Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Like Everybody Else," Right?

Reeves, J. (2004) “Like Everybody Else”: Equalizing Educational Opportunity for English Language Learners.  TESOL Quarterly. 38 (1) 43-66.

            Equal educational opportunities. All teachers, administrators, and parents should desire their students and/or children to have a realistic opportunity to take advantage of a school’s educational opportunities; however, grasping a hold of these equal educational opportunities would seem more difficult to some students than others. In her “’Like Everybody Else’: Equalizing Educational Opportunity for English Language Learners,” Jenelle Reeves argues that English Language Learners (ELLs) do not receive the same educational opportunities as mainstream native English speaking (NES) students. Reeves advocates that English Language learners need not just real educational opportunities, but “authentic and participatory” (62), which do not require ELLs to normalize into a “white English-speaking monolingual” (62) mold (Reeves, 2004).
            In her research, Reeves examined three teachers with ELLs in their classroom at Eaglepoint High School. By ignoring the diversity of ELLs, she discovered two products of inequalities relating ELLs:
            1. ELLs have a restricted access to course content
            2. ELLs are inaccurately assessed, and graded.
                                                                                    (Reeves, 2004).

            The major problem Reeves found during her research that contributed to the products of inequality resides in ELL education, teacher attitude, and the standardization of course and state exams (Reeves, 2004).
            ELL education and teacher attitude goes hand in hand. One of the reasons why teachers have an ignorant perspective of ELL is due to the lack of their second language acquisition education. For instance, in her research, Reeves (2004) noted the teachers holding the misconception of students being eligible for “equality of educational opportunities only after gaining full English proficiency” (60).
            Concerning the standardization of course and state exams, Reeves notes the teachers, at least the teachers in this high school, do not have control over ELLs grades or whether they pass the class. At the end of the course, students take a state end-of course (EOC) exam, and if the student passes the exam, the student passes the class. In addition, student who struggle in the mainstream classroom, ELLs especially, receive a “modified” grade, which defers and/or heavily restricts them from pursing a college path.
            Reeves (2004) formed a valid point: “access to opportunities [must be] authentic and participatory, and authentic and participatory educational opportunities should not require the normalization of students into white English-speaking monolinguals” (62).  Instead of selecting an educational model, Reeves expresses the need for an equal educational opportunity process that involves the entire community, various alternative ways to frame student success, and holding high expectations for all students (Reeves, 2004). 

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