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Mr. Foster’s concerns about the needs and motivations of students and families in the Spanish Immersion program mirrored his comments in our interview (Chapter 3) in which he reflected on the experiences of families as they observed the growth in language learning and use of their children both inside and outside of school. Moreover, his concern for the overall outcomes for Spanish Immersion students dovetailed with the efforts he and his teachers had made over the years to smooth out the articulation of language learning and use from grade to grade. Mr. Foster brought with him a long-term view of language learning and use that posed the question “How do we keep [what the kids have begun in Spanish Immersion] going?” (Interview, 5/21/09) Associate Superintendent for Elementary Education, Ms. Fisher: The Spanish Immersion “Experience.” Ms. Fisher, Associate Superintendent for Elementary Education, had also seen two of three of her now adult children complete a Two-Way Immersion program in another Northern California community. As the main representative of the elementary school setting in the first two program review meetings, Ms. Fisher set the tone and focus for the discussion of the nature of TWI education in the district, demonstrated the effort to “frame the debate,” to keep control of the diverse interests represented.
Repeatedly, Ms. Fisher insisted that not all Spanish Immersion students would go on to AP Spanish courses, rejecting that academic trajectory as the natural outcome of TWI education.
However, while Ms. Fisher consistently expressed the desire that the middle school program provide an experience in language use for students, she also seemed to see one of the program’s goals as being the development of academic language. When the Associate Superintendent for Secondary Education asked what the outcomes for the 7th grade Spanish Immersion course should be, she responded with “exposure, fluency, academic language,” an indication of a duality in her thinking about the nature of TWI education at the middle school level. (Fieldnotes, 10/7/08). Later, at the first meeting of the whole program review group, Ms. Fisher explained that the Spanish Immersion middle school component would be a bridge experience, not academic in nature (Fieldnotes, 10/21/08). Whether she used the word “academic” in different ways in these two situations remains unclear, and sets up a possible conflict over the nature of the curriculum she would later help develop with other members of the TWI/Elementary Communities. I will further discuss this apparent conflict in Ms. Fisher’s thinking later in this chapter.
The elementary TWI community in brief: Equivocation and disempowerment.
The comments made by members of the TWI/Elementary Communities during the program review meetings generally confirmed their alignment with values of TWI education: emphasis on language as the medium for instruction (rather than as the focus of study), and, therefore, language use for a variety of academic and social purposes.
However, Mr. Bell’s assertion of the Secondary/World Language Communities’ refusal to consider extending the Spanish Immersion program to high school ruled out any meaningful discussion of how high school Spanish teachers could adapt to the needs of incoming Spanish Immersion students. While Ms. Fisher’s institutional authority should have been sufficient to empower the TWI/Elementary Communities to pursue resolution of their concerns, her equivocation regarding the middle school program’s focus on language experience and social uses vs. academic language development blurred the differences in orientation between Communities, and, therefore, deferred their resolution.
Community 2: Midville High School World Language education.
In contrast to the absence of members of the elementary Spanish Immersion Community in the early meetings of the Program Review, the High School World Language Community was well represented at every meeting. This Community consisted of Mr. Mann, Spanish Language teacher and soon-to-be Department Chair of World Languages at Midville High School and Mr. Bell, Director of Secondary Education, and District Supervisor of World Language Education.26 Both Mr. Mann (as I have discussed in Chapter 4) and Mr. Bell represented the interests of Secondary World Language education.
Midville High School World Language Teacher, Mr. Mann: “Language as resource” or “language as problem”? While he was only one member of the Midville High School faculty or administration attending all of these meetings, Mr. Mann, as both the upcoming Supervising Instructor for World Languages for both Midville High and Middle Schools, and one of the Spanish Language AP teachers at Midville, carried a lot of weight. Though he said quite little during the series of meetings, he had been charged with carrying out the placement of former TWI students into high school Spanish courses for their 9th grade year. His role placed him at the center of one of the controversies between the high school/district and parents: whether former TWI students should be allowed to enter Spanish 4AP during their first year of high school. It also placed him between school sites as the quasi-administrator who would supervise the faculty who taught the 8th grade TWI classes, as it would serve as a pre-high school Spanish-as-aWorld-Language course as it had for the last several years. Mr. Mann was also charged with supervising the 7th grade course offering for TWI students, whether that course followed a TWI or World Language model. As the supervisor of the faculty teaching these courses, he seemed aware of the importance of understanding the TWI experiences students brought with them to middle school. In the first planning meeting, he confessed a lack of knowledge of what the K-5 TWI experience is like (Fieldnotes, 9/16/08), though he had taught former Spanish Immersion students for four years. In particular he expressed interest in what Spanish Immersion students had read, information that would be readily available from either Spanish Immersion fifth grade teachers or the middle school faculty he supervised. At a later meeting, he returned to the theme of understanding the effects the elementary Spanish Immersion experience had had on students who would enter high school. When Mr. Foster raised a question at a November meeting about whether the middle school plan the program review group was “putting together [was] a natural progression to the next step in high school,” presumably referring to students’ entry into World Language courses, Mr. Mann suggested that the work the program review group was engaged in would provide “an over-arching vision” of the experience of Spanish Immersion students, one that would “help high school teachers know what they are coming with” when former Spanish Immersion students enter World Language classes (Fieldnotes, 11/6/08).
These two comments seem to point to the possibility that Mr. Mann was taking a “language as resource” (Ruiz, 1984) approach to the experience of Spanish Immersion students who enter high school World Language courses. He was, at very least, aware Several other members of the group also represented the interests of World Language education, either by their alignment with Midville’s Spanish Language program, with programs that train World Language teachers, with the professional organization, ACTFL, or with the academic discipline of Applied Linguistics. Mr. Sanchez, a Midville Middle School Spanish Language teacher was closely aligned with the Spanish Language program in the district, while the two university consultants who attended were aligned with the professional community of World Language pedagogy.
that they had had significant literacy experiences in Spanish, that they “[were] coming with” past experience, knowledge and language resources. However, these comments could also point toward a “language as problem” orientation (Ruiz, 1984), as they could be read through the lens of Mr. Mann’s continuing concern with assessment of students entering high school World Language classes. As we have seen from Chapter 4, Mr.
Mann’s orientation tended toward seeing Spanish Immersion students as having significant deficits. So while his comment may have seemed to recognize their language resources, they were more likely motivated by how these students did not fit into the traditional World Language courses.
Mr. Mann raised the question of high school World Language placement of former Spanish Immersion students at the first planning meeting (Fieldnotes, 9/16/08), an indication of how important this question was to him. As I have discussed in Chapter 4, he frequently reported having to discuss this issue with parents who believe their students should be able to enter Spanish 4AP during their freshman year, and each year some former Spanish Immersion students do just that. This question of placement was central enough to the high school World Language program and Mr. Mann, that it was taken up by the Associate Superintendent for Secondary Education at the only planning meeting he attended. In a discussion between the Associate Superintendent and Ms. Fisher about outcomes for 7th grade Spanish Immersion students, Mr. Mann focused on Ms. Fisher’s mention of language “exposure.” He told the group that seeing “exposure” as one of the outcomes was “encouraging to hear” and that they “need to communicate that to parents,” implying that, if the middle school program focused less on traditional language acquisition, parents should not expect their kids to be placed automatically in Spanish 4AP (Fieldnotes, 10/7/08). He consistently expressed this concern that parents’ unrealistic expectations for their students’ language development and use be adjusted by middle and high school Spanish Language teachers, both in the Program Review meetings and in my interview with him (See Chapter 4).
Director of Secondary Education, Mr. Bell: Assessment for language correctness. Mr. Mann’s concern with placement in the high school Spanish classes was reflected in Mr. Bell’s concern for assessing the language competency of the TWI students in elementary and middle school. Mr. Bell served a dual role in the program review meetings. He attended as Director of Secondary Education, and as such answered to the Associate Superintendent for Secondary Education, who only attended one of the early planning meetings. Mr. Bell also represented World Language instruction in his role as Supervisor of all World Language instruction for the district. A great deal of Mr.
Bell’s contribution to the program review focused on language assessment and assessment tools. While he drew upon the more extensive experience of other states and districts with TWI education, and, therefore, seemed to support the work of the elementary TWI program, he and other members of the Secondary School Community consistently connected assessment to either the quality (correctness) of students’ Spanish language in middle school or placement in high school World Language courses. Mr.
Bell’s orientation toward World Language studies and secondary school was evident from the first meeting when he defined the task facing the Program Review group as focusing on providing middle school TWI students with a “continuation of language studies and accommodating 8th and 9th grades” (Fieldnotes, 9/16/08). His relationship with the university World Language consultants, from whom he received material on language assessment, even further reinforced this orientation. Because of this strong association with the World Language community, I have located the discussion of assessment in this section, even though it references members of all the communities present at the meetings.
History of language assessment in Midville’s Spanish Immersion Program. In Midville’s elementary Spanish Immersion program, the meaning of language competency was complex and reflected both the students’ growing mastery of curricular content and their development of knowledge and uses of both of their target languages. As Ms.
Gomez pointed out in our interview, she measured language competency in terms of mastery of content, and, vice versa, mastery of content by language competency.