"I Feel Like I'm the Same as the Other Students" Negotiating Language Policy Used to Identify Students as English Learners and Disabled

Iván Rosales Montes, University of Pennsylvania


Federal, state and local policy across the American Southwest guides local educational agencies in ensuring students classified as English learners receive a program of English language acquisition to develop proficiency in English as rapidly and effectively as possible. This study uses a conceptual and theoretical framework that draws from intersectionality, critical race theory, language planning and policy literature as well as postcolonial theory to situate the educational experience of students classified as English learners with diagnosed disabilities in broader neocolonial efforts. By outlining the historical process of how the English learner and disabled categories have become normalized in our educational vernacular (Bacchi , 2012; Foucault, 1991), the study illustrates how students and the teachers and principals that serve them negotiate language policy. This study uses qualitative methods to show that the institutional processes of special education and English language development work alongside ideologies brought forth by students, teachers and site administrators and collectively influence the implementation, interpretation and making of language policy. I illustrate that the ideologies teachers and site administrators use to frame their understanding of students classified as English learners work alongside the ideologies that inform their understandings of students diagnosed as disabled. The findings of this study illustrate that students negotiate language policy by resisting language testing, sustaining their linguistic practices inside and outside of the classroom and by not attending as well as sleeping in their English language development class. Educators negotiate language policy by inviting students to use multiple linguistic discourses, and resisting the universal application of English language development classes. The findings serve as an alarming caution against understanding all students within a category as similar and brings to light the often-overlooked cost students pay when we rigorously implement formal policy to fidelity.

Subject Area

Disability studies|English as a Second Language|Education Policy

Recommended Citation

Rosales Montes, Iván, ""I Feel Like I'm the Same as the Other Students" Negotiating Language Policy Used to Identify Students as English Learners and Disabled" (2019). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI13857108.