ERIC Identifier: ED464514
Publication Date: 2002-05-00
Author: Lindholm-Leary, Kathryn J. - Borsato, Graciela
ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Impact of Two-Way Immersion on Students' Attitudes toward
School and College. ERIC Digest.
One program model that has shown positive outcomes for Hispanic students is
two-way immersion (Lindholm-Leary, 2001), also known as two-way bilingual or
dual language education. Two-way programs integrate native English speakers and
English language learners in the same classroom and provide content instruction
in both English and the native language of the English language learners. These
programs aim to provide high quality educational experiences for all students
and promote higher levels of academic achievement.
This digest reports on a study that examined the impact of participation in a
two-way immersion program on the language and achievement outcomes of former
program participants and on their current schooling path and college plans. The
study explored outcomes for three groups of students: 1) Hispanic students who
began the two-way program as English language learners; 2) Hispanic students who
began the program as English-only or English-dominant speakers; and 3) European
American students who entered the program as monolingual speakers of English.
"Subjects." A total of 142 high school students who
were enrolled in two-way immersion programs when they were in elementary school
participated in the study. All students were bilingual at the time of the study
but were classified according to whether they had started kindergarten as a
native English speaker or a native Spanish speaker/English learner. This is the
breakdown of students for this sample: 66% were Hispanic students with Spanish
as their native language (Hispanic Spanish speakers); 20% were Hispanic students
with English as their native or dominant language (Hispanic English speakers);
and 13% were non-Hispanic students with English as their native language
(European American English speakers).
"Student characteristics." Students in these three groups differed
considerably with respect to their mothers' educational background and their
participation in the free lunch program. Significantly higher levels of
education were represented among the mothers of European American students,
followed by the mothers of Hispanic English speakers. The lowest levels of
education were found among the mothers of Hispanic Spanish speakers.
Significantly more Hispanic Spanish speakers had participated in the free lunch
program while they were in elementary school than had Hispanic English speakers
or European American students.
"Comparison group". A small sample (17 students) was selected as a comparison
group for the Hispanic Spanish speakers. This comparison group was composed of
Hispanic students who had entered kindergarten speaking Spanish but did not
participate in a two-way program. Their socioeconomic background was very
similar to that of the Hispanic Spanish speakers in the study who had
participated in a two-way program during elementary school.
"Instrumentation." Two-way students and comparison students completed a
questionnaire concerning identity and motivation, attitudes toward school,
current schooling path and college ambitions, attitudes toward bilingualism and
the two-way immersion program, parental involvement, and school environment.
Students in the comparison group did not respond to the section of the
questionnaire that inquired about attitudes toward bilingualism and the two-way
program. Students rated the items on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from
strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Results of the study revealed very few differences
among the three groups of former two-way students. Most of the students reported
fairly high academic competence and motivation to do well in school. They value
education strongly and believe that getting a good education is the best way to
have a better life. They also understand that it is important to get good grades
to get into college. In fact, most of the students agreed or strongly agreed
that they want a college degree, but more Hispanic students, both English- and
Spanish-speaking (93% of each group), feel that way than European American
students (75%). Thus, the students have very positive attitudes with respect to
their own academic competence and their future enrollment in college.
"College preparation." Two-way students reported engaging in activities or
behaviors that are conducive to doing well in college: taking part in classroom
discussions, going back over work they do not understand, taking time to figure
out school work, and doing homework on time. In addition, most two-way students
know the entrance requirements for various colleges and have attended college
presentations at their high schools.
"Mathematics enrollment." Only six two-way students are enrolled in basic
math classes; the others are taking higher-level math, such as geometry,
algebra, trigonometry, and calculus, which will help them prepare for college
and get into more prestigious schools. However, more European American than
Hispanic students are taking higher level math. Interestingly, Hispanic Spanish
speakers are more likely to be enrolled in higher level math courses than their
native-English-speaking Hispanic peers. These results are in stark contrast to a
number of studies demonstrating substantial differences in mathematics course
taking among different groups, with Hispanic immigrant students typically
enrolled in lower-level and basic math courses (see, e.g., Darling-Hammond,
"Grades." Hispanic Spanish speakers reported the poorest grades (most
Bs/Cs/Ds), and European American students reported the highest (mostly As or
As/Bs), especially in language arts and social studies. However, a much higher
percentage of Hispanic Spanish speakers than Hispanic English speakers earn As
and Bs in language arts and social studies courses, content areas that would
typically be expected to favor a native English speaker over an English learner.
Although Hispanic Spanish speakers receive fewer As and As/Bs in math and
science than Hispanic English speakers, they are taking higher level math
"Dropout." In the United States, the school dropout rate for Hispanic
students, especially Spanish speakers, is higher than for any other ethnic group
(President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic
Americans, 1996). Most of the two-way students agree that they will not drop out
of school. Of those who have at least considered dropping out, most say they
will stay in school because they need an education. Only a very small percentage
of European American students, but one third of Hispanic English speakers and
almost one half of Hispanic Spanish speakers, feel that their participation in
the two-way program has kept them from dropping out of school.
"Attitudes toward the two-way program." All of the students' attitudes toward
the two-way program are very positive. Most believe that learning through two
languages made them smarter and helped them do better in school. Hispanic
students in particular felt valued in the program, were glad they participated
in it, and would recommend it to other students. Although most students were in
agreement, Hispanic students agreed more strongly than European American
students that the two-way program challenged them to do better in school, gave
them more confidence, and gave them a better education.
"Attitudes toward bilingualism." Almost all students felt that being
bilingual would help them get a better job. However, students differed in how
they rated their use of and proficiency in Spanish. Overall, students reported
using Spanish at least weekly. Hispanics were more likely to use it on a daily
basis. While one might assume that native Spanish speakers would continue to use
more Spanish at home and with their friends, survey results revealed otherwise.
Only one fifth of Hispanic Spanish speakers use only Spanish at home, and many
use only or mostly English. Similarly, few Hispanic Spanish speakers use only
Spanish with their friends; most use both languages, although English dominates.
While one fourth of students feel very uncomfortable speaking Spanish in public,
most students report feeling comfortable. Twice as many Hispanics as European
American students feel very comfortable.
Most students rated their Spanish proficiency in a medium range; Hispanic
Spanish speakers were slightly more likely to rate themselves in the higher
range of proficiency. Most students felt that they were fluent in classroom
discourse, although Hispanic Spanish speakers perceived their fluency with peers
to be much higher than their fluency in the classroom. European American
students were much more likely than Hispanic students to be complimented as well
as praised by a teacher or administrator for speaking Spanish.
"School environment." Most students rated their school and classroom
environments as conducive to learning: they feel safe; discipline is fair; there
are few fights among different ethnic groups; there is little gang activity;
they do not feel discriminated against; they perceive that there are teachers
who will help them if they need it; and they believe that teachers generally
think they are smart.
BENEFITS OF TWO-WAY PROGRAM FOR HISPANIC SPANISH
Most of the differences between the two-way students and the
comparison students were not statistically significant. Each finding in and of
itself could lead to the conclusion that a two-way program is no more
advantageous for Hispanic English language learners than any other program.
Examining the findings as a whole, however, there are a number of results that
favor the two-way students. For example, it is particularly striking that almost
half of the Hispanic Spanish speakers in this study believed that the two-way
program kept them from dropping out of school. In addition, two-way students are
more likely than their comparison peers to want to go to college immediately
following high school. This may be due to their knowing significantly more than
their non-two-way peers about college entrance requirements and being more
likely to have attended presentations about college. Thus, two-way students are
more likely to know that they need to take higher-level math courses to get
accepted at college.
Indeed, there is a huge difference in the enrollment in math courses. Almost
half (47%) of the comparison-group students are taking basic math compared to
only 3% of two-way students. For both groups, 30% are enrolled in algebra and
24-26% in geometry. However, none of the comparison students is taking algebra
II or trigonometry/calculus, whereas 28% of Hispanic Spanish speakers from
two-way programs are enrolled in algebra II and 13% in trigonometry/calculus.
The results of this study are impressive on two
counts. First, they demonstrate that high school students who participated in
the two-way program developed high levels of academic competence and motivation,
ambitions to go to college, knowledge about how to apply to and get into
college, and pride in bilingualism. In addition, they were highly satisfied with
their education in the two-way program.
Second, the results point to the development of a sense of resiliency among
Hispanic students, particularly those learning English and those from low-income
families. These students appear to possess high self-esteem, motivation to study
hard, belief in academic competence, perception of a positive school
environment, a supportive family, and a peer group that values
education-characteristics that have been identified with resilient and
successful students, that is, those living in adversity or from high-risk
environments but who are well adjusted and achieve academic success (Gandara,
Larson, Rumberger, & Mehan, 1998; Padron, Waxman, & Huang, 1999). Thus,
it is not surprising that most of these students have ambitions to attend
college and will not drop out of school.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1995). Inequality and
access to knowledge. In J. A. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.), "Handbook of
research on multicultural education." New York: Macmillan.
Gandara, P., Larson, K., Rumberger, R., & Mehan, H. (1998, May).
"Capturing Latino students in the academic pipeline" (California Policy Seminar
Brief Series No. 10). Retrieved April 5, 2002, from the California Policy
Research Center Web site.
Lindholm-Leary, K. J. (2001). "Dual language education." Avon, England:
Padron, Y., Waxman, H., & Huang, S. (1999). Classroom and instructional
learning environment differences between resilient and non-resilient elementary
school students. "Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk of Failure,
President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic
Americans. (1996). "Our nation on the fault line: Hispanic American education. A
report to the President of the United States, the Nation, and the Secretary of
Education." Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved April 5,
2002, from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/FaultLine/index.html