Language planning and language policy in an urban, public school: The interpretation and implementation of a dual language program

Linda A Bender, University of Pennsylvania


African American and Puerto Rican students are often isolated in urban areas in which they have little contact with each other or members of other racial groups (Baugh, 1998; deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999) and unequal access to a full and effective education (deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999; Krashen, 1996; Smith, 1992). This research documents and analyzes the interpretation and implementation of a new dual language bilingual program in a context of urban poverty, segregation and underachievement of students. Dual language programs are designed to increase academic achievement, second language proficiency and social relations among students. These programs have been successful in mainly middle-class situations with language/racial minority and language/racial majority students (Christian, 1996; Cloud, et al; Freeman, 1993; Genesee, 1995; Krashen, 1996; Lindholm, 1990). Implementing such programs in contexts in which all of the students are from language/racial minority groups presents problems of language planning and policy interpretation which have not been researched before in an urban, public school setting. This study addresses that lack of research. The theoretical orientation of the research assumes that the participants in the new program draw upon the practices, beliefs, and social relations in the context as resources for interpreting and implementing the program. These resources reflect the prevailing beliefs and practices regarding language use, language learning, minority students, and social relations that are present in the surrounding context (Gee, 1990; Lemke, 1995). However, beliefs and practices on one level of analysis, such as face-to-face interaction are not isomorphic with beliefs and practices in other situations (Lemke, 1995). This research uses ethnographic methods to collect written, spoken, and historical instances of discourse documenting the beliefs and practices of the teachers and administrators in the program. Intertextual analysis of the discourse reveals underlying structures and beliefs regarding social relations, language use and minority speakers which are indexical of social relations, practices, and beliefs on the local, institutional and societal levels. These social relations, practices, and beliefs reflect conflicting and misleading beliefs regarding bilingual education, minority speakers, language use, and language learning. The beliefs and practices used as resources contribute to the conflicting practices used in the program which constrain second language learning opportunities for the students and guide decisions regarding the structures of the new dual language program, student selection and assessment, the curriculum, the goals, and classroom activities. The beliefs and practices of teachers and administrators anticipate and respond to the beliefs and practices of other significant discourses on the social, institutional and societal levels which may represent misconceptions, stereotypes, goals, and practices which conflict with the goals of dual language programs, and with research on the best practices of effective dual language providers. Without sufficient analysis of the beliefs and practices which the teachers and administrators in a new dual language program are responding to, accommodating, or circumventing, the attainment of the goals of the program may be constrained by the practices of the teachers and administrators.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Curricula|Teaching|Linguistics|School administration

Recommended Citation

Bender, Linda A, "Language planning and language policy in an urban, public school: The interpretation and implementation of a dual language program" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9989573.