Theses Doctoral

Understanding the Nexus Between Early Learning and Development Standards, Emergent Bilingual Learners, and Language Policy in Boston, Massachusetts

Casper, Julie

This study explored the interplay between early learning and development standards (ELDS) and emergent bilingual learners (EBLs) in PreK classrooms in Boston, Massachusetts. The study explored how preschool teachers and policy experts understand ELDS, and how teachers integrate ELDS with their practice generally, and specifically with regard to EBLs. To do so, it sought to understand the ways in which EBLs are positioned in Massachusetts’ ELDS; how ELDS are understood, perceived, and enacted in general education, sheltered English immersion (SEI), and dual language PreK classrooms; and how state and district level education policy experts perceive the relationships between Massachusetts language policy, ELDS, and the needs of young EBLs. The study contextualized ELDS within a sociocultural framework in order to provide an understanding of the role of standards in the early education of EBLs. Employing qualitative interviews and a review of ELDS documents, the study was situated within the context of the Massachusetts 2002 Question 2 legislation, which banned bilingual education and instead instituted SEI classrooms.

The researcher found that Vygotsky and Rogoff’s sociocultural theories of learning were helpful in framing understandings of ELDS in their development and in practice. Using this lens allowed for depth in understanding the power dynamics in the development of ELDS, including reflecting on the dominant benchmarks considered in the writing of standards. As part of a systemic approach to educational equity, ELDS should be carefully reviewed within the context of a Eurocentric orientation in order to influence their nature. Using a sociocultural theoretical lens also allowed for depth in understanding ELDS implementation, including how children’s native languages and cultures are impacted by perceptions of EBL ability and achievement. The study offers suggestions including: reviewing and consolidating standards; changes to education and professional development (pre-service and in-service); policy changes in entry procedures for EBLs; more nuanced understandings of the inherent biases that undergird serving this population equitably; a heteroglossic view of dual language assessments; increasing workforce diversity; supporting paraprofessionals; improved communication with families; increased monitoring and feedback of ELDS; reconciling state and district early childhood work expectations; and an increased policy focus on EBLs.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Kagan, Sharon L.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 22, 2021