Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Hollingworth, Liz

First Committee Member

Pascarella, Ernest T

Second Committee Member

Maxey, E J

Third Committee Member

Plakans, Lia M

Fourth Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela

Fifth Committee Member

Smith, Howard L


This quantitative study was designed to determine the extent to which the language of testing in reading and math had a positive effect on 50/50 dual language program Hispanic students' reading and math achievement level as measured by a standardized achievement test. The research questions in this study include:

1. Is there a statistical difference in reading achievement for Hispanic 50/50 English- Spanish dual language program students when testing data is disaggregated linguistically?

2. Is there a statistical difference in math achievement for Hispanic 50/50 English- Spanish dual language program students when testing data is disaggregated linguistically?

This study examined the reading and math standardized achievement results for students in grades 2-12 in a school district in Iowa serving students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 that chooses to offer 50/50 dual language Two-Way Immersion (TWI) (Spanish/English) instruction to its students. The district uses the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED), both presented in English, and the Spanish test Logramos to evaluate student achievement. The reading and math results of 157 Hispanic students enrolled in the dual language program are compared in this study to determine if the Hispanic students, on average, achieve at higher levels as measured by national grade equivalency (NGE) and percentage proficient when testing in Spanish versus English in math and in reading.

There was, on average, a two-year gap in reading performance by Hispanic students when testing in English compared to testing in Spanish. The students performed about two years above grade level in Spanish in reading, but rarely performed even at grade level in English as measured by NGE and percentage proficient results. Over the three- to five-year testing window, the reading gap stayed constant at about two years.

When comparing English and Spanish math results for the same students by grade level, the students scored at a higher level in Spanish over 97% of the time compared to the English math results. The results show that for the eight graduating cohorts, the average percent proficient is 72% overall when taking the math test in Spanish, but for the math test in English the average percent proficient is only 50.2% proficient.

Linguists have argued that Hispanic students' progress in attaining proficiency on standardized reading and math assessments is possible after five to seven years of learning English. This study demonstrates that not all Hispanic students progress to that level of proficiency and that further programming options or interventions might be needed within the TWI program model. Additionally, this study shows that the rate toward proficiency in reading and math on the English and Spanish versions differs over time and that students generally attain proficiency in math prior to reading on both the English and Spanish assessments.

Balancing the language acquisition process through models like dual language is supported in research, but implementing a TWI program model and utilizing native language assessments like Logramos must be carefully studied, monitored, and enacted with community support and ongoing professional development for all involved. Dual language programs and native language assessments are a means to address issues presented by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in relation to Hispanics' and English Language Learners' (EL) academic achievement, but further studies must address other subgroups within the dual language programs.


bilingual, dual language, ESL, Hispanic, No Child Left Behind, testing


xi, 181 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 173-181).


Copyright 2014 Lisa M Stevenson