Language Policy

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 27–47 | Cite as

Working downstream: a beginning EL teacher negotiating policy and practice

  • Christine Brigid Malsbary
  • Mollie H. Appelgate
Original Paper


This case study describes how a beginning teacher struggled to meet her students’ needs in an ESL classroom. Her struggle demonstrated the interrelated nature of policy and practice: Policy effects in her school isolated her and made her feel solely responsible for the achievement of her newly arrived English-learning (EL) students. Her case demonstrated a critical issue in the United States: Namely, the effects of highstakes testing policies in the classroom serving ELs has led to a focus on student output (e.g., achievement scores), while discussions of input (e.g., knowledge of effective instructional practices, support across the professional life-span, and clear, coherent curriculum standards that include English-learning students) are much needed and widely absent. Further, these issues occurred in an unclear language policy environment where ideologies around bilingualism left the case study teacher confused. Ultimately, this study provokes the following questions: How do the effects of policy impact beginning teachers’ ability to negotiate and contest policy? How is a teacher’s negotiation and contestation of policy shaped by a specific policy context over time?


English Learners ESL teachers United States NCLB Policy Proposition 227 Teachers-as-policymakers 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Brigid Malsbary
    • 1
  • Mollie H. Appelgate
    • 2
  1. 1.Vassar CollegePoughkeepsieUSA
  2. 2.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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