Date of Conferral







Krista Cournoyer


Spanish speaking English language learning (ELL) students in U.S. public schools are among those most likely to drop out of high school. However, there is a research gap concerning Spanish speaking ELL student success and their experiences in transitioning from supported English as a second language (ESL) classes into mainstream, general education classes in high school. Guided by the framework of transitional bilingual education, the purpose of this study was to present the phenomenological experiences of former ESL students as they transitioned from ESL to English-only classes. Participants included 7 adults who transitioned from Spanish speaking ESL during their high school years and were now enrolled in a local community college. Adult participants were chosen to decrease barriers to participation due to age, clarify perspectives since having completed high school, and reduce negative effects related to power differentials when they were still enrolled as high school students. Each participated in a semistructured interview about daily experiences in the high school ESL program. Using Giorgi's 7-step approach to data analysis, deductive coding was used to identify themes: (a) daily experiences with ESL and mainstream classes, (b) understanding of the ESL classes and transition to mainstream, (c) opinions concerning elements of the programs that hurt or helped their education, and (d) suggestions for ways to improve the programs for future students. More qualitative research with a broader range of students is recommended for future study. Positive social change implications include informing current practitioners and future researchers with the aim of facilitating increased perceived and actual school success, reduced dropout rates, and increased graduation rates for Spanish speaking ELL students.