Bilingual/Bicultural Teachers: Existing and Resisting in Charter Schools

SMC Author

Elizabeth Montaño

SMC Affiliated Work





Kalmanovitz School of Education


Teacher Education

Document Type


Other document type


Publication Date


Publication / Conference / Sponsorship

American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting


Objectives The 1990’s offered California two large reform changes related to the education of bilingual and bicultural children. One was the de facto dismantling of bilingual education with the passage of Proposition 227, and the other was the passage of the California Charter Schools Act. Charter schools became a rapidly expanding option of public education for families, and emerged as spaces where bilingual education could thrive. In large cities in California, charter schools enroll the same percentage of emergent bilinguals as their public-school counterparts. Yet with the opportunities granted to charter schools for flexible curriculum, not many schools who serve emergent bilingual students created bilingual programs. With the passage of Proposition 58 in November 2016, California charter schools have new opportunities to expand bilingual programs. It is this premise that led us to this study. The purpose of this study is to understand the experiences of bilingual/bicultural teachers who teach in bilingual settings within charter schools. The following questions guided this study: How do bilingual/bicultural charter school teachers exist and resist within the confines of policies limiting and now expanding bilingual education? What are the teachers’ unique experiences of working in charter schools?

Perspective and Methods This qualitative study builds on the work of Solorzano and Delgado Bernal (2001) to explain the resistance bilingual/bicultural teachers demonstrate through their work in charter schools. To provide counter-narratives of bilingual/bicultural educators in charter school settings, we use a variety of data sources. The teachers in this study, working as bilingual teachers in charter schools, were first contacted via an emailed survey to then participate in focus groups or interviews. The data gathered included surveys, interview transcripts, focus group transcripts, and teacher reflections. Utilizing discourse and thematic analysis, patterns were identified on ways the status quo was resisted, interrupted, and contradicted or not (Stanton-Salazar, 2001).

Results and Significance Through our preliminary findings, we show that the bilingual/bicultural teachers serve as models of additive bilingualism and biculturalism. Some teachers also discussed how they disrupt some of the established rules of student engagement by utilizing culturally and linguistically relevant and sustaining literature in their classrooms, which allows for issues regarding language dominance, gender, race, and immigration to be addressed (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Kumashiro, 2001; Yosso, 2002; Gay, 2000). The teachers recognized their students’ rich linguistic backgrounds to highlight and explore their students’ bilingualism and biculturalism. Additionally, the teachers expressed how their resistance, or lack thereof, to policies imposed by forces outside of the charter schools guided their teaching practices. This transformational resistance (Solorzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001), we argue, is key to bilingual teachers’ retention. This study provides a counter-narrative to the pervasiveness of high teacher turnover in charter schools (Prothero, 2015) by demonstrating bilingual teachers’ persistence and longevity in teaching in charter schools, where more demanding working conditions may cause a higher teacher turnover. The findings in this study fill a gap in the research regarding bilingual teachers in charter schools and the challenges facing them while encountering traditionally subtractive beliefs about bilingual/bicultural education.


Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development

Original Citation

Montaño, Elizabeth and Avila, Antonieta. “Bilingual/Bicultural Teachers: Existing and Resisting in Charter Schools.” American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, April 2018, New York, NY. Refereed Conference Presentation.

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