Dissertation Defense – Meghan Pendergast

March 13, 2014 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
College of Education, room 596
30 Pryor Street Southwest
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303

Teachers’ Perceptions of Accent on Formative Reading Assessments
by Meghan Pendergast

Spanish-speaking Dual Language Learners (DLLs) constitute the largest language minority subgroup and are the fastest growing school-age population in the United States (McCardle, Male-McCarthy, & Leos, 2005). Despite the fact that the number of Latino children is increasing, the educational gains made by these children are not (Aud et al., 2011; Braswell, Daane, & Grigg, 2003; Reardon & Galindo, 2009). The current study investigates the influence a child’s accent (i.e., Spanish accent, Southern American English accent, and ‘standard’ American English accent) has on teachers’ reading assessments. Eighty-two elementary school teachers from a large city in the southeast participated in this study. Results indicate that teachers without a reading endorsement showed significant variation in their scoring of the child with the Spanish accent compared to the two native English-speaking children, suggesting that teachers’ reading endorsements matter to teachers’ language and literacy practices. Additionally, teachers’ attitudes were significantly higher for the child with the Spanish accent than the child with the ‘standard’ American English accent, regardless of the endorsements teachers held. Last, teachers’ attitudes toward the child with the Spanish accent were significantly and moderately correlated with their reading score accuracy. This finding indicates that teachers’ language attitudes might have an impact on the accuracy of their evaluations for Spanish-speaking DLLs. Findings from this study provide insight into how teachers’ language attitudes may contribute to the reading achievement gap between Spanish-speaking DLLs and their European American, native English-speaking peers.