Title page for ETD etd-05202008-172327

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Olson Beal, Heather Kathleen
Author's Email Address holson1@lsu.edu
URN etd-05202008-172327
Title Speaking the Language of Integration: A Case Study of South Boulevard Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Educational Theory, Policy, & Practice
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Petra Munro Hendry Committee Chair
Ann M. Trousdale Committee Member
Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell Committee Member
Miles Richardson Committee Member
Christian Fernandez Palacios Dean's Representative
  • achievement gap
  • foreign language in elementary schools
  • school culture
  • educational reform
  • desegregation
  • immersion programs
  • foreign language immersion
  • urban education
Date of Defense 2008-05-02
Availability unrestricted
Racial segregation and an achievement gap persist despite the promises of Brown vs. Board of Education (1954). In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, public schools are 83% Black, while nearly one-third of all children attend private schools which are 86% White. South Boulevard (SB) Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet Elementary is a counterexample because it has achieved integration and academic achievement well above district and state averages on high stakes tests. This research explores the culture of SBís immersion magnet program in relation to its success as an integrated public school with high student achievement and explores the factors that motivated a diverse set of parents to choose public education over private education.

This one-year ethnographic case study of SB is based on document analysis, interviews, and participant observation. In-depth interviews were conducted with 53 students, parents, school faculty, district administrators, and school board members. Using purposeful sampling, participants were selected who represented diverse backgrounds and perspectives. On-site participant observation (including classes, recess, lunch, PTO activities and meetings, and school board meetings) was conducted for one academic semester and follow-up observations the following semester. The data were broken down into units of meaning that served as themes that were first subjected to a systematic content analysis and then the constant comparative method.

SBís achievement of integration and academic achievement is a counternarrative to dominant narratives that focus on the achievement gap and deficit models of minority culture. The primary explanation for SBís success is the unique culture created by the immersion curriculum. SB has a culture of academic rigor in which teachers have high expectations of all students. The second language creates a new culture of power that equalizes cultural and linguistic differences that may privilege or marginalize students elsewhere. SB has a culture of multiplicity that values diverse perspectives and includes a unique immersion subculture in which all students are equal participants. SB has a culture of community characterized by trusting relationships between members of the school community that emerge out of commitment to the immersion curriculum rather than geographical boundaries.

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