The lived reality of English language learners in an urban high school : perspectives of students and staff



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English Language Learners represent a growing and academically underserved minority in US public schools. Historically, ELLs have experienced less than desired achievement goals such as timely high school graduation and well-developed English facility. Certain factors--influenced by school organizations—contribute to the overall success of these students. Among these are: quality of instructional programs, school connectedness, student self-image and self-efficacy, and ongoing progress toward academic and related goals. Educational decisions do not always reflect all knowledge regarding ELL student learning; and expectations for ELL academic achievement continue to rise. The purpose of this study is to explore the lived reality of English Language Learners in one urban high school by comparing the perceptions of ELL students with the perceptions of staff members who work with them. By comparing the students’ perceptions with the perceptions of staff, it may be possible to identify a “shared reality”--a summary of what daily life and the overall school experience are like for many ELLs in this individual school. Perceptions exclusive to students or to staff may indicate important differences between what the two groups believe, experience, and communicate regarding school. From this study, schools who serve ELLs may gain a deeper understanding of how to enhance the lived experience and the overall success of ELL students—who individually and collectively struggle to thrive and succeed in school, despite considerable obstacles and unfavorable odds.