Burton, Stephani A. ““These Questions are Kind of Weird””. PhD, Boston College, 2018. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:108022.
The nation’s rapidly increasing bilingual student population has heightened the urgency behind longstanding policies and initiatives established to address systemically marginalizing education practices across academic fields, often through the use of standardized assessments. This qualitative case study explores the role of language in six fifth-grade BLs’ experiences interacting with large-scale, standardized, science, technology, and engineering (STE) open response items from a state assessment administered in English. Using student and teacher interviews, this study examines the opportunities available for BLs to display their science, technology, and engineering content knowledge when limited and specific modes of communication are validated as acceptable responses. This study draws on sociocultural theoretical research to understand the language-centered context of a state STE assessment and uses this perspective to examine the assessment as a language-based, “communicative tool” (Albert, 2000, p.2) or “communicative event” (Shaw, Geaney, & Bunch, 2010, p.914). The findings show that the assessment’s linguistic structures complicate bilingual learners’ interpretations of the open response text and ultimately reveal why these standardized measures fail to measure what bilingual learners actually know.