115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mita Mangga: A Counterstory for California English Learner Students

Patriccia Ordonez, University of California, Riverside

In this paper, I use counterstorytelling to interrupt the dominant narrative that students classified as English Learners can only navigate the school system using English only. I present the counter-narrative for California EL students who tend to have increased psychosocial and cognitive development due being bilingual.

Proposal: 

In this paper, I use counterstory-telling to break down the dominant narrative that students classified as English Learners (EL) can only navigate the school system and assimilate into U.S. society using English only.  Instead, I present the counter-narrative that EL students do possess, and, often, have more linguistic and social capital that equate to abstract thinking due to knowing a second language.  I combine the shared experiences of the participants to create a powerful counternarrative as represented by Mita, a fictional, composite character based on interviews collected for this paper.  At the same time, the resistance these students encountered in their EL placement and the structural barriers preventing them from equal treatment in their educational journey is embodied by Mr. Steven Washington, who represents a hegemonic, social identity.  I intend this paper to address deficit thinking towards EL students in schools.  Negative sentiments towards EL students, such as inherent incompetence or resistance to learning American English are still present in K-12 schools. This is part of the dominant narrative I intend to challenge in this paper.  Immigrant (first generation or 1.5 generation) students are the ones who are most marginalized and misframed by this dominant narrative, especially in California where majority of EL students are Latino Spanish-speakers.

To address and challenge the ways race and White supremacy have shaped the treatment of students classified as EL, I draw on the framework of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Education as theorized by Daniel Solórzano (Yosso, 2006, p. 7). Solórzano identified five tenets that can inform theory in research: the intercentricity of race and racism; the challenge to dominant ideology; the commitment to social justice; the centrality of experiential knowledge; and the interdisciplinary perspective (Yosso, 2005, p. 73; Yosso, 2006, p. 7). For this paper, I focus on three of the five tenets as applied to education. I use a critical ethnographic case study approach to inform and reinforce the counternarrative that EL students do possess and often have more linguistic and social capital that equate to abstract thinking due to knowing a second language. I use this method to supplement the CRT framework as it allows the examination of “shared patterns of a marginalized group with the aim of advocacy about issues of power and authority,” which, in this case, is the dominant narrative stating that English is the only way to assimilate and navigate the school system (Cresswell, 2015, p. 468). I argue that insights of former EL students are necessary, invaluable data that informs research on traditionally marginalized groups, thus emphasizing the CRT tenet of experiential knowledge.