Title

Perceptions of Administrators Regarding English Language Learner Needs in Schools in North Dakota

Date of Award

5-1-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Abstract

Over the last decade, there has been an increasing influx of English language learners (ELLs) having little or no formal English language instruction coming to large and small schools across North Dakota. Many North Dakota administrators and teachers have had no training in how to effectively meet the needs of ELL students and their families. The present study was designed as a follow-up to recent research suggesting negative administrator attitudes regarding ELLs may be creating a school ethos that transmits negative attitudes among other school personnel.

The purpose of this study was to explore North Dakota administrator attitudes/perceptions and knowledge regarding ELL needs in their schools. A 14-question, semi-structured, open-ended survey instrument was developed to interview 16 large school and 7 small school administrators. Participants were chosen for the study based on their participation in the “New Prairie Voices” grant program that trained licensed inservice teachers to be ELL endorsed through the University of North Dakota.

The results of the study were analyzed and evaluated using cross interview analysis, a positivistic qualitative research methodology. Interview data addressing attitudes/perceptions suggested a somewhat stronger trend toward negatively held attitudes; however, these did not appear to be conscious or intended. Interview data addressing knowledge suggested a majority of the administrators lacked the necessary knowledge to provide high quality educational programming for ELL students and services to their families. It appeared that most generalized special education strategies to the ELL student groups. There was an overt resentment among the administrators that ELL students and their families failed to understand school policies and that they did not quickly learn to speak English. There was a strong suggestion more professional development would be needed for administrators and other school personnel, as well as more funding and ELL staff to adequately address ELL needs in North Dakota. It was surprising to find that the administrators had done so little to prepare their faculties and school communities for the changes they would face with a population of new foreign nationals.

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