Educating Non-English-Speaking Hispanic Students

Subject: Education
Pages: 20
Words: 5100
Reading time:
17 min
Study level: PhD


It is a fact beyond doubt that minority students in the United States of America are underperforming as compared to their majority white counterparts. A report released by the country’s Department of Education in June 2003 (and cited in Webley, 2011) indicated that these minority students are still performing poorly just like in the early 1990s as compared to white students who have improved a great deal since then.

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  1. Hispanic students are learners from a minority group who have continued to perform poorly in school. It is noted that public schools in the United States are facing a problem with an increase in minority non English-speaking students. According to Webley (2011), the 2010 population census indicated that there are about four million Hispanic students enrolled in American public schools. It is noted that English is not the first language to a large number of these students.
  2. Teachers and administrators need to know how to teach and accommodate these students. One way to teach and accommodate them is to adapt the pedagogy and curriculum to the needs of these students. According to Davis (2007), “many methods of adapting pedagogy and curriculum can help students learn about multicultural democracy and develop more positive racial identities” (p. 211). The adaption will include changing the curriculum for students to learn about other cultures. Teachers and administrators can adopt what Slavin (2006) refers to as equity pedagogy. According to Slavin (2006) equity pedagogy can be conceptualized as the use of teaching techniques that promotes the academic performance of learners from different ethnic and social backgrounds.
  3. There are several challenges faced in the implementation of equity pedagogy to address the needs of non- English speaking Hispanic students in the United States of America. One challenge is teachers not knowing the different equity pedagogy techniques that can be adopted in the class (Mentze, 2010). Another challenge is when teachers are not properly trained to teach students who cannot speak English. Such challenges could lead to a breakdown of communication between the student and the teacher negatively impacting on the capabilities of the student.
  4. Mentze (2010) is of the view that accommodating ELL is a legal requirement in the United States of America. Teachers cannot demand for the exclusive use of English in their classrooms, neither can they deny the use of or belittle the learners’ home language and culture. Instructors should be well- versed in the TEKS and the law regarding ELLs (Mentze, 2010).
  5. The purpose of the current dissertation is to explore the possible challenges facing teachers at the middle school level when it comes to educating non- English speaking Hispanic students. The topic of the dissertation is pedagogy equity and educating non-English-speaking Hispanic Student’s on the Middle School Level. The study will take Port Arthur Independent School District as its case study.

In chapter 1, the researcher is going to introduce the reader to the study by providing a highlight of some of the aspects that will be covered. Issues that will be addressed in the introduction include:

  1. Qualitative problem statement
  2. Background information
  3. Qualitative purpose statement
  4. Qualitative research questions
  5. Significance of the study
  6. Nature of the study
  7. Theoretical framework
  8. Definition of terms
  9. Assumptions made in the study and
  10. Scope and limitations of the study

Qualitative Problem Statement

Teachers and administrators lack training and awareness in multicultural education. The lack of awareness can negatively affect the implementation of equity pedagogy in most public schools in the United States of America (Webley, 2011). As a result, students from minority groups such as non- English speaking Hispanic students lack the opportunity to learn and improve themselves. Therefore there is need to analyze how pedagogy equity can be effectively used to improve the learning outcomes of non- English speaking Hispanic students. In other words, the researcher will analyse how equity pedagogy can be used in a multicultural context to teach non-English speaking Hispanic students.

According to Slavin (2006), multicultural education is a process that calls for the participation of the administrators, the teachers and other stakeholders in the education system. The initial step in multicultural education is for the stakeholders to learn about the cultural background of their learners. The stakeholders are then able to understand their learners better. The stakeholders should examine the policies, practices and curriculum adopted in their particular school in order to identify and map out any possible bias (Slavin, 2006).

Multiculturalism not only targets ethnicity but also gender, religion, disability and economic backgrounds. Eteokleous & Christodoulou (2010) underscore the point by arguing that differentiated teaching should go beyond cultural diversity. It should go beyond cultural diversity given the fact that there are other forms of diversities within the individual and within the community as a whole.

Cultural diversity is increasing in our society. It is reflected in our schools. Increase in diversity can be gleaned from the figures given by Webley (2011). According to this scholar, Hispanic learners accounted for less than 2% of the total student population in the country four decades ago. Today, they account for about 21% of the total population. In the whole country, members of the Hispanic community account for about 16 % of the total population (Webley, 2011).

With the increasing cultural differences, the society acknowledges the fact that changes in the educational system are inevitable. With the population of minority students in public schools rising, the curriculum should change to reflect the increasing diversity and cater for the educational needs of these students. For example, the Texas bilingual program had an increase of 448, 917 students in the 2008-09 school years (Webley, 2011). Such an increase translates into 84% increase from the 1992-2006 school years.

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Multiculturalism has brought with it a lot of challenges as far as teaching is concerned. The challenges arise from microcultural values which represent the different races in the classes and macrocultural values which are the teacher’s understanding of the students’ backgrounds (Mushi, 2004: p. 49). As far as microcultural values are concerned, it is noted that every student has learning needs different from those of students from other cultural backgrounds. In the case of macrocultural values, the teachers find it hard to understand the individual needs of students from different cultural backgrounds (Mushi, 2004).

The current qualitative study will explore the lack of teachers’ training to deal with Hispanic bilingual students and how that lack of training affects equity pedagogy. As already indicated in this paper, equity pedagogy is taken as one of the strategies of addressing multiculturalism in public schools and teaching non-English speaking Hispanic students. Teacher’s ability to understand students from different ethnic socio- economic backgrounds is very important. The understanding goes a long way in improving equity pedagogy and educating non- English speaking Hispanic students (Slavin, 2006).

The results of the current study could inform stakeholders about possible gaps in training for teachers and administrators as far as equity pedagogy is concerned. The results could also inform stakeholders on how to revise existing curriculum within the district to cater address the gap.

Background Information

Port Arthur Independent School District (herein referred to as PAISD) started in 1897 in a one room residence with a dozen students attending (Kalia, 2007). Port Arthur school started off as a private school charging the parents tuition fees. In 1898 two other rooms were added as the population increased. In 1899, the district better known as Common School District No. 14 had 160 White students and one African American student (Kalia, 2007). The school district adopted the name Port Arthur Independent School District on August 24, 1899. Over the years, the population of White and African American students grew and the school district provided accommodation (Schutz, 2000). In 1915 the school district changed because of House Bill No. 470, which was approved by the Governor to enlarge the district. The district added eight schools to accommodate students.

Between 1993 and 1994, PAISD student population had increased to 11, 837 with a total of 2,655 Whites, 6,627 African American, 1,462 Hispanic and 1,093 recognized as others (Schutz, 2000). In 2009-10 school year, PAISD housed 9,047 students with an increase of 48.3% African American, 42.2% Hispanic and 3.6% White students (National Council of La Raza [Raza], 2011). The school district had 806 more Hispanic students participating in the Bilingual program with 9.7 Hispanic teachers in the district (Rodriguez, 2011).

According to Gallo (2008) many educators feel that there is lack of support as far as bilingual education training, district communications and school site administration are concerned. Major obstacles in public schools concerning the development of students’ learning include students not understanding the language, not knowing how to write or interpret the language taught and not understanding the different cultures introduced (Gallo, 2008). PAISD has students who do not speak the English language and need more help to understand the language. However, PAISD teachers lack the skills required to teach non- English speaking students (Russell, 2009)

With a large number of non- English speaking students entering the public school system, teachers should understand not only the student but also the student’s background, community, religion and economic backgrounds (Slavin, 2006).

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Apart from training the teachers, there are other strategies that can be adopted to improve equity pedagogy. School administration can involve communities in school such that people from different cultures and backgrounds can share their experiences. The positive effects of such participation will trickle down to the students (Rodriguez, 2011).

Today, Port Arthur Independent school district has a total of 22 schools (Raza, 2011). Such a number is significant by any standards. It then becomes important to analyze the issue of equity pedagogy and teaching of non- English speaking Hispanic students in the district. The current qualitative study will go a long way in addressing this issue.

Qualitative Purpose Statement

The purpose of this case study is to explore the possible challenges facing teachers at the middle school level when it comes to educating non-English speaking students. The study will address itself to pedagogy equity as one of the strategies that can be used to teach non-English speaking Hispanic students in a multiculturalism context (Slavin, 2006). Challenges faced by teachers when implementing equity pedagogy are the ones that will be analysed in the study.

As already indicated earlier, there are many non- English speaking Hispanic students in PAISD. It is important to analyze how equity pedagogy addresses the needs of these students and the challenges faced in implementing the strategy. Special focus will be on training challenges as far as teachers and equity pedagogy in PAISD concerned. The focus will be on the perceptions of the students, administrators and teachers regarding equity pedagogy and education of non- English speaking Hispanic students.

Qualitative Research Questions/ Hypotheses

RQ#1 – How do teachers, school administrators and students in Port Arthur District’s public schools perceive multiculturalism in the classroom?

RQ #2: How can equity pedagogy be used in addressing the problem of teaching students in a multicultural environment?

RQ #3 – How do Port Arthur School District’s teachers, administrators and administrators perceive the challenges of teaching non-English speaking students?

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RQ #4 – How can the challenges facing equity pedagogy in Port Arthur School district’s public schools be addressed?

Significance of the Study

Non- English speaking Hispanic students faces many challenges when it comes to academic performance in the United States of America (Holland, 2006). It is important to analyze how teachers and other stakeholders address such challenges. By looking at the challenges that teachers at middle school level face in teaching non- English speaking Hispanic students using pedagogy equity, the current study will address the gap in the knowledge that exists in the field.

The results of the current study may be used to inform practice when it comes to teacher’s training, professional development and classroom curriculum in Port Arthur District and other school districts in the country. Further significance of the study can be derived from Davis (2007) when he argues that teaching controversial issues is beneficial to the students. It is beneficial given that it opens their eyes to new perspectives on race and culture to which they have not been exposed in the past. Awareness of cultural diversity may help Port Arthur Independent School District learn how to communicate with other cultures. Enhanced communication will give individuals a broader outlook on what other cultures can bring to the school district and the community.

The current study will fill the gap that exists in understanding different ethnic groups. Furthermore, the results could be used to help teachers prepare students to deal with diversity in the learning environment. The results will also help other researchers who may have an interest on the effects of multiculturalism in American schools.

School administrators have been known to face challenges in dealing with cultural diversity in their institutions (Webley, 2011). They find it hard to implement curriculum that caters for the needs of students from various socio- economic backgrounds (Webley, 2011). The study will go a long way in helping these administrators overcome such challenges by providing them with information that will help them formulate effective policies to address the issue. Such policies include training their teachers on equity pedagogy, helping students cope with cultural diversity among others.

The findings of the study will also help the school administration by providing them with information on how to engage the community in equity pedagogy. Such engagements may give the city and the Independent School District the ability to formulate policies that may effectively cater not only for non- English speaking Hispanic students but also for their families. The significance of this can be gleaned from Tupa & McFadden (2009) arguments. The two argue that a district’s attitude as far as academic performance is concerned begins with the district personnel. However, the scholars recognize the significant role played by the family and the community in a student’s educational life. All parties share the responsibility for a student’s academic success.

The study may enhance collaboration between community leaders and the members of the communities. The leaders may learn how to listen and focus on cultural norms that include ethnic background, education, families and even individuals’ personalities. Port Arthur leaders may learn to be more empathetic towards people of different ethnic backgrounds which may in turn make it possible for the city to provide education, jobs, and better communication with the people of the city.

Nature of the Study

The researcher will evaluate data from three middle schools using the Academic Excellence Indicator System provided by Texas Education Agency. The researcher will assess 10 students, six administrators and ten teachers from three middle schools in Port Arthur independent school district. Academic Excellence Indicator System was preferred given the fact that it has been used extensively in the past and has provided consistent and reliable results. It is appropriate for the study given that it provides relevant information needed.

The research will be conducted using online resources (articles), data gathered from Port Arthur independent school district, interviews and books. The data to be analyzed includes the total number of Hispanic students enrolled in the Bilingual/ESL program, bilingual teacher’s serving the students and the reasons why parents do not allow their children to participate in the bilingual program. This study uses similar types of case studies to compare and contrast the bilingual programs models to the PAISD Early Exit Model whose goal is to place all ELL students in all English speaking classes by the third grade but not focusing on the students entering secondary level. The aim of the study is to examine the PAISD bilingual program taking into consideration the hiring of more bilingual teachers, training mainstream teachers on strategies to help their non-English-speaking students and making sure Hispanic parents understand the importance of their children taking part in the bilingual program.

Primary data for the research will be collected using face-to-face interviews with teachers, students and school administrators. The aim here is to collect qualitative data touching on the challenges faced in implementing equity pedagogy for educating non- English Hispanic students. Face- to –face interviews were preferred over other strategies such as questionnaires given the fact that the researcher will be able to gather more information given by seeking clarification from the respondents.

Secondary data will be collected from school records, online resources and books gathered from libraries. The aim here is to provide the researcher with background information regarding the issue. The strategy was preferred since it will provide the researcher with relevant information touching on equity pedagogy and educating non-English speaking Hispanic students.

Theoretical Framework

The increase in the number of non- English speaking students have led into many challenges on the part of both the learner and the school. The teachers and the students are not aware of and may not appreciate the cultural background and cultural values of each other (Russell, 2009). Teachers need to be trained on how to address cultural diversity and how to learn about their students’ background. They should also appreciate the individual needs of students from different cultural backgrounds such as the need to learn English, the need to fit in with other students among others.

The following theoretical framework informed the current study:

Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition

Krashen (2007) provides a theoretical framework that can be used to address the issue of equity pedagogy in a multicultural environment. The theoretical framework will be adopted for the current study. According to Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition (2007) there are five hypotheses:

  1. The Acquisition –Learning Hypothesis. The hypothesis requires interaction with the target language. In the context of the current study, the researcher will be interested in the interaction taking place between the target students and the English language. These are the non- English speaking Hispanic learners who are the target of this study and how they learn the language.
  2. The Monitor Hypothesis. The hypothesis addresses the link between language acquisition and learning. It goes further to define the influence that learning has on language acquisition. Here, the researcher will be interested on how the student acquires and learns the English language and how their acquisition affects the learning.
  3. The Natural Order Hypothesis. The hypothesis provides that the acquisition of grammatical structures progresses through a natural order that can be predicted. It can be predicted that the learner may start learning the English language before understanding class instructions given in English.
  4. The Input Hypothesis. The hypothesis addresses the issue of how a learner acquires a second language. The researcher will analyze how non- English speaking Hispanic learners acquires the English language.
  5. The Affective Filter Hypothesis. The variables facilitate the learning process. However, Krashen points out that the variables are not the cause of the learning. The affective variables may be the desire of the student to learn the English language, the support they receive from their teachers and their family members among others.

Krashen’s theory can provide teacher training ideas to cope with the issue of equity pedagogy and teaching non-English speaking Hispanic students in a multicultural context. Teachers trained on the five hypotheses of the theory are well equipped to help non-English speaking Hispanic students learn the English language and thus improve their understanding in the classroom.

Krashen’s theory is not the only one that can be used to conceptualize the current study. There are other theories that can be used in understanding equity pedagogy in a multicultural context. Two of them (Erik Erikson’s stages of social development and Piaget’s stages of cognitive development) are analyzed below:

  1. Erik Erikson’s Stages of Social Development

Erik Erikson provides eight stages of social development. The first stage (birth to 18 months) explains how a child depends solely on the mother either trusting or not trusting her since the mother is the sole provider. Erikson’s second stage (autonomy versus doubt, ages 18 months to three years) provides that the child at age two has developed enough language to communicate with others The third stage addresses a child within the age bracket of three and six years. The children are developing language skills and motor skills (Dixon, 2005). Children at the third stage will express themselves but parents should not punish them because of this. Pushing the child could cause a problem later on in life causing the child to doubt themselves (Dixon, 2005).

Stage four is when the presence and influence of the teachers and peers increase and that of parents decrease. The child starts looking at his or her ability and how he or she feels about them, for example positive and negative feelings that can determine the success of the student. Stage five (12 to 18 years) is when the child turns away from the parent and towards his or her peers (Rodriguez, 2011). The sixth stage addresses intimacy versus isolation. It is young adulthood and sharing their lives with someone else is an important aspect of the individual. Stage seven discusses middle adulthood and guides the next generation (Slavin, 2006). The last stage focuses on late adulthood and integrity versus despair when individuals start looking at their life and what they have accomplished in their life time (Slavin, 2006).

In the context of the current study, the researcher would try to determine how the student’s social development stage affects their acquisition of English language and how it affects their learning in general.

  1. Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s identifies four stages of cognitive development (Slavin, 2006). A child in the sensorimotor stage is in the age group of 0 years to 2 years where the baby uses senses such as touch and their motor skills. The second stage (preoperational stage) is where the child uses their mind but lacks adequate knowledge to determine very simple things such as cutting a sandwich in half. The child at the second stage thinks that he or she has two sandwiches instead of one, a situation called the principle of conservation which develops at age two through seven (Slavin, 2006). The next stage (age seven to 11) is called concrete operational stage during which the child’s reasoning becomes logical. Now they can understand conservation but only with familiar situations. The last stage (formal operation) occurs between 11years and adulthoods. The children are entering puberty and their thinking and cognitive capacity changes (Schutz, 2000).

Each stage has an age group which explains the development of a child from birth. It also explains the different tasks the child can perform at each stage. In the context of the current study, the researcher would try to determine how non- English speaking Hispanic students’ cognitive development affects their acquisition of the English language and learning in general.

Krashen’s theoretical framework as used in the current study looks at the approach adopted in understanding people’s thoughts, habits and even their emotions. Students learning a new language could experience frustrations, anger and embarrassment which are complicated phenomena for most stakeholders in the education sector. Stakeholders in this case include for example teachers, administrators and city leaders.

Given the rising number of ethnic groups in our society, the theoretical framework may help the city and the school district in exploring and coming up with ways to approach and solve problems in the community. The important issues to explore here include communication between cultures, attitudes and cultural beliefs which will be achieved in the current research by interviewing individuals on non- English speaking Hispanic students in the public schools and the effects it has on students, teachers, and administrators.

According to Vural & Gomleksiz (2010), “…….if the value systems in a school can be formed as a lifestyle by taking democracy and human rights as a basis, it may be possible to make important contributions in assisting students to gain democratic attitudes and behaviors with the help of a hidden curriculum” (p. 220). Krashen’s theoretical framework can be applied here in assisting the students from Hispanic backgrounds to learn and adopt democratic attitudes and behaviors. The teachers can also apply the framework which will help them adopt these democratic attitudes that will help them deal with students from diverse cultures. Such developments will go a long way in improving equity pedagogy which will be used to teach non-English speaking Hispanic students in a multicultural environment (Holland, 2006).

Definition of Terms

There are various terms that were used in the current study. It is noted that the meaning of such terms as used in the study may differ from their normal or everyday’s meaning. Here, the researcher is going to provide the definition of such terms. The definition given here is the meaning of that particular word within the context of the current study. The definition may be different from the normal usage of the term on a daily basis.

Academic Indicator System – pulls together a wide range of information on the performance of students in each school and district in Texas every year (Texas Education Agency, 2010).

Bilingual education – Instructional program for students who speak little or no English in which some instruction is provided in the native language (Slavin, 2006).

English as a second language (ESL) – subject taught in English classes and programs for students who are not native speakers of English (Slavin, 2006).

Equity – the state of quality of being just, impartial and fair (Slavin, 2006)

Limited English proficient (LEP) – possessing limited mastery of English (Slavin, 2006).

Multicultural education – education that teaches the value of cultural diversity (Slavin,


Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) – prerequisite knowledge and skills in determining instructional goals and objectives (Tassell & Crocker, 2010)


There are various assumptions made in the study. It is noted that it is not possible to address each and every aspect of a given topic in one study. As a result, it becomes hard to control all the variables present in a given study. To address the challenge, the researcher assumes that the variables that cannot be controlled will remain constant and unchanged throughout the study. If the variables happen to change, it is assumed that the change will have minor or no effects on the outcomes of the study.

The assumptions made in this study are:

  1. It was assumed that non- English speaking Hispanic students face challenges in learning English language and other subjects in the school
  2. It was also assumed that the experiences of students at the three schools selected in Port Arthur School District are comparable to those of other schools in the district
  3. The researcher assumed that apart from teachers, other stakeholders such as the student themselves, school administrators and members of the community also play a significant role in educating non- English speaking Hispanic students
  4. It was assumed that equity pedagogy is an important policy adopted by schools in addressing the needs of non- English speaking Hispanic students
  5. The researcher further assumed that stakeholders in the education sector are aware of the fact that non- English speaking students face challenges in learning English and other subjects in school
  6. It was assumed that the information needed to address the problem addressed by the current study is held by the participants selected for the study. It is by understanding their experiences that the researcher will be able to provide strategic interpretations to assist with learner skill improvements and in addressing equity pedagogy

Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of any given study is defined as the extent to which the study can go in addressing issues in a given field. It is noted that it is not possible to cover all issues surrounding a given topic in one single study. As a result, the researcher finds it important to set boundaries within which the study will be conducted. These delineated boundaries are what make up the scope of the study.

It is also noted that the methodology of a given study is not able to address all aspects of the topic. The inability of the methodology to cover all the aspects is what is referred to as the limitations of the study.

The following are the limitations and scope of the study:

  1. The study will be limited to non- English speaking Hispanic students despite the fact that English speaking Hispanic students also face challenges in learning
  2. The study will be limited to Hispanic students alone. Students from other minority groups such as Latino and African American will not be addressed despite the fact that they also face challenges
  3. The scope of the study will be limited to public schools in the school district despite the fact that there are non- English speaking Hispanic students in private schools in the country and in the school district
  4. The researcher will limit the study to Port Arthur school district. Other school districts in the state will not be addressed despite the fact that the issue of equity pedagogy is not limited to PAISD alone
  5. The researcher will focus on non- English speaking Hispanic students in middle school. Students from elementary and other school grades will not be addressed despite the fact that non- English speaking students from these grades are also affected by equity pedagogy

Chapter Summary

In chapter one, the researcher introduced the reader to the study that will be conducted. The researcher highlighted some of the issues that revolve around the study. Some of the issues highlighted included the problem statement where the researcher indicated the issue surrounding the study. Background information was also provided where the researcher provided information regarding the background against which the current study is conducted. In the qualitative research questions segment, the research questions that will be addressed in the current study were provided. A total of four research questions were identified. The researcher also provided information on the significance of the study. Here, information was provided on the practical application of the findings of the current study. There was also a section on the nature of the study. Here, information on how data will be collected and rationalization and justification of the same was provided. Another section introduced the reader to the theoretical framework that will inform the current study. Information was provided on one major theoretical framework and two alternative ones. Terms that will be used in the current study were defined in the section titled “definition of terms”. The section was followed by a detailed analysis of the assumptions that will be made in the study. Finally, the scope and limitations of the current study was provided.

In Chapter 2, the researcher will critically review the literature that is related to the chosen topic. The aim is to locate the current study within the larger field of educating non- English speaking Hispanic students and equity pedagogy.