To date, most studies about English language learners (ELLs) in Structured English Immersion (SEI) classrooms in the state of Arizona have focused on ELLs’ lack of English acquisition in one year, a time frame expected by Arizona policymakers, as well as their lagging academic progress. While these studies almost uniformly have surfaced educational and policy concerns about the effectiveness of SEI, the debate about this approach has been marked by a lack of attention to research addressing the non-academic ramifications of enforcing this model on children who speak or understand little or no English. One relatively unexamined consequence of the SEI program is its potentially detrimental emotional, psychosomatic, and mental effects on students forced to receive instruction (and to be tested) exclusively in English, a language they are still in the process of acquiring. The qualitative research study described in this article addresses this issue by examining the participation of monolingual Spanish-speaking children in SEI classes in one school district. Drawing from the research literature on child maltreatment investigators sought to determine if SEI placement subjected monolingual Spanish-speaking students to conditions of maltreatment. The researchers acknowledge that the theoretical operationalization of child maltreatment remains a challenge, in part because of an absence of consensus among social science researchers about what precisely constitutes child maltreatment, and because social sensibilities change over time. Nonetheless, results indicate that the English learners in this study experienced clear psychological effects like anxiety and depression symptomatology, anger, school phobia, and eating and sleeping difficulties. In-depth interviews with students and parents indicated intense emotional distress from being subjected to environmental conditions from which they could not escape. Their experiences, analyzed within the broader socio-political context of contemporary Arizona, suggest that for some children participation in SEI classrooms constitute a form of emotional maltreatment.
Parra, Elena B.; Evans, Carol A.; Fletcher, Todd; and Combs, Mary C.
"The Psychological Impact of English Language Immersion on Elementary Age English Language Learners,"
Journal of Multilingual Education Research:
Vol. 5, Article 4.
Available at: http://fordham.bepress.com/jmer/vol5/iss1/4