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Chapter 9: Applying Critical Race Theory as a Tool for Examining the Literacies of Black Immigrant Youth

by Kendra Nalubega-Booker & Arlette Willis - 2020

Background/Context: There is a growing body of literature about the educational experiences of students who are African immigrants in U.S. schools. This study looks closely at a Ugandan immigrantís educational experiences in the U.S. as well as the laws and policies that preempted her education.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study is to examine the disconnect between the rhetoric and practice of second language/bilingual laws in one school district in a Midwestern state, with regard to the experiences of an African immigrant whose has a diverse linguistic background.

Research Design: This study is crafted through a critical race theory lens and applies critical policy analysis to understand current practices. Using autoethnography, we provide a first-person reflection on the lived experiences of a young African immigrant student and her family. Then, drawing on critical race theory in concert with critical policy analysis, we examine the implementation and practice of second language/bilingual laws and policies in the state of Illinois.

Findings/Results: We find that the discourse and rhetoric surrounding second language/bilingual laws and policies on federal, state, and local levels do not align with actual practices in school districts and classrooms. We describe how the lack of coherence between discourse and practice has contributed to delimiting an African immigrant studentís access to mainstream language and linguistic education and other academic opportunities.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We conclude with recommendations to improve bilingual services to speakers of African languages: acknowledge that some African immigrant students possess a diverse linguistic background; address and challenge the dominant attitudes that deprive African immigrant students of a quality educational experience. We call upon administrators and policymakers to evaluate and correct the disconnect between second language/bilingual laws and policies. We recommend that cultural competence be central to second language/bilingual laws and policies throughout the planning and implementation processes.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 13, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23407, Date Accessed: 9/26/2020 2:15:24 AM

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About the Author
  • Kendra Nalubega-Booker
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    E-mail Author
    KENDRA NALUBEGA-BOOKER is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Language and Literacy. She is Distinguished UIUC Graduate College Fellow and currently a Diversifying Faculty in Higher Education (DFI) Fellow. Her research interests include Anglophone African immigrant studentsí experiences while transitioning in the U.S. education system. She is a critical race theory scholar-in-training and was recently published in a TCR book review (with her colleagues and advisor).
  • Arlette Willis
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    E-mail Author
    ARLETTE INGRAM WILLIS, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her scholarship includes histories of African American literacies and reading research. Additionally, her research examines preservice English teacher education and the application of critical theories to literacy policy and research. Moreover, her publications include numerous books, book chapters, monographs, and research articles. Finally, her accomplishments include serving as president of the Literacy Research Association and the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy.
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