Research on the literacy and language development of Spanish-speaking English language learners
VIAS Subproject 1
Predicting Growth in Spanish-speaking Children’s Reading: PreK to Eight Grade
Subproject 1, which began in 2001, investigates the development of English reading comprehension for 200 Spanish-speaking language minority learners in the United States, followed from age 4 to age 14. The longitudinal design enables the examination of change and growth over time in language and reading. Noteworthy findings focus on a striking reader profile: one with average levels of word reading and very low vocabulary and reading comprehension. The large, persistent gaps in vocabulary against national norms are juxtaposed against a rate of growth in vocabulary that is on par with national norms, highlighting the mismatch between developmental needs and instruction.
The goals of Subproject 1 of the Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment for Spanish Speakers (VIAS) project are: 1) to improve our understanding of developmental trajectories (preschool to eighth grade) of the reading skills of Spanish-speaking language minority (LM) learners; 2) to examine the influence of social (e.g., demographics), cultural (e.g., home literacy practices), and linguistic (e.g., language proficiency in Spanish and English) factors on developmental trajectories of reading; and 3) to gain insight into the source of difficulties of LM learners who are struggling readers.
Studies and Results
This study is a follow-up to a longitudinal study funded by the previous PO1 NICHD grant, which tracked children from prekindergarten through second grade. The current study is tracking the same children from fifth grade through eighth grade. To date, children have been tested at seven time points: fall and spring of pre-kindergarten, and spring of kindergarten, first grade, second grade, fifth grade, and sixth grade.
In the 2007-2008 academic year, the first year of the follow-up study, 173 children participated in the study. During the 2008-2009 academic year, we successfully re-recruited 188 children for participation. Together, these students are enrolled in 75 different urban schools (1–8 students per school), most of which are public schools receiving Title I funds. Standardized and researcher-developed measures of language and literacy in Spanish and English continue to be administered to children annually, but the battery has evolved to ensure it is developmentally appropriate. Today, these measures include the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery-Revised, the Test of Word Reading Efficiency, and the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test. In the 2008-2009 academic year, we also surveyed families about their children’s out-of-school time and included two assessments designed to learn about students’ perceptions and the strategies they use, now as early adolescents, when they are reading text: Reader Self-Perception Scale (RSPS) and the Metacomprehension Strategy Index (MSI).
Data for the first two years of the follow-up phase have been collected, scored, entered, and analyzed. Three manuscripts have been written and a fourth manuscript is in preparation. The first manuscript features developmental patterns in word-reading and oral language (productive vocabulary and verbal short-term memory) skills in English and Spanish from age 4.5 through age 11. Individual growth modeling results reveal a clear discrepancy between LM learners’ word-reading skills and oral language skills. The second manuscript, in press for publication in Journal of Educational Psychology, focuses on the influence of growth rates in word-reading and oral language skills across different developmental periods on LM learners’ English reading comprehension outcomes at age 11. A third manuscript, recently submitted to Developmental Psychology, presents an examination of the association between early patterns of home language use (at age 4.5 years) and vocabulary growth (from ages 4.5 to 12 years) in English and Spanish. A fourth manuscript, in preparation, focuses on analyses from a qualitative study undertaken to address questions about family processes and social mobility related to children’s education and schools, using a purposive sample of 25 families.
We are currently collecting data for the third year of the follow-up phase. In order to further attend to developmental stage (i.e., early adolescence) and context (i.e., middle school), we have incorporated several new measures. While maintaining the integrity of the original design and goals, we expanded the study’s theoretical framework by drawing on Garcia-Coll’s (1996) integrative model for studying minority learners’ development, which places daily experiences and stressors as they relate to social class, culture, and race at the core of a model of child development for minority learners. As such, we are using student and parent assessments of school climate (Emmons, Haynes & Comer, 2002) and a parent questionnaire focused on enhancement and improvement goals for their child (expectations, aspirations) and views on their child’s peers and friendships (Tamis-LeMonda, et al., 2008). Students are also completing a self-esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1965) and a questionnaire about issues such as sense of efficacy, autonomy, learning, and friendships, based on existing research by the Developmental Studies Center (Schapps, E. 2005).
We anticipate that the analyses with the expanded dataset, which will include longitudinal data as well as cross-sectional data to be modeled as a predictor of student outcomes, will be very informative for educational research and practice focused on language and reading and will also inform further high-impact research to promote the health and well-being of the growing population of U.S.-born Latino children of immigrants enrolled in today’s schools.
Emmons, C.L., Haynes, N.M. & Comer, J.P. (2002). The school climate survey revised- elementary and middle school version. New Haven, CT: Yale University Child Study Center.
García Coll,C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins,R., McAdoo, H.P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B.H. & Vázquez García, H. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67, 5, 1891-914.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Measurement of self-esteem. In M. Rosenberg (Ed.), Society and the adolescent self image. (pp. 297-307). New York: Princeton University Press.
Schapps, E. (2005). The role of supportive school environments in promoting academic success. In: Developmental Studies Center: http://www.devstu.org/.
Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Way, N., Hughes, D., Yoshikawa, H , Kalman, R., & Niwa, E.Y. (2008). Parents’ goals for children: The dynamic co-existence of individualism and collectivism in cultures and individuals. Social Development, 17, 183-209.
The study’s longitudinal design enables the examination of patterns of change and growth over time, thereby helping us to understand the reading and language development of Spanish-speaking children reading in English, the factors that predict these trajectories, and the specific skills that are susceptible to change. To our knowledge, there are no other studies that span this time period and examine the influence of child, home, and school characteristics on LM learners’ reading development. This original longitudinal research will contribute to our understanding of the relationship among language background, early experiences, and language and literacy development, as well as inform our understanding of the variability in developmental trajectories in reading achievement for the heterogeneous population of LM learners.
We will complete data collection for the 2009-2010 academic year by July 2010. We plan to finish analysis of the quantitative data by December 2010, focusing on 8 years of data (prekindergarten to seventh grade).
- Mancilla-Martinez, J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2010). Predictors of reading comprehension for struggling readers: The case of Spanish-speaking language minority learners. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 3, 701-711.
- Mancilla-Martinez, J., & Lesaux, N. K. (in press). Early home language use and later development.
Journal of Educational Psychology.
- Mancilla-Martinez, J., & Lesaux, N. K. (in press). The gap between Spanish-speakers' word reading and word knowledge: A longitudinal study. Child Development.