Language Policy

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 217–235 | Cite as

A bilingual education for a monolingual test? The pressure to prepare for TAKS and its influence on choices for language of instruction in Texas elementary bilingual classrooms

  • Deborah PalmerEmail author
  • Anissa Wicktor Lynch
Original Paper


A tension exists for teachers in Texas bilingual third and fifth grade classrooms between state and local bilingual education policy, which encourages them to transition students gradually from Spanish into English instruction while providing bilingual support; and state and federal accountability policy, which requires them to choose a single language for each child’s high-stakes test. Interview data from teachers in six Texas elementary schools suggest that the high-stakes Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), a test offered in both English and Spanish in 3rd–6th grades and used for school and district rankings at both state and federal levels, drives teachers’ decisions with regards to language of instruction for their students. We argue that children who test in Spanish will be taught in Spanish, with little attention to the transition process until the testing pressures are lifted; children who test in English will be taught in English, with little attention to the support in their primary language that may determine their ability to succeed on a test in their second language.


Bilingual education High-stakes testing No child left behind Teacher sense-making Transition Testing accommodations English language learners 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abedi, J. (2002). Standardized achievement tests and English language learners: Psychometrics issues. Educational Assessment, 8(3), 231–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abedi, J. (2004). The no child left behind act and English language learners: Assessment and accountability issues. Educational Researcher, 33(1), 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Abedi, J., & Lord, C. (2001). The language factor in mathematics tests. Applied Measurement in Education, 14(3), 219–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Abedi, J., Hofstetter, C., & Lord, C. (2004). Assessment accommodations for English language learners: Implications for policy-based empirical research. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alamillo, L., & Viramontes, C. (2000). Reflections from the classroom: Teachers perspectives on the implementation of proposition 227. Bilingual Research Journal, 24(1–2), 155–168.Google Scholar
  6. Alamillo, L., Palmer, D., Viramontes, C., & Garcia, E. (2005). In A. Valenzuela (Ed.), Leaving children behind: How Texas-style accountability fails Latino youth (pp. 201–224). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  7. American Institutes for Research. (1999). Voluntary national tests in reading and math: Background paper reviewing laws and regulations, current practice, and research relevant to inclusion and accommodations for students with limited English proficiency. Palo Alto, CA: Author.Google Scholar
  8. Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bogdan, R., & Biklen, S. (1998). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cheng, L., Watanabe, Y., & Curtis, A. (Eds.). (2004). Washback in language testing: Researchy contexts and methods. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  11. Clotfelter, C., & Ladd, H. (1996). Recognizing and rewarding success in public schools. In H. Ladd (Ed.), Holding schools accountable: Performance-based reform in education (pp. 23–64). Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  12. Coburn, C. (2001). Collective sensemaking about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(2), 145–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cochran-Smith, M. (2003). The unforgivable complexity of teaching: Avoiding simplicity in an age of accountability. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(1), 3–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crawford, J. (2004). Educating English learners: Language diversity in the classroom (5th ed). Los␣Angeles, CA: Bilingual Educational Services, Inc.Google Scholar
  15. Cummins, D., Kintsch, W., Reusser, K., & Weismer, R. (1998). The role of understanding in solving word problems. Cognitive Psychology, 20, 405–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Darling-Hammond, L., & Millman, J. (Eds.). (1990). The new handbook of teacher evaluation: Assessing elementary and secondary school teachers. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  17. De Corte, E., Verschaffel, L., & DeWin, L. (1985). Influences of rewording verbal problems on children’s problem representations and solutions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 27(4), 460–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.). (1998). Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Echevarria, J., Short, D., & Powers, K. (2006). School reform and standards-based education: A model for English-language learners. Journal of Educational Research, 99(4), 195–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Francis, D., Leseaux, N., & August, D. (2006). Language of instruction. In D. August & T. Shanahan (Eds.), Developing literacy in second-language learners (pp. 365–413). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  21. Genesee, R., et al. (2006). Educating English language learners: A synthesis of research evidence. New␣York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Goldstein, L. (2007). Beyond the DAP versus standards dilemma: Examining the unforgiving complexity of kindergarten teaching in the United States. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greene, J. P. (1997). A meta-analysis of the Rosell and Baker review. Bilingual Research Journal, 21(2–3), 103–123. Scholar
  24. Hudson, T. (1983). Correspondences and numerical differences between disjoint sets. Child Development, 54, 84–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jennings, N. (1996). Interpreting policy in real classrooms: Case studies of state reform and teacher practice. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kohn, A. (2000). Burn at the high stakes. Journal of Education, 51(4), 315–327.Google Scholar
  27. Kopriva, R. (2000). Ensuring accuracy in testing for English language learners. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.Google Scholar
  28. Krashen, S., & McField, G. (2005). What works? Reviewing the latest evidence on bilingual education. Language Learner, 1(2), 7–10, 34.Google Scholar
  29. Legarreta, D. (1979). The effects of program models on language acquisition by Spanish-speaking children. TESOL Quarterly, 8, 521–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1981). Effective evaluation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  31. Linn, R., & Gronlund, N. (2000). Measurement and assessment in teaching (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.Google Scholar
  32. Menken, K. (2008). English learners left behind: Standardized testing as language policy. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  33. Mestre, J. P. (1998). The role of language comprehension in mathematics, problem solving. In R. R. Cocking & J. P. Mestre (Eds.), Linguistic and cultural influences on learning mathematics (pp. 200–220). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Michaels, S., O’Connor, M. C., Hall, M. W., & Resnick, L. (2002). Accountable talk: Classroom conversation that works, CD-ROM Set. On principles of learning. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburg.Google Scholar
  35. Mischler, E. G. (1991). Research interviewing: Context and narrative. Cambridge: Harvard.Google Scholar
  36. No Child Left Behind Act. Public Law 107–110.Google Scholar
  37. Olsen, J. F., & Goldstein, A. A. (1997). The inclusion of students with disabilities and limited English proficiency students in large-scale assessments: A summary of recent progress. (NCES Publication no. 97–482). Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics.Google Scholar
  38. Orfield, G., & Lee, C. (2005). Why segregation matters: Poverty and educational inequality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Civil Rights Project.Google Scholar
  39. Porac, J. F., Thomas, H., & Baden-Fuller, C. (1989). Competitive groups as cognitive communities: The case of Scottish knotwear manufacturers. Journal of Management Studies, 26, 397–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ramirez, D. (1992). Executive summary of the longitudinal study of structured English immersion strategy, early-exit and late-exit transitional bilingual education programs for language minority children. Bilingual Research Journal, 16, 1–62.Google Scholar
  41. Riley, M. S., Greeno, J. G., & Heller, J. I. (1983). Development of children’s problem-solving ability in arithmetic. In H. P. Ginsburg (Ed.), The development of mathematical thinking (pp. 153–196). New␣York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rivera, C., & Collum, E. (Eds.). (2006). State assessment policy and practice for English language learners: A national perspective. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  43. Rivera, C., & Stansfield, C. W. (1998). Leveling the playing field for English learners: Increasing participation in state, local assessments through accommodations. In R. Brandt (Ed.), Assessing student learning: New rules, new realities (pp. 65–92). Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.Google Scholar
  44. Roderick, M. (1994). Grade retention and school dropout: Investigating the association. American Educational Research Journal, 31(4), 729–759.Google Scholar
  45. Rolstad, K., Mahoney, K., & Glass, G. (2005). The big picture: A meta-analysis of program effectiveness research on English language learners. Educational Policy 19(4), 572–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rubin, H., & Rubin, I. (1995). Qualitative interviewing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Rumberger, R. W. (1995). Dropping out of middle school: A multilevel analysis of students and schools. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 583–625.Google Scholar
  48. Slavin, R., & Cheung, A. (2005). A synthesis of research on language of reading instruction for English language learners. Review of Educational Research, 75(2), 247–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Spillane, J. (1999). External reform initiatives and teachers’ efforts to reconstruct their practice: The mediating role of teacher’s zone of enactment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(2), 143–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Spillane, J. (2004). Standard deviation: How schools misunderstand educational policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Spillane, J., & Jennings, N. (1997). Aligned instructional policy and ambitious pedagogy: Exploring instructional reform from the classroom perspective. Teachers College Record, 98, 439–481.Google Scholar
  52. Stritikus, T., & Garcia, E. (2000). Education of limited English proficient students in California schools: An assessment of the influence of proposition 227 on selected teachers and classrooms. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association annual meeting, San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  53. Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Wall, D. (1997). Impact and washback in language testing. In C. Clapham & D. Corson (Eds.), Language testing and assessment, Encyclopedia of language and education (Vol. 7, pp. 291–302). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Pulbishers.Google Scholar
  55. Weick, K. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  56. Westrum, R. (1982). Social intelligence about hidden events. Knowledge, 3(3), 381–400.Google Scholar
  57. Wright, W. (2002). The effects of high stakes testing on an inner-city elementary school: The curriculum, the teachers, and the English language learners. Current Issues in Education, 5(5). Retrieved January 16, 2007 from:
  58. Wright, W. (2005). English language learners left behind in Arizona: The nullification of accommodations in the intersection of federal and state policies. Bilingual Research Journal, 29.Google Scholar
  59. Wright, W. & Choi, D. (2005). Voices from the classroom: A statewide survey of experienced third-grade English language learner teachers on the impact of language and high-stakes testing policies in Arizona. Language Policy Research Unit.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations