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Running head: LANGUAGE POLICY 1

Language Policy and Planning in

Northern Colorado Schools

Lauren Porter

Colorado State University


LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 2

Introduction
This paper will take a top-down approach to examine language policy and planning

(LPP) in the United States, in addition to what this LPP looks like on a state and district level in

education within the state of Colorado. I will also present resources (people and documents) I

can contact and utilize, respectively, in order to understand what this LPP looks like in terms of

classroom instruction and differentiation, language attitudes, and teacher support in districts

where I will likely be searching for jobs once I graduate with an MA TEFL/TESL and MEd and

licensure program in the spring of 2018. Additionally, delving deeper into the classes offered at

different schools in Northern Colorado will affect where I want to do my student teaching in

2018 before I graduate. In other words, after examining LPP on a variety of levels, this paper sets

me up to begin to conduct interviews to learn more about teaching ELLs in different districts in

Northern Colorado. I hypothesize that each district and school will model their English Language

Acquisition (ELA) instruction based on Colorado Department of Education (CDE) standards, but

that the implementation of these will look different district to district, and school to school,

depending on the number of ELLs in each district/school.

Language Policy and Planning

To begin with this top-down approach, it is important to first understand common

terminology within the field of LPP, and to understand what language policy, and language

planning, are. According to Wardhaugh & Fuller (2015), language planning is the attempt to

change languages in their form or function, and is often co-existent with language policy, which

deals with policy decisions regarding language. It is noted that policy and planning have a

complex relationship and that, planning does not always lead to policy or vice versa, rather they

are intertwined processes (Wardhaugh & Fuller, 2015, p. 368). Language policy can also be
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 3

understood as having three components. These are: the practices of a language in a community,

ideologies about language, and intervention, planning, and management efforts that are intended

to influence practices (Spolsky, 2004). For my purposes, I am interested in viewing language

policy the way Spolsky defines it, in terms of the planning and management that occurs (via

district and/or school policy) of curriculum and English language development (ELD) courses in

Northern Colorado schools.

LPP in the United States

So, what does LPP look like in the United States? Unlike many countries, the U.S.

has no official language. However, LPP is of great concern to the U.S. because there is a large

indigenous Spanish-speaking population, and because of continued immigration (Wardhaugh &

Fuller, 2015, p. 382). In the year 2000, 12 percent of the population was Hispanic, and that

number is estimated to increase to 25 percent by 2040 (Huntington, 2004). These are important

figures to note because, though it does not mean that all Hispanics speak only Spanish, these

numbers carry significant weight in terms of questions such as, How many of these people

speak Spanish only?, How many wish to raise their children as balanced bilinguals?, How

many children grow up in Spanish-only speaking homes?, What implications are there for a

large percentage of the population potentially not speaking English?, etc. The National Center

on Immigration Integration Policy published a 2011 report, based on the 2010 census, that

identified 9 percent of the population of the U.S. as limited English proficiency (LEP).

According to this report, over 60 percent of these LEPs were Spanish speakers. Although other

languages have LEP speakers, Spanish is the native language of the majority of these LEPs as a

whole across the U.S. These large numbers of Hispanics and LEP native Spanish speakers are

mirrored in data from Weld County School District 6 (Greeley and Evans, CO), which will be
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 4

discussed later. According to Wardhaugh & Fuller (2015), the large numbers of LEP Spanish

speakers can be attributed to the number of individuals, and their constant replenishment in the

U.S.

Although the U.S. does not have an official language, there have been attempts to

make English the official language of the U.S. since 1982. Because these bills have not passed in

both the Senate and the House, state legislatures have begun passing legislation on their own.

There are conflicting ideologies and viewpoints as to the merits and motivations of establishing

English as the official language of the U.S. As Wardhaugh & Fuller (2015) describe, those in

favor of this move believe that the increasing use of languages other than English in the United

States and, in particular, the increasing use of Spanish, poses some kind of internal threat (p.

382). They also mention that, We must note that language planning is often done to benefit

already powerful sectors of society, as opposed to benefitting all members of society equally

(Wardhaugh & Fuller, 2015, p. 367).

Jong (2008) outlines some of the arguments for, and against, making English the

official language. According to Jong (2008), English-only supporters build on the popular

image of the United States as a nation of immigrants, who have succeeded economically by

learning English and leaving their ethnic roots behind (p. 352). The study goes on to state that

English-only supporters emphasize the need for a shared language for communication and

government to be efficient, but also warn of Englishs threatened status because of perceived lack

of motivations by new immigrants to learn English (Jong, 2008).

However, there seems to be bias on both sides of the argument. For example,

Usenglish.org, the website which outlines the movement toward English as the official language,

claims numerous times that it is not advocating for English-only. This loaded term seems to be
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 5

imposed on the movement even though it doesnt claim to favor English-only. According to the

US English website, where it address claims versus realities, English-only is an inaccurate

term for any piece of Official English legislation. U.S. English claims that it never has and never

will advocate for legislation that bans the use of languages other than English in the U.S.

Biases on both sides of LPP, or conflicting statements, rather, can be revealed when

comparing the Usenglish.org website and Jong (2008). This is not surprising considering that this

is a politicized issue. For example, Jong believes that Official English advocates want minorities

to leave their ethnic roots behind, while Usenglish.org states, Official Enlgish legislation does

not infringe upon individual rights, nor does it prevent immigrants from preserving their cultural

heritage and language in their personal lives.

According the US English website, the Official English legislation would declare

English the official language of government, but would make exceptions to allow use of other

languages for issues of public health and safety and other areas.

The idea of making English the official language can be quite a debate, as witnessed

in the fact that on a federal level legislation has not passed both the House and Senate. However,

31 states have passed legislation on the matter, and Colorado is one of them. In 1988, Colorado

passed Initiative 1 (The Colorado English as Official State Language Initiative), which declared

English as the official language of the state (ballotpedia.org). The measure passed with 61.15%

of the votes, and appeared on the ballot saying, Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado

Constitution to declare that the English language is the official language of the State of

Colorado? (ballotpedia.org).
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 6

Colorado/Northern Colorado LPP

Now that LPP has been examined at a federal and state level, the focus will shift to

more local information on LPP, specifically in regard to education. The Colorado Department of

Education (CDE) provides information regarding the English Language Proficiency Act (ELPA).

In May of 2014, the Colorado governor signed HB14-1298, which re-enacted the ELPA and

provided funding for districts in the state with English language learners (ELLs)

(cde.state.co.us). Specifically for 2016-2017, funding for districts with ELLs will go toward the

English Language Proficiency Program (ELPA) and the Professional Development and Student

Support Program. The ELPA supports requirements to provide an evidence-based English

language proficiency program for ELLs, and its goal is to increase English language proficiency

and academic performance of English learners. The Professional Development and Student

Support Program provides money to offset the cost of providing professional development for

educators who work with ELLs. For the fiscal year 2016-2017, HB14-1298 provided

$18,785,784 for the ELPA and $27,000,000 for the Professional Development and Student

Support Program (cde.state.co.us).

This information shows that, although Colorado has adopted legislation that makes

English the official language of the state, the CDE still supports programs that provide funding

for ELLs and their educators. This is important because, as can be seen in the 2015-2016 Weld

County District 6 English Language Development Implementation Guide, there is a large need

for ELL support in Northern Colorado. Information on District 6 and Poudre School District is

especially interesting and important for me, because they are two districts in which I will most

likely be searching for jobs. The data taken from the English Language Development

Implementation Guide also provides me with good background information to know before
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 7

interviewing educators from WCSD6 on language attitudes, planning, policy, support, and

implementation in their jobs. These interviews are the framework of the research study I would

conduct to collect this information before applying to jobs, and to understand LPP on a local

level.

Table 1 below is adapted from the District 6 English Language Development

Implementation Guide (2015-2016), and shows important information on student demographics

in District 6 (which serves Greeley and Evans). This information comes from the 2008-2014

WCSD6 October count.

Table 1.

Count and percentage of WCSD6 students in demographic categories (2008-2014)

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014


October October October October October October October

# and % # and % # and % # and % # and % # and % # and %

Hispanic 9,866 10,067 11,499 11,516 11,953 12,056 12,572


52% 52% 58% 58% 59% 59% 60%

White 823 8,659 7,451 7,279 7,419 7,272 7,257


45% 45% 38% 37% 36% 36% 34%

Other 570 718 901 1,045 1,069 1,122 1,274


3% 4% 5% 5% 5% 5% 6%

Free/ 9,941 10,975 11,798 11,714 12,328 13,234 13,126


Reduced 53% 57% 60% 60% 60% 65% 62%
lunch

EL 4,212 4,696 4,916 5,155 5,066 4,985 4,840


27% 24% 26% 26% 25% 24% 23%

Refugee 92 189 332 421 433 262


<1% 1% 2% 2% 2% 2%
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 8

District 18,859 19,444 19,851 19,840 20,441 20,450 21,183

As the table above shows, there is a large percentage of EL students in WCSD6, and

the fact that these numbers are staying stable at approximately 25% is encouraging for me when

looking for jobs because it shows a steady, and large, percentage of EL students in need here in

Northern Colorado. As indicated, approximately one out of four students in District 6 is an

English language learner, which represents great need for ELL instructors in the district. The

District 6 English Language Development Implementation Guide (2015-2016) also contains

extensive information on demographics, culture and equity, policies, procedures, and mandates,

assessment, curriculum and instruction, and parent engagement and interaction. The fact that the

district has compiled this nearly 100-page document indicates to me that it is attempting to be

organized and thorough in its treatment of ELLs. As I will describe later, I have found multiple

people within the district with whom I would like to speak about the document, and their

teaching practices specifically, in addition to learning more about language policies and attitudes

at their respective schools within WCSD6.

School Districts in Northern Colorado

WCSD6 is only one of the prospective school districts in which Id like to interview,

so I also found information on both Poudre School District and Thompson School Districts ELD

plans and attitudes. According to Thompson School Districts home page, the ELA department

within the district serves LEP students, and their main goal is help ELLs with English language

skills and academic support in order to help them achieve the ultimate goal of high school

graduation. Lucile Erwin, one of the middle schools within Thompson School District, goes even
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 9

further by outlining a specific language policy for the school. According to the Lucile Erwin

page on the school districts site, Lucile Erwin school says, our goal is to establish an engaging

academic setting in which students learn and excel in Language and Lit and Language

Acquisition. They continue to say that, As ELD students are producing written and oral work

in a language other than their mother tongue, we recognize that the communication of ideas and

content knowledge plays a greater role in assessment than usage and mechanics. All appropriate

accommodations will be made for ELD students. In this sense, Thompson seems to understand

the hierarchy of concerns in terms of grading and evaluating ELLs, namely that it is important

for them to achieve communicative competence, and that that is more important than correcting

their grammar and mechanics.

And, finally, Poudre School District has information on their site indicating that ELLs

receive instruction that is based both in Colorado Academic Standards and in Colorado English

Language Proficiency frameworks, and that there are many options for ELLs, especially at

Lincoln Middle School and Poudre High School. Those websites indicate classes called

newcomer (subject area) and sheltered (subject area), so I would definitely like to learn more

about those programs, and their differentiation, when interviewing instructors from both of those

schools. (Those instructors names will be indicated Table 2 below).

Overall, I feel that I have a good grasp on what the language support looks like from

the CDE website and the individual district websites, but to learn more, Id definitely want to

conduct interviews to see how all of these policies, and claims of language support for ELLs,

look like in practice. Table 2 shows which teachers, including their roles and contact information,

Id like to talk to at different schools in each district. Because Im planning to go into secondary

education, I have chosen teachers from different middle and high schools specifically.
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 10

Table 2.

Teacher Role School District Contact


Name

Brooks Ramsey Language, Lincoln Poudre bramsey@psdschools.org


Culture, & MS
Equity Dept.
Chair

Laura Dusbabek Poudre Poudre laurad@psdschools.org


HS

Rebecca ELA teacher Poudre Poudre rmccorke@psdschools.org


McCorkel HS

Heather Wright ELA teacher Lincoln Poudre hewright@psdschools.org


MS/
Poudre HS

Carmen ELL teacher BrentwoodWCSD6 cbustillos@greeleyschools.org


Bustillos MS

Laura LaBelle ELL teacher Franklin WCSD6 llabelle@greeleyschools.org


MS

Becky Zetye ELD Franklin WCSD6 rzetye@greeleyschools.org


MS

Erin Turman ELA Franklin WCSD6 eturman@greeleyschools.org


Interventionist MS

Laura DeGroote ELL Greeley WCSD6 ldegroote@greeleyschools.org


Dept. Central HS
Chair
Katie Corrigan ELA Lucile Thompson katie.corrigan@thompsonschool
teaher Erwin s.org
MS
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 11

I would like to move forward by contacting some of these individuals in the next year

or so in order to make connections with these instructors and interview them to understand how

their various roles as instructors of ELLs function in their respective schools and districts and to

test my hypothesis that, although each district with ELA instruction based on CDE standards,

implementation, practice, and support will look different in each school.

By starting with the top-down approach, I have an understanding of LPP on the

federal, state, and district levels in terms of legal language, documents, etc., but to truly

understand what the day-to-day and support for these teachers looks like, it would be best to

speak with them all personally. In addition to interviewing these instructors, I would love to

shadow them to understand what these roles look like at the middle school and high school

levels, and across the various districts.

References

Colorado English as official language, initiative 1 (1988). Retrieved from


ballotpedia.org
LANGUAGE POLICY & PLANNING IN NORTHERN COLORADO 12

English language proficiency act (ELPA). Retrieved from cde.state.co.us

English language development implementation guide 2015-2016. Retrieved from


greeleyschools.org

Huntington, S.P. (2004). Who are we? The challenges to Americas national identity.
New York: Simon and Shuster.

Jong, E. (2008). Contextualizing Policy Appropriation: Teachers Perspectives, Local


Responses, and English-only Ballot Initiatives. Urban Review, 40(5), 350-370.
doi: 10.1007/s11256-008-0085-y

Lucile Erwin Middle School. Retrieved from thompsonschools.org

National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. (2011). LEP Data Brief. Migration Policy
Institute.

Poudre School District. Retrieved from psdschools.org

Spolsky, B. (2004). Language Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson School District. Retrieved from thompsonschools.org

USEnglish. Retrieved from usenglish.org

Wardhaugh, R., & Fuller, J.M. (2015). An introduction to sociolinguistics (7th ed.). Wiley
Blackwell.