Exploring student integration patterns in two-way immersion schools
Martinez, Martha I.
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Martinez, Martha I.
Two-way immersion (TWI) programs teach English Learners (ELs) and native English speakers in the same classroom using both languages in an immersion approach. Studies suggest that TWI programs result in greater student integration, thus providing a promising alternative for Spanish speaking ELs, who are frequently concentrated in high poverty, majority-minority schools. This study used a mixed methods research design to examine student integration issues in two elementary schools. Enrollment data from 1999-2009 were analyzed using both descriptive and inferential statistics. Grounded theory was used to analyze data from interviews, focus groups, observations, and archival documents. The demographic analyses revealed trends that are consistent with demographic changes nationally: an increasing Latino population and a decreasing White population. In terms of instructional integration patterns, the following findings were consistent for both schools. Prior to the introduction of TWI, students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were evenly distributed among 4th/5th grade classrooms. After TWI, significantly more students with IEPs were in the English only than in TWI classes. In addition, after TWI, significantly more English speakers who qualified for free/reduced meals were found in the English only classes. However, Spanish speakers, who were almost exclusively located in TWI, had significantly higher free/reduced meals rates than English speakers in either TWI or English only classes. The central theme to emerge in the grounded theory study was "Negotiating the Value of Spanish," a process that occurred over many years as both schools grappled with a growing Latino population. Using Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital, I suggest that the introduction of TWI commodified Spanish within the mainstream educational program, providing cultural capital gains for Spanish speakers as a result. TWI provided the justification and resources for hiring more bilingual staff, for purchasing Spanish curriculum materials, for providing professional development in Spanish and about Spanish literacy, for increasing outreach to Spanish speaking families, and for prioritizing Spanish speakers' access to the program. Spanish speakers and their families thus gained greater access to the curriculum and the life of the school, and staff began to see Spanish speakers differently.