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Mann: OK, well I think the general goal is to um at the end of the, if you're talking about a primary program, so K-5, that by fifth that those students are going to be basically um bilingual, biliterate, for a fifth grade kind of student Merritt: umhm Mann: um in the target language and in-and in English in the United States Merritt: umhm, umhm Mann: um that they would have a functional level of literacy and fluency for their appropriate age group Merritt: umhm Mann: in both languages, and that the target language would be a vehicle to give them content, uh to teach them, in other words, mathematics, or uh science, or what have, or social studies or language arts, Merritt: umhm Mann: and that I believe, if I-if I remember correctly the model is that in Kindergarten it's almost 100%, and then as it slowly goes up through fifth grade then it-then it the English gets developed gets introduced so that it's eventually, I think, 50/50.
Merritt: umhm Mann: roughly Mr. Mann seemed to recognize that what bilingualism or fluency would mean at 5th grade would be different from what it would mean for high school students, which might have raised questions about how students must develop to reach high school or college levels of bilingualism, a very relevant question given the focus of the middle school Program Review the previous fall. However, as we moved on to discuss how he understood the differences in goals of TWI education and World Language education, he seemed to realize that it was difficult to compare goals for students from the two systems.
Mann: Well, I uh you know the difference, how are those interacting (nearly under his breath), um um we want to eventually--I mean our goal is for students to become, I-I don't know, if, you know, in only four years, if we're talking about just 9-12, if we can say “bilingual” by the end of four years because there-there're gonna be significant gaps still. They just haven't had enough time and experience, (breath), you know, they haven't had enough exposure compared to if you start your whole school day as a five-year-old, obviously you're gonna have a lot more time than you are having 50 minutes a day, four days a week. So, um, but I mean our goal is to develop some level of um proficiency, let's say, in terms of language acquisition in Spanish, or whatever the second language is um at high school, or if they start in 7th grade then they, of course, they've got a leg up because they've had more time. But the way that we deliver the -- we don't deliver content in the same fashion that-that they do in-in an immersion program, obviously, and we do it more thematically, um, and you-you start with you know it's all about me, so it's about, talking about, what do you like? And what do you--what's your school like? And you know all the typical Level One kind of themes that you have in a second language--your school, your family, your friends, things you like to do, things you don't like to do, um and learning the structures along the way as you build in vocabulary, so… Mr. Mann’s description of the thematic approach to “delivering” Spanish Level One was quite similar to the description Ms. Gomez gave of her understanding of the goal of “getting that language into people,” beginning with basic interpersonal communication, in a Spanish Level One class. Because a 9th grade student might be starting from zero in learning Spanish, from Mr. Mann’s perspective, the highest expectation one could have for traditional World Language students, given how little time they spent learning in Spanish, was to reach “some level of … proficiency.” This highly qualified explanation of goals seemed to reflect a reasonable expectation for traditional World Language students, but he did not seem aware of the implication of his statement, that Spanish Immersion students would have reached a significantly higher level of bilingualism and biliteracy by the time they had entered traditional World Language classes than most traditional World Language students would be able to hope to achieve after only four years of language learning. Or perhaps this contradiction had occurred to him, as, on the heels of this discussion, Mr. Mann entered into his discussion of the “overly ambitious thinking” both Spanish Immersion students and parents had had for their students, and of their orthographic and grammatical deficiencies.
Evaluation of writing of Spanish Immersion 5th Graders: A (predominantly) deficit view.
Because Mr. Mann had been initiated into the professional group of teachers who read and score the Presentational Writing element of the Spanish Language AP exam, I asked him if he would read and comment on the short stories four of the 5th grade Spanish Immersion students had written in Ms. Gomez’s class that spring. I also wanted to understand whether he was aware of and what he thought about the level of language and literacy the 5th grade Spanish Immersion students had achieved by this time. At the end of our June 2009 interview, I provided him with those short stories, providing only the name of the student, and explaining that Ms. Gomez had been working with them on some of the conventions of fiction writing in Spanish (the use of guiones [dashes] instead of quotation marks in dialogue, and of idiomatic interjections to replace their use of English idioms in their dialogue). Mr. Mann read all four short stories making comments on each of them after he did. While he affirmed several aspects of the students’ writing and language development, his comments consistently returned to their deficits, what they lacked, rather than their strengths. His focus on these issues seemed to surpass what a reader of would be able to focus on in the holistic reading of AP essays. In particular, he focused consistently on their “control” (use, lack of use or misuse) of accent marks, one of the language development issues associated with both heritage Spanish learners and Spanish Immersion students. He questioned the instruction these students had received in accentuation, which pointed to what seemed to be a mistrust of the language development education they had received in elementary school, and to a privileging of the values of the World Language model of instruction. The language ideology which emerged most clearly from this activity was his emphasis on student control of certain language features, a concern which confirmed Ms. Gomez’s impression that the focus of World Language education was on how teachers “got language into” students. This emphasis on control obviously proceeded as well from the language of the AP system itself.
“A couple hundred a day”: The reading practices of AP essay scoring. Before he read the students’ written work, at the beginning of our interview, we chatted about the process he had recently been through in reading the 2009 AP Presentational Writing essays. He described the process, commenting on the rather overwhelming volume of reading they had to do each day and the effect it had on him as a reader.
Mann: You read a couple hundred a day. (By the) end of the day it all looks the same. I would read the whole thing, get to the end, have no idea what I had just read, and start over again.
His description of losing track of what he had just read led me to wonder how he could distinguish some of the finer points of language use and keep himself observant of all the aspects of writing they were looking for in each essay. In addition, knowing that in many standardized essay test-scoring sessions, the readers are encouraged to read at a certain speed, I asked how much time they were allowed to read each one. Mr. Mann emphasized the reasonable expectations the leaders had for them.
Mann: They were good about (not) pressuring us, to say, “You should read one a minute or one every two minutes.” They never said, “You should complete this many a day.” They just said, “Read.” And they monitor it really closely so they know how we're doing, but they would never say, “Read faster,” they just encouraged us to do the best we could.
While they did not pressure the readers to read more quickly, the volume of essays they were trained and expected to read in one day necessarily would mean very little time spent on any one essay13, a fact which raised questions about how the readers would be able to read for a multiplicity of features, including the more fine-grained features of If a reader worked for 8 hours and read 200 essays, he would average 2.4 minutes per essay.
language such as spelling, grammar errors and accentuation. The AP rubric14 Mr. Mann provided me before my first visit to his class focused evaluation on both Topic Development and Language Use and included five items in each of those larger categories for each numerical score from 1 to 5, a significant number of features to focus on at once.
The 2007 Presentational Writing Scoring Guidelines include under a score of 5 in Language Use:
Control of a variety of structures and idioms; occasional errors may occur, but • there is no pattern Rich, precise, idiomatic vocabulary; ease of expression • Excellent command of the conventions of written language (orthography, • sentence structure, paragraphing and punctuation) Register is highly appropriate • Mr. Mann did not comment on the problem of how to focus on each element of the rubric when reading two hundred essays a day, but it seemed obvious that reading that many examples of student work would mean having to read them holistically, not being able to focus on any one feature of a particular student’s work. As I will discuss later, in his reading of the 5th graders’ short stories, Mr. Mann was clearly influenced by the elements of the AP Presentational Writing rubric, but also focused on “conventions of the written language” in a way that seemed unrealistic for the essay scoring of the AP exams. In other words, he seemed to focus special attention in his reading of the Spanish Immersion students’ work on accentuation and other written conventions, and interpreted the variation of student performance in accentuation as a result of deficient teaching on that language feature.
Influence of AP Presentational Writing rubric on Mr. Mann’s evaluation of 5th graders’ writing. That Mr. Mann’s evaluative practices had been informed and influenced by this rubric became obvious as he evaluated the short stories of the four 5th graders. As he read he focused on each of these language use features, emphasizing the students’ control of each. In fact, late in the discussion of the students’ work, he used the rubric directly to characterize their work.
In commenting on each of the students’ written work, Mr. Mann focused on specific characteristics associated with the four AP rubric items, emphasizing the concept of “control” in various ways, both positive and negative. He pointed to Jacob’s and Michael’s control of verb tense (Rubric Item 1), Michael’s “good control of paragraphs,” Georgia’s having her paragraphing “down,” and Jacob having better control of paragraphs than some native speakers (Rubric Item 3). He praised several of the students Mr. Mann provided me with a rubric he had at hand, one for Presentational Speaking;
however, he commented that it was very similar to the rubric for Presentational Writing.
I have since consulted the 2007 Spanish Language AP Presentational Writing Scoring Guidelines, and have found them similar in the area of Topic Development, but not in Language Use. Whereas the Speaking guidelines focus on fluency and pronunciation, the Writing guidelines focus on “conventions of the written language (orthography, sentence structure, paragraphing and punctuation)” (College Board website).
for their use of “rich vocabulary” (Rubric Item 2), comparing Jacob’s vocabulary favorably to that of native speakers. And though he did not discuss register (Rubric Item 4), he did comment on the appropriateness of the themes the students had chosen to write about and the emotion they expressed in writing about them. Though he expressed a number of positive comments about the qualities of their writing in Spanish, when it came to the elements of Rubric Item 3: “Excellent command of the conventions of written language (orthography, sentence structure, paragraphing and punctuation),” he began to make more negative comments, mostly focusing on native-speaker like errors in orthography, in particular what he saw as a troubling pattern of error in accentuation.
Eventually, the issue of accentuation seemed to loom over all the positive qualities of the students’ writing, as I will discuss in the next section.
Accentuation: “An important little piece.” In the Presentational Writing rubric, accentuation (the use of accent marks in written Spanish) would fall under the item Rubric Item 3: “Excellent command of the conventions of written language (orthography, sentence structure, paragraphing and punctuation).” It is an element of orthography; however, nowhere in the rubric is accentuation mentioned specifically. Yet, from the very beginning of his evaluation of the students’ writing, Mr. Mann paid special attention to accentuation, viewing it as a significant pattern of deficit in their writing, and speculating as to the cause of this pattern. Even though he tried to downplay its importance at points, admitting “it’s just one little piece (of language use),” he could not escape his view that it was “an important little piece” that was lacking in their use of Spanish.
While Mr. Mann affirmed a wide range of language use features in the 5th graders work, the language he used to express his affirmation of them was measured and downplayed in comparison with the language he used in connection with accentuation.