of Spanish, Standard English, and Ebonics was documented through language logs during classroom observations. The data was tape-recorded, transcribed and analyzed for common emerging themes.
The following six themes that emerged from all the data sources showed that: (1) The students remained in the program because they were content with participating in a bilingual program, appreciated positive relationships, and were interested in the present and future rewards of bilingualism in society. (2) Parents were satisfied overall with the program and kept their children in the program due to the positive school climate and their own commitment to the bilingual, school-community program model. (3) Students received extra academic support in the program, demonstrated development in the ongoing process of bilingualism, and had very diverse linguistic backgrounds and perspectives. (4) Parents shared very different perspectives on Ebonics. (5) Students indicated they felt comfortable culturally; they had positive cross-cultural relationships and they stated they could be themselves as African Americans in the program. (6) Both students and parents shared their desire for a more culturally inclusive school; one that included more African American learning experiences, learning activities and more students enrolled from underrepresented groups and cultures.
This study indicated that the charter school had characteristics of effective schooling for African Americans. However, in order for the Two-Way Spanish Immersion program to best serve their African American students, especially those utilizing Ebonics, it must strengthen certain features of the program. The results of the study suggested the following: (1) An increase in instructional strategies and techniques in the school curriculum that will best facilitate language learning as a way to promote high levels of academic achievement. (2) An incorporation of more cultural elements (especially those relating to African Americans) in the curriculum that will create a more inclusive learning environment and prepare students to be global citizens. (3) An increase in strategies to address the characteristics and needs of the parent population and their participation in the program.
|School||UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO|
|Subjects||Language arts; Bilingual education; Black studies; Ethnic studies|
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