Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chairperson; Leslie Boozer, JD, EdD, Member; Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Member


English Learner, English Language Assessment, Reclassification, Latino/a Learners, Intersectionality, LatCrit, DisCrit, Test Validity, Segregation, Barriers in Education, Bilingual Education, Dual Language Education, Consequential Validity


During the past 50 years, scores of federal and state education codes have been created to ensure both special education and ethnically diverse students receive a rigorous but developmentally appropriate education. Nevertheless, evidence to support claims that progress is being made toward equity for and inclusion of these marginalized groups is difficult to find. For example, in California, students classified at the beginning of their school careers as English learners (EL) often do not get reclassified even in their high school years. The reclassification process involves taking an annual test to assess English proficiency for students who are labeled as English learners. If students fail the annual test, they must take English language development classes and do not have the opportunity to take elective courses (which, in some cases, provide a compelling reason for students to remain in school) or the sort of English classes required to enter higher education at the end of their high school careers. The purpose of this qualitative interview study was to understand the perceptions and self-reported experiences of 10 learning disabled high school students who have been engaged in the reclassification process in urban California school districts for a number of years. The study’s findings include the following:

  • With one exception, participants in this study had virtually no understanding of the reclassification process. In most cases, they were not even aware that they had been classified as an English learner.
  • Every single study participant reported experiences of feeling less than their monolingual peers. Eight of the participants specifically claimed they had experienced anxiety, stress, and/or nervousness when taking the reclassification exam, even though they did not understand the consequences of not doing well on this yearly test.
  • There was a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that many, if not all, of the study participants, were misclassified as English learners, at least at the time interviews were conducted. The most glaring example of misclassification was a student who spoke only English, who never spoke another language, and who came from a home in which English was the only language spoken.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only


Leadership Studies

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