Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kathy Escamilla

Second Advisor

Kris Gutierrez

Third Advisor

Kira Hall

Fourth Advisor

Susan Hopewell

Fifth Advisor

Lucinda Soltero-Gonzalez


The purpose of this study was to examine bilingual students' opportunities to learn in schools affected by high-stakes accountability policies. Understanding that access to instruction supporting language development is essential to improving bilingual students' opportunities to learn, I examined the ELD program at a bilingual school as well as the ways high-stakes accountability affected the development of academic language in both English and in Spanish. My study was based on the perspective that not only viewed language development in relation to social and contextual factors, but assumed that these social and contextual factors are, in fact, problematic. To this end, I conducted a qualitative case study of six classrooms across two language environments within the same school. Additionally, I followed six students to examine differences in instructional opportunities based on students' levels of proficiency in language and in literacy. My hypothesis was that ELD could not be distinguished from other types of instruction occurring during the literacy block and that students opportunities varied greatly based upon their levels of proficiency.

Through two levels of coding, my analysis revealed a typology of ELD experiences, which I identified as language before interaction, language through interaction, and language through interaction, intended, which occurred when instructional activities supporting ELD shifted to prepare students for high-stakes testing. Additionally, I found that instruction supporting academic language development in Spanish mirrored the type of instruction supporting academic language development in English based on the types I identified above. Finally, in order to navigate the general school setting, which many argue is the purpose of developing academic language, students were socialized within a data-driven culture toward participating in a testing Discourse where they needed to learn how to talk about their performance levels, their proficiency rates, and about meeting standards. Findings revealed a need for educators to be aware of the type of language that is developed in data-driven schools and for educators to question the ethics and utility of defining testing language as academic.