Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




David Weintraub


The problem addressed in this study is that Native American and Hispanic English language learners (ELLs) in a rural Mississippi school district are not performing at the same level as non-ELLs. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate the perceived causes of ELL failure and low academic performance on district and state assessments and in general education classes. Guided by Vygotsky's theory of development, which supports teachers and students remaining active in the learning process, research questions focused on what instructional practices general education teachers use to provide instruction for Spanish/Choctaw-speaking ELLs. General education teachers' use of professional learning communities (PLCs), instructional and assessment practices, knowledge of ELLs' instructional needs, and perceptions of professional development (PD) were examined. The purposeful sample for surveys included 33 Kindergarten through12 general education teachers who met the criteria of having the experience of providing instruction to ELLs. Teacher participants completed an online anonymous survey through SurveyMonkey. Six English Language Arts (ELA) teachers and 1 administrator participated in face-to-face interviews. The responses were open coded then analyzed using NVivo 11. Seven themes emerged from the data: differentiation is critical for ELL instruction, assessment should drive instruction, ELLs benefit from evidence based instructional strategies, PLCs support general education teachers, PD is inadequate to support ELLs and teacher needs, PD is needed on ELLs background, and administrators' support PLCs for ELLs' instruction. A 5-day PD project was designed and positive social change promoted by providing staff with evidence based ELL instructional support, resulting in improved ELL learning and achievement.