Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Lillian V. Castaneda


Educational disparities exist between English language learners (ELLs) and native English-speaking students. Evidence suggests that, by fourth grade, 35% of ELLs, compared to their native English-speaking peers, are behind in math, and 47% are behind in reading. There is also evidence to suggest that these lower achievement scores are impacted by teachers' perceptions of and expectations for ELL students. Guided by the theories of interpersonal expectancy and self-fulfilling prophecy, this study examined first grade teachers' perceptions of and expectations for their ELL students in a small southern U.S. town. Using a case study approach, data were collected through interviews, observations, and a qualitative questionnaire. Data were analyzed by comparing and contrasting emergent themes, with similar themes being combined as a method of data reduction. Findings from this study indicated that the teachers did not see their ELL students as inferior to their native English-speaking peers. Students were viewed as similarly capable as any other student in the classroom and are expected to reach the same level of achievement as their native English-speaking peers. Teachers generally expressed the need for more training to address ELL learning styles and communicate more effectively with parents. Teachers, administrators, and parents would be interested in the findings of this study, and this study may motivate teachers and administrators to consider how their perceptions of and expectations for ELL students are linked to effective and equitable curriculum and instruction for these students. The implication for social change is that examining equitable instruction of ELL students will enhance these students' chances to compete for good jobs and be productive citizens of the local community.