Teachers' Perceptions of Accent on Formative Reading Assessments

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, Mele-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 European-American, native English-speaking children, suggesting that teachers’ reading endorsements matter to their language and literacy practices. Additionally, teachers’ attitudes were significantly higher for the child with the Spanish accent compared to the child with the ‘standard’ accent, regardless of the endorsements they held. Last, teachers’ attitudes toward the child with the Spanish accent were significantly and moderately correlated with their reading scores. This finding indicates that teachers’ language attitudes might be impacting the accuracy of their evaluations for Spanish speaking Dual Language Learners. Findings from this study provide insight into how teachers’ language attitudes may contribute to the reading achievement gap between DLLs and their European American, native English-speaking peers.